Summer's coming, the hills have gone brown and the time for free al fresco concerts is nearly upon us. The biggie, World Music Day, brings 50-some musical acts downtown on June 16, with other Palo Alto series starting up soon after. Opening nights are: June 15 for concerts at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, June 20 for SFJAZZ's Summerfest at Stanford Shopping Center, June 29 for the city's Twilight Concert Series and July 3 for concerts at Town & Country Village. Tuesday noontime shows are already underway at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital's aptly named Doobie Brothers Courtyard.
Events in nearby cities include Wednesday evenings in Menlo Park's Fremont Park, starting June 19; Mountain View's Summer Concert Series, beginning July 11; and Redwood City's slew of shows, already in full swing at Courthouse Square.
Pack a picnic, dancing shoes, earplugs and sunblock — whatever you need to kick off the season.
Palo Alto's local incarnation of World Music Day still feels fresh, but it's already in its fifth year. The popular event is organized by the Palo Alto Recreation Foundation and chaired by Claude Ezran, who founded it with fellow Human Relations Commissioner Olana Hirsch Khan after he was inspired by the World Music Day festivals in his native France. Palo Alto celebrates the event (known as Fete de la Musique in France) every year on Father's Day.
Amateur and pro musicians will perform from 3 to 7:30 p.m. on corners, sidewalks and plazas downtown, along University Avenue and on King Plaza at City Hall. Street closures are planned from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.: on University between Webster and High streets and on Hamilton Avenue between Bryant and Ramona streets.
The scene on King Plaza is all about dance music. The California Blues Machine, billed as a "rockin' blues" band, plays from 3 to 4:30 p.m., followed by Acoustic Son (acoustic folk, rock and originals) at 4:30. The T Clemente Band brings '70s and '80s rock to the plaza at 6.
Meanwhile, musicians of many stripes will play casual streetside gigs along University and on neighboring Lytton Plaza at Emerson Street. Genres include folk, choral, harp, rock, classical, jazz, blues, pop and klezmer. World Music Day has also started incorporating a few dance performances.
The first session, from 3 to 4:30 p.m., features two big vocal ensembles singing in front of 375 University Ave.: the Peninsulaires doing barbershop from 3 to 3:45, and the Peninsula Harmony Chorus from 3:45 to 4:30.
Other acts playing from 3 to 4:30 p.m. include event regular Singing Wood Marimba (music from Zimbabwe) at 525 University, Sara Furrer with American folk and country at 435 University, BuffaloChips with acoustic roots and steel drums at 353 University, and Park Avenue Jazz at 156 University.
The second session, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., includes Punjabi folk dances with Nachda Punjab at 435 University and Indian percussion with Anutthaman Hari Krishnaswamy at 540 Bryant St. Some of the classical offerings are the Redwood Symphony Chamber Ensemble at 525 University and opera singer Catherine Vincenti at 479 University. Perpetual performer Cello Joe brings his beat-boxing cello act to 281 University.
The third session is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Performers include Johnny Law with rock/pop originals at 567 University, the Plaka Band playing Greek music on Lytton Plaza, and Ken Brown's gypsy jazz combo at 156 University.
For a complete schedule and more information, go to pamusicday.org.
Three free al fresco concerts are planned this summer at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center at 3921 Fabian Way in Palo Alto, on the JCC's Town Square. Audience members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnic dinners.
The jazz band Herd of Cats kicks things off at 7:30 p.m. on June 15, featuring three musicians who met while attending the Stanford Jazz Workshop: Lowell Moulton (guitar), Phil Hirshberg (sax) and Gary Wohl (piano). Next up is the Capriccio Chamber Orchestra at 7:30 on July 27.
Dancers join the music at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 24 for a tango evening. The San Francisco tango ensemble Redwood Tango Trio will perform, with a tango class open to the audience. For more information about the series, go to paloaltojcc.org or call 650-223-8699.
Meanwhile, the City of Palo Alto's Twilight Concert Series is all set to start on June 29 — with one caveat. The first act is the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West, but city officials said this week that the booking is still tentative thanks to the sequester. Should the Air Force musicians indeed come to town, they'll play June 29 at Rinconada Park, 777 Embarcadero Road.
Twilight concerts are in various locations around Palo Alto; all are at 7 p.m. on Saturday nights. The second in the series is set for July 13 at Rinconada Park, featuring the quirky San Francisco chamber-pop band Foxtails Brigade (think violin, cello, dark lyrics).
