Anna to the Infinite Power: Anna Nalick of 'Breathe (2am)' fame headlines Metro's Music in the Park on Thursday, July 13.
Metro's Music in the Park 2006
Free Thursday concerts all summer long
By Ryan Osterbeck
Every summer, Metro's Music in the Park concert series never fails to entertain the crowd at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose. The acts are always as solid as Ann Coulter's Adam's apple. On July 6, Metro kicked off the El Plaza series with a sizzling performance by the White Album Ensemble, which covered songs from the Beatles albums Rubber Soul and Revolver—that period when the Fab Four went psychedelic and started experimenting with, uh, "tea." Ryan Osterbeck gives the lowdown on each of this season's other acts.
Jul 13: Anna Nalick and Breaking Point
No Bubblegum Here: While other pop stars are singing about scoping boys at the local mall, Anna Nalick is opening up her heart's diary and recording songs likened to self-help serenades for the soul. An unlikely star at 21, Nalick generated tons of airplay on radio and television shows with her debut single "Breathe (2am)," leading her to being crowned a new musical sensation by VH1 and Rolling Stone and to her opening for the likes of Train, Rob Thomas, the Wallflowers and Chris Isaak before fully cutting her first album. See what the right endorsements can do for your career? Anna Nalick's only Bay Area stop on her current tour is at Music in the Park.
Jul 20: Shawn Mullins and Band
Rock-a-Bye: Shawn Mullins was in the music biz for ten years before he broke into the top ten with "Lullaby"—yeah, it's a sappy pop tune, but you go where the flow takes you and being on the Sony/Columbia label probably explains the saccharine melody. Now, however, Mullins has returned to his Atlanta blues heritage and signed with Vanguard Records, putting the soul back into his guitar. His new album 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor blends the sounds of Mullins' earlier work with the sensibilities of someone that's already seen the top of the charts and decided that they wanted nothing to do with 'em.
Jul 27: Don Carlos
Special Edition: Don Carlos shies away from the frenetic in-your-face dancehall reggae that dominates the scene, going for the mellow smoothness of true island groove sounds and messages. Reggae has to be the only musical genre where the more laid-back you are, the better artist you'll be. Don Carlos does laid-back like a fat house cat that got into the ganja stash, but also has the sense to turn the beats on when the crowd's feeling it. It's kind of an odd juxtaposition that the easygoing Don Carlos kicks off the adrenaline- laced San Jose Grand Prix weekend, but that's San Jo for ya.
Aug 3: Smash Mouth and Better Than Ezra
Local All-Stars: Grown directly from the local San Jose music scene, Smash Mouth blasted to the top of the charts in the late '90s and grew so heavily cross-promoted through movies and television commercials that one almost expected to see a Smash Mouth cartoon a la New Kids on the Block. Thankfully that didn't happen and these novelty pop-punkers kept making decent music while fully promoting good old San Jo. Smash Mouth repeatedly gets back to their hometown roots and keeps their fan base alive via free concert performances at every downtown festival. This Music in the Park performance kicks off the Zero One art and tech symposium.
Gumbo Pop: Harkening from New Orleans, you'd think that Better Than Ezra would have run zydeco rather than alternative rock, but rock it was, leading the band to national chart success in the late '90s mainstream alternative movement. Their single "Good" pushed BTE to platinum status, where they sat comfortably for a spell before the turbulent alternative scene took a nosedive. However BTE continues to stick it out in a musical world dominated by dime store DJs and poppy tracks that still contain the melancholy and melodic harmonies of the alt heyday. (Update: BTE will not appear as originally scheduled. The cause: a death in the family of one of the band members.)
Aug 10: The English Beat and the Odd Numbers
New Wave Brits: As one of the earliest new wave ska revival groups, The English Beat scored some monster commercial success in the early '80s due to their energetic sound and the fact that a fledgling MTV played "Save it for Later" and "I Confess" relentlessly. The English Beat actually disbanded around '83, with two of the members later forming Fine Young Cannibals—man, "She Drives Me Crazy" almost sent us to the nuthouse—but has since started touring due to the second revival of ska. Heck, if we're lucky, legendary saxophonist Saxa will still be kickin' it.
Retrofitted: The Odd Numbers have been hitting San Jose since this trio was in the cradle playing underground punk and booze-fueled rock that speaks to the local scene. The Numbers used to rock it all the time in Downtown San Jo and after a brief hiatus, they're back playing live gigs around town while still taxing their livers on the infamous dive bar crawl. Influenced by infamous rockers The Jam and early Who, The Odd Numbers are probably the best thing to come out of San Jose since we sold our self-sustaining orchard souls for the holy grail of technology.
Aug 17: Lenny Williams and Urban Mystic
What Is Hip: Although Lenny Williams only led the influential funk/ soul band Tower of Power for three years becoming famous for such major hits as "What is Hip?" and "Don't Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream)"—both of which still get airplay today—his solo career as an R&B man was always what drove him. After leaving the venerable soul funk outfit, Williams had a few lackluster releases before hitting it big again with his ABC release Choosing You, which produced the single "Shoo Doo Fu Fu Ooh!" (hey, it was the late '70s—take the name of the song, look at the clothes and the music of the times, the "recreational activities" and discuss). Today, Williams has a loyal R&B following and he's still recording soulful hits with much better titles.
Son of a Preacher Man: Baptized Brandon Williams, young contemporary R&B artist Urban Mystic uses the years he spent singing in his father's church to convey a unique spiritual flavor in a musical day and age where spirituality is sometimes, uh, lacking. His first album in 2004, Ghetto Revelations, where he worked with such varied producers as Kay Gee from Naughty by Nature and El DeBarge (yep, Mr. "Rhythm of the Night" of The Last Dragon fame himself—Sho Nuff!) catapulted the upstart Urban Mystic to the top of the R&B charts. Mystic's sophomore effort, Ghetto Revelation Vol. 2, has the artist being compared to the likes of Usher and Jaheim, but due to his upbringing, we doubt that Urban Mystic will pontificate on the positives of thongs.
Aug 24: Soul Asylum and Animal Liberation Orchestra
Twin City Climbers: Soul Asylum started in Minneapolis as a garage punk/ college indie band trying to ride the coattails of fellow Twin City denizens of angst ridden noise The Replacements and Husker Du, but never quite made it over the hump, leading them to be dubbed "the B-teamers" by the two '80s powerhouses. A little cheesed at their given nom de guerre, Soul Asylum turned their backs on their punk-indie roots and revamped their sound to become more digestible for a larger audience. This acoustic-driven mellowing of sound ultimately led Soul Asylum to multi-platinum heights with their album Grave Dancers Union—its hit single "Runaway Train" made the band a household name in the early '90s. Soul Asylum's rocketing popularity also led to them performing at Slick Willy's 1992 presidential inauguration and to lead singer David Pirner's much-publicized romance with the yet-to-be sticky-fingered Winona Ryder, which many skeptics predicted to be a Yoko-esque band breakup. Yet after dealing with some life tribulations and a lingering hiatus, the band recently reunited for their ninth studio release and hit the road again.
Santa Barbara Jam: Animal Liberation Orchestra started out as friends in the music department at UCSB and grew into the funkified rolling jam band that is just as comfortable playing an outdoor festival or sold-out venue as they are kicking it at a friend's BBQ. These guys have an undeniable California flavor, blending surf style guitars, mellow acoustic grooves, and very danceable rhythms into a funky musical excursion. ALO leapt into the touring spotlight when Jack Johnson dragged them along on tour and the band hasn't stopped since. Don't think though that ALO is a bunch of patchouli-scented slackers. Think of them as the improbable love child of Phish, Warren Zevon and Frank Zappa midwifed by the Cal surf culture.
Aug 31: Pete Escovedo and Nu Day
Not One to Miss: Venerable Latin jazz percussionist Pete Escovedo hits San Jose again, and if you've ever seen his performances at Music in the Park and the SJ Jazz fest, then you know to stake out your place on the grass early. Easily the most attended act in the series, Pete Escovedo's band is a musical powerhouse in the Latin jazz scene, doing groundbreaking work for nearly 40 years. The septuagenarian shows no signs of ever slowing down. Just as spry as when he toured with Carlos Santana, Escovedo sometimes brings as many as 24 band members up on stage for a single performance and if the Latin musical gods are smiling on the Plaz this day, the ensemble might include Pete's daughter Sheila E.
Nueve y Tu: Latin-tinged big band swingers Nu Day hasn't been playing together for too long, but their sound is so tight you'd swear they've been around since zoot suits were brand new on the fashion plate. This nine-piece energetic group moves fluidly through Latin rhythms and horns, then to old school funk and R&B that kicks full circle back to swing and Motown. Nu Day never fails to get the crowds moving.
Sep 7: The Greg Kihn Band and the Groove Kings
Citizen Kihn: Sure, you can hear him on the radio every morning, but that's really just some amorphous voice coming over the airwaves, easily disembodied from an actual person. Greg Kihn is more than just some on-air personality. In the '70s, Kihn became a top selling Bay Area artist for legendary Beserkley Records, playing straight ahead rock 'n roll while other contemporaries where creating bloated orchestral prog rock. He scored a few hits in the '80s, most notably "Jeopardy," which gained him national notoriety and Greg Kihn kept right on recording, becoming one of the most recognizable voices in the Bay Area rock scene. The Groove Kings precede the Greg Kihn Band, which closes out yet another great year of free concerts in downtown San Jose.
Metro's Music in the Park summer concerts begin at 5:30pm on Thursdays.
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