Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gearing up for Summer: Surveying the Mountain Winery 2011 Concert Schedule

In the 3+ years I've lived in California, there has been one day each year that gets my blood pumping for the months ahead almost as much as the phrase "pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training"...and that's the day the Mountain Winery in Saratoga announces their Summer Concert Lineup.

If you've never been, the Mountain Winery is a great place to see a concert. Here's a pic from when I saw Duran Duran there two years ago:

It's a great venue, and each summer, it's concert lineup meets or exceeds in several of the following criteria:

  • It makes old folks feel younger: Each year, the lineup features acts heavy from 20-30 years ago, providing concert-goers in their late-30s/early 40s to feel like they're "rockin' out". If the band performing was once a band that appealed to teens 20 years go, attendees will glam up like it was the old days. Expect to see a lot fortysomething women with lots of hairspray, makeup and age inappropriate clothing and a lot of fortysomething men trying to look cooler than their khakis and polo shirts will today allow.
  • The young'uns wouldn't be caught dead there: This is a win-win for both those attending the concerts and the young adults who stay away in droves. The grown-ups have a kid-free evening of music they love, while the teenagers have a three-hour window of their parents being gone to get up to whatever mischief passes for fun today.
  • There are seats: Here's the thing, once you get over the age of 35, you feel less compelled to stand up for a concert...and I mean any part of the concert. The Mountain Winery is a sit down crowd, for the most part, and the seats are adequate, plentiful and comfortable.
  • Plenty of alcohol: I mentioned that this is a winery, right? It's a former Paul Masson winery, so we're not talking top shelf vino, but it's good enough to get you through a concert.
  • Makes the acts feel relevant: Just as the fans are rocketed back to their heyday, The Mountain Winery creates a safe environment for artists to feel loved. No one other than a diehard fan is going to schlep up the side of a mountain to swill Paul Masson wine and see a show. These are dedicated, supportive, "I know every lyric from your second and third albums (and your tenth)" fans. They love you, you love them and they're likely to buy a t-shirt on their way back from the chardonnay stand.
  • There's something for everyone: As we're about to see, the melange of acts is impressively've got your summer tour stalwarts like Hall and Oates and the Beach Boys, plus some relative newcomers to the game like Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Neko Case.
Let's dive into some of the highlights:

The Moody Blues (May 27): Is there a better way to kick off a concert season than with a band that used to have their own theme park ride?!?! This is a band that's been around since 1965, and as sure as the sun rising in the East, you can be safe in investing in a ticket for this show knowing that you will hear Nights in White Satin and Your Wildest Dreams

Mary Chapin Carpenter with special guest Marc Cohn (June 21): Full disclosure: I'm a Marc Cohn hater. My ears bleed whenever I hear Walking in Memphis, but here's the thing: I respect his ability to sidle up to another artist during the summer concert season. Two years ago Aimee Mann performed at the Mountain Winery with special guest Marc Cohn! I think even he knows that Walking in Memphis is one of those love/hate songs that, on it's own, won't drive a crowd to a show, but if he sidles up with someone like Mary Chapin Carpenter or Aimee Mann, he'll make a couple of bucks.

The Monkees featuring Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork (July 10): I am not the least bit embarrassed to say that I'm going to this show. I'm going, I know it's going to suck, but I'm going. They're billing this at the 45th anniversary tour, even though only three of the four Monkees are touring. For whatever reason (his mom invented Liquid Paper, he has plenty of his own money, he has more integrity than the other three Monkees combined, he's "too old for this shit", etc.), Michael Nesmith is sitting this one out. Make no mistake, this is purely one's expecting a great show, but I bet it'll be a fun night of sing-along.

An Evening with Sarah McLachlan and Friends (July 17): Why this isn't called "Lilith Fair 2: Electric Boogaloo" is beyond me, but I have to give her credit for creating what looks like might be an interesting evening of songs from Felicity (from the Mountain Winery website):
The “Sarah And Friends” tour will be one unlike any other, with shows consisting of two sets: one set with Sarah sitting in on songs by her guest performers, and a second set of songs from Sarah's current hit record Laws of Illusion, as well as other favorites. “Sarah And Friends” will also have an interactive element as Sarah answers audience questions intermittently throughout the performance. Fans will have the opportunity to submit questions upon their arrival, which Sarah will then choose randomly from the stage. 
INXS with special guest Berlin (July 19): I'm all over this show. We know this would have been an amazing show in, say, 1986, so it's fair to wonder how it will be 25 years later. I can personally vouch for seeing an amazing INXS show in 2006 with the same lineup that's currently touring, so I'm fairly confident they'll sound great. As for Berlin, I'm not too worried, as Terri Nunn is a serious road warrior. She's toured with a several incarnations of Berlin over the years and has a super strong voice. See this clip from last year:

And if that isn't enough incentive, where else can you see a person who auditioned for the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars perform live that night?!?!?:

Matthew Morrison (July 21): Who? Yes, exactly, which is why they bill the evening as "Matthew Morrison from Glee". This concert could be the exception to the "all adults, few kiddies" formula. Having said that, I've watched my fair share of Glee the last couple of years and I'm not sure what the demand for him performing live is. 

Aimee Mann (August 18): Big venue or small venue, she's worth seeing live.

Kenny G/Michael Bolton (August 28): For whatever reason, these two are entwined in the minds of many as representing the worst of music in the late '80s/early 90s, and the fact that they're performing together seems just. Leave the cheese at home that night, they will be plenty on stage to go around.

The B-52s, Human League and Men without Hats (September 8) - One of the things I love about summer tours is the odd pairings. Sometimes the pairings are so odd, they just seem to make sense. This is one of those cases. Any one who would go to a solo show by one of these acts, I'm sure wouldn't mind seeing the others. I've seen the B-52s know what you're getting with them: a fun live show. Add Human League and Men Without Hats and you get an added curiosity factor plus The Safety Dance! I'm not sure this crowd will be able to handle The Safety Dance and Love Shack played at the same concert...there just may be some butts out of seats. And be honest, you want to go just to what the hell other songs Men Without Hats will play!

Billy Idol (October 8): Is there a better way to wind up the summer concert series? The guy brings a solid arsenal of hits, a great stage persona and enough tongue in cheek antics to end on a high note.

These aren't all of the acts coming through the Winery this summer...I've only touched on a few. You can see (and snark on) the full list here.

I'm a big fan of this venue, so forgive the shameless plug. Tickets for most of these events go on sale as early as next week. See you there!