Up next: The Groove Kings with rock and R&B on July 20 in the 300 block of South California Avenue. The series then heads to Mitchell Park at 600 E. Meadow Drive for the last three concerts: the Dave Rocha Jazz Group on July 27, children's musician Dr. Noize on Aug. 3, and Teens on the Green (several local teen bands) on Aug. 10. For more information, call 650-463-4930.
Summerfest means free jazz gigs at Stanford Shopping Center, presented by SFJAZZ. All shows are Thursdays (except July 4) from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the courtyard between Nordstrom and Crate & Barrel.
The Stanford Jazz Workshop Faculty All-Stars starts things off with straight-ahead jazz on June 20, with the Musical Art Quintet taking a more global approach on June 27. The sassy Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers are back at the series on July 11.
On July 18, LaTiDo brings on a Cuban dance party, followed by the gypsy jazz musicians Gaucho on July 25. The Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet is set for Aug. 1, with cabaret singer Mara Hruby on Aug. 8. Grupo Falso Baiano plays Brazilian jazz on Aug. 15. Rock and jazz meet and mingle on Aug. 22 when Michael Zilber & The Heretics perform, and Mo'Fone offers up funk, sax and drums on Aug. 29. For more information, go to sfjazz.org.
Up El Camino Real, Town & Country Village also hosts music for Palo Alto shoppers with its sixth annual July concert-fest. Shows are Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. under the oak trees near the Embarcadero Road entrance to the mall.
The Motown tribute band Top Shelf starts the series on July 3 with R&B, soul, funk and a dollop of doo-wop. Next comes Jonathan Poretz with his Vegas tribute — Sinatra, Bennett, Davis Jr. tunes — on July 10. The next tribute is old-time rock 'n' roll with the band Double Take on July 17.
Avanta performs Brazilian music, complete with salsa dancers, on July 24. Double Funk Crunch offers the sounds of the '70s and '80s on July 31. For more about the concerts, call 650-325-3266.
For those who prefer to swing and sway in the afternoon, the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at 725 Welch Road in Palo Alto hosts noon concerts on Tuesdays into the fall.
Mimi Dye & Friends play classical music on June 18, with instrumental Beatles music by Fools on the Hills on July 2. Jenny Kerr sings and plays (guitar, clawhammer banjo and harmonica, to name just a few instruments) country, folk and honky-tonk on July 16. Edgardo Cambon & LaTiDo Quartet perform Latin music on July 30.
Later acts are: rocker Marc Levine with TLC on Aug. 13, the Dave Rocha Jazz Band on Aug. 27, Brazilian jazz musician Masha Campagne and her ensemble on Sept. 10, classical music with the Albany Consort on Sept. 24, and R&B with The Circuit Breakers on Oct. 8.
Outside Palo Alto, neighboring municipalities have plenty of music as well. The City of Menlo Park's is the first, with Wednesday concerts (except July 3) at Fremont Park at University Drive and Santa Cruz Avenue from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Livewire starts the series with rock and pop on June 19, followed by funk and R&B with The Megatones on June 26. Tsunami Band plays classic rock on July 10.
Acts after that are: pop and disco with the Cocktail Monkeys on July 17, rock with The Hot Rods on July 24, Jessica Johnson doing soul and jazz on July 31, Cajun/zydeco/blues with Tom Rigney and Flambeau on Aug. 7, and Beatles tribute band The Sun Kings on Aug. 14. For more, go to menlopark.org or call 650-332-2220.
In Mountain View, shows are also 6:30 to 8 p.m. On Castro Street, The Peelers play Top 40 mashups on July 11, with classic-rock band Daze On the Green on July 25 and Livewire on Aug. 8.
In Cuesta Park at 615 Cuesta Drive, Cold Feat performs R&B on July 18. And Rengstorff Park at 201 S. Rengstorff Ave. hosts the 19-piece Pacific Mambo Orchestra on Aug. 1. For more, go to www.ci.mtnview.ca.us.
Downtown Redwood City's Courthouse Square is also a major destination for concertgoers. Bands are now playing there every Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. through the end of September. Upcoming acts include: the Bon Jovi tribute band Steelhorse on June 7, Kenny Metcalf's Elton John Tribute on June 14, the soft-rock group Mustache Harbor on June 21, and the pop-soul band Pride & Joy on June 28. For a full schedule, go to redwoodcity.org/events.