At first glance, choosing Concord, CA, for music lovers seems an easy pick if for nothing more than its residents are a mere 30 miles from San Francisco, which makes frequent appearances on music "best of" lists. San Francisco has such nationally noted venues as The Fillmore and Great American Music Hall, and has yielded such varied artists as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Journey, The Pointer Sisters and Chris Isaak. Forbes named it one of America's Most Musical Cities, crediting the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra.
But what is most interesting about Concord's own scene is its Music & Market Series at Todos Santos Plaza, a one-city-block space that dates to the 1869 founding of the city. For almost 25 years, hundreds have packed the plaza weekly from May through September to enjoy that same kind of musical variety found across the bay, for free.
"Concord is the biggest city east of Berkeley and it's the most culturally diverse, so we book very eclectically," says Jim Ocean of OceanWorks Productions, who books the annual series for the city. "It's such a good feeling, seeing all the different families blending here, enjoying all different types of music, creating a cultural melting pot, as they say."
"It's such a beloved community event," says Leslye Asera, community relations manager for the city. "It's not just entertaining but educational for the families that come often, and they do. The younger children learn each week about a different type of music by hearing quality artists from just about every genre."
The series was threatened in 2012 after state redevelopment funding cuts, but is growing its base of support from city leaders, residents and businesses to help sustain the concerts.
Artists with Concord ties: Dave Brubeck; 14-time DCI World Champions, Concord Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps
Noted venues: Todos Santos Plaza, Sleep Train Pavilion
Cool record store: Rasputin Records
Fun fact: In 2008, 2052 guitarists convened for Concordstock, joining Woodstock performer Country Joe McDonald in playing Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," to break what was then a Guinness Book World Record for the largest guitar ensemble.