This year’s featured performers will be Rolling Stones tribute band Jumping Jack Flash on July 12, Johnny Cash re-creators Cash’d Out on July 19, Back to the Garden with a Woodstock 1969 set on July 26, 1980s revivalists Left4Dead on Aug. 2 and zydeco favorites The Bayou Brothers, with guest pianist Sue Palmer on Aug. 9.
Concertgoers can order dinner from one of the catering sponsors with a different eatery each concert, including Gabardine on July 12, Miguel’s Cocina on
July 19, Hodad’s on July 26, Barons Marketplace on Aug. 2 and Stump’s Family Marketplace on Aug. 9.
More than 3,000 people are expected at event time, but the whole series is coordinated by a small group of 13 volunteers headed by Meredith Phillips, with Bob Randall as main-stage coordinator. Phillips said organizers try to “keep the music fresh,” with a couple of rules to help meet that goal.
“Each year, we have at least two new bands that have never played summer concerts before and you can only play two years in a row” she said. “We prefer cover music or tribute bands. That way, the audience knows the music, they can sing, they know all the words. It just makes the whole thing more fun.”
Gigs like these, played in front of thousands, are highly coveted among local musicians. But merely playing covers might not quite cut it for some.
“We’re looking at groups with high-entertainment value, with a real ‘wow’ factor,” said Phillips. “That’s part of the reason why we try to include two tribute bands each year.”
Meanwhile, the second stage gives kids who are living in or going to school in the Point Loma or Ocean Beach area a chance to perform for an appreciative audience.
“We call it the junior stage and that’s because the purpose of the summer concerts is to fund music programs at the local school,” said junior stage music director Ellen James.
In 2012, the summer concert series’ board of directors made a $5000 donation to Point Loma High School’s Instrumental Music Program.
“In earlier years, kids would play on the grass in front of the main stage, mainly just for fun,” said James. “About three years ago, we decided to make it a bigger part of the whole deal, so we now actually have a stage for them.”
This will be James’ last year as music director because she is relocating out of state soon.
“I’ve really enjoyed doing this stuff for the kids,” she said. “Under the guidance of Martha Phillips, it’s come a long way. There’s food and fun, all while helping kids with music education. It’s a great event.”
Crowds at these concerts can range wildly in age, but it’s clear to the musicians taking part that the younger set is increasingly familiar with the vintage tunes.
“It always blows me away to see youngsters rocking out to Jimi [Hendrix], Janis [Joplin] and the Who,” said Back to the Garden guitarist Marc Intravaia. “That music is timeless.”
Sue Palmer agrees. Sitting in this year with The Bayou Brothers, she’s performed at the event with her own band, the Motel Swing Orchestra, several times.
“There’s no problem with crowd appreciation for the kind of music I play, which is blues and swing. It’s infectious and easy to dance to,” she said.
Palmer said Point Loma Park is one of her favorite spots to play.
“I love it because it is in the area I grew up in and lots of my old friends and their families come,” said Palmer.
Meanwhile, Phillips acknowledges the hard work and long hours she and the other volunteers put in to see the free event happen, but said she considers the effort well worth it.
Point Loma Park is located at 1049 Catalina Blvd. near Varona Street. Free parking is provided at All Souls’ Episcopal Church, located at 1475 Catalina Blvd. Enter the parking lot on Chatsworth Boulevard. A free shuttle runs between All Souls’ parking lot and Point Loma Park from 5:30 to 8:45 p.m.
For more information, visit www.plconcerts.org.