I stared in shock as Kevin began nodding and swaying to the sultry beat. The warm summer sun shone down on us as we sat in the grassy park area near where a San Francisco band played a groovy BCaldwell cover.
“Reggae?” I asked in disbelief. He gave me a shrug and a sly wink, the same one that stole my heart three years ago.
As long as I’ve known him, my husband has never been much of a music fan. Not that he hates music; I’ve just never known him to show any enthusiasm for it. I, on the other hand, unabashedly love music—all kinds. Visitors to our home in San Diego will find anything from modern R&B to classic rock, experimental pop to jazz filling the rooms with tantalizing tunes.
I pride myself in having a highly eclectic taste. Which is why, when I found out about the diverse music scene in Concord, California, I planned a week-long excursion for myself and Kevin, in celebration of my birthday.
Located about 30 miles east of San Francisco, Concord is nestled in the East Bay area, just south of Grizzly and Suisun bays and northwest of the iconic Mount Diablo peak, in an area locally known as “the Delta.” It was an easy hour-ish—give or take a few minutes—train ride on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to the Concord Station. Smack-dab in the middle of downtown, the station leaves you within walking distance of the Todos Santos Plaza, which encompasses an entire city block and is alive with activity—both organized and impromptu—seemingly every day of the week.
Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Concord was in the midst of its annual Music and Market series, a four-month-long free concert series that features a local Bay Area band every Thursday evening in the Plaza. The lineup was tantalizingly diverse, and I knew right away that I’d be making some return trips to this area.
We arrived in Concord on the first Thursday of June, with just enough time to check into our hotel and race over to the Todos Santos Plaza, which buzzed with activity. White and blue tents lining the perimeter of the park area sold every kind of food and craft imaginable, keeping Kevin happily occupied while I kicked off my shoes and joined in the revelry.
On Friday night, I aimed to balance Kevin’s love for food and drink with my passion for music. Luckily for me, there was no shortage of cozy eateries featuring live music. We started the night off indulging in mouth-watering wood-fired pizza, generous glasses of California reds and live music at the Plate & Vine, conveniently located in our hotel. Suitably primed for the night, we then headed over to the Todos Santos Plaza, hopping between a variety of establishments all within walking distance of the Plaza.
Vinnie’s Bar & Grill appeared to be among the most happening places that Saturday, and packed though it was, still managed to keep its local, “dive” feel. Kevin was happily occupied playing pool and darts while I rocked out to a Led Zepplin cover band, Physical Graffiti.
The highlight of my week was the annual Jazz Festival at the Concord Pavilion that Sunday.
With an incredible capacity of 12,500 people, the Concord Pavilion is a massive outdoor amphitheater located near the city limits, and is one of the coolest venues I’ve ever experienced. Outside the main seating area of fixed seats arranged in a semi-circle underneath the protection of the pavilion roof, a massive lawn slopes upward away from the structure, and offers not only a great view of the stage but also of the gently rolling, emerald green hills behind the Pavilion.
For more than four decades, the Concord Pavilion has hosted musical legends and continually features a diverse range of concerts throughout the year. For example, had I planned this trip in September, I would have exposed Kevin to the city’s annual Hot Summer Night concert, which features some of hip hop and R&B’s latest superstars.
The Jazz Festival, however, was simply perfect. Armed with our new blanket, we staked out a spot on the grassy knoll amid thousands of other jazz enthusiasts. As the intoxicating sounds of saxophones and trumpets melted away the outside world, I smiled at Kevin. Reclining on the blanket, his arms folded under his head, he smiled back, enjoying my enjoyment