If There’s Music in the Park

We’ve waited all winter for this. It’s finally pay-off time. Every town in the Bay Area springs for a summer concert series in its town park, town square, or patch of grass. If a person is willing to drive, he/she can hear free outdoor concerts six nights a week for almost three months.
We’ve waited for the music and dancing at a reasonable hour, 6 to 8 or 8:30 p.m. unlike the winter hours of 9:00 to midnight. We can drink our wine, nibble on a picnic, hear great tunes, and be home and in our easy chairs for the ten o’clock news.
We like the cover bands that play only the Beatles, only Michael Jackson, only Led Zeppelin, only Tom Petty, only Chicago, or only the Eagles. But we love the bands that play a mix of tunes. How much Tom Petty can one person take, anyway? Gotta put on that party dress!
Tuesday night it’s Orinda next to the library, but bring a jacket because the fog may roll in. Or hear music at Pleasant Hill farmer’s market while you buy your strawberries and broccoli.
Wednesday night, you’re in luck if it’s the first one of the month. Walnut Creek or Pleasanton has music for you on a downtown street.
Thursday night Todos Santos Square in Concord has live bands, with such a diverse crowd as you’ve never seen — babies, grandmas, tattoos, wife beater shirts, every shade of skin color out there. Moraga has music if you’re up for a semi-country drive. All the little kids are blondes.
Friday nights you can go to Blackhawk Plaza, but here’s a warning. The sound reverberates off the marble walls and floors, so bring your ear plugs. The unincorporated town of Alamo has music at a cute little park on Fridays, and you can sit in the grass. Lafayette has a triangular patch of green between busy roads where the bands play,so there are three choices.
My town has live music every other Saturday night in the duck park park, and a small town inland has it on the same schedule, but Clayton’s bands are better. It’s a bit of a drive, but worth it. The crowd is friendly, and the mayor walks around in his cowboy hat collecting donations in a big plastic water jug with a handle.
Sunday evenings you can either go north to Pleasant Hill for music by the pond or go south to San Ramon for a band in Central Park.
By Labor Day, most of the town outdoor musical events are done. If we get an early rain or smoke from a big fire it cancels the events. Sometimes two awesome bands are playing at the same time at opposite ends of the Bay. I haven’t included music in Alameda, Oakland, Sausalito, San Francisco, Livermore, or San Rafael. There just isn’t time for it all.
The weather is either perfect, too cold and windy, or stinking hot. The bands play through it all. This is the time of year to keep a folding chair and folding table, a jacket, a blanket, a sweater, and a hat in your vehicle at all times.
The same people show up at many of the venues. Of course you have the locals from that town, but you also have the traveling dancers who go anywhere and greet the familiar faces they saw the night before.
I don’t do all of the concerts. I pick and choose and hope the air quality is good enough to allow the evening to be enjoyable. But I go to many each week, so my Chardonnay budget in the summers is huge. It’s also the time of year when I eat too much and wear the least amount of clothing. I get the most Vitamin D, and spend a ton on cheese and fruit, my go-to wine accompaniment. I pack extra glasses in case I bump into someone not as prepared.
The other night I sat down next to an older group.
“Where did you get that folding table?” one guy asked.
“Rite Aid,” I said. “It was half off.”
“I’ll give you a dollar for it,” he said.
I had just put on a dishtowel for a tablecloth and had set out the cutting board, cheese and apple.
“I suppose you want everything on it as well,” I said.
“I’ll give you $2.00 for it all,” he said.
Then a family of five moved in right next to me. The baby was delightful as she bit her mother’s nose, the two other kids running around was fun to watch.
My friends started to straggle in. By the time the music began I had eight more friends squeezed around me: Marcie, April, Shirley, Jesse, Ruth, El, Paul, and Tom.
The mother of three screamed at her older two. The old man continued with his joke about purchasing my table. The breeze kicked up, but it had been 98 degrees in my town, so the lower temp was welcomed. No fog rolling in. Just the smooth sounds of Three-Day Weekend.
And summer.

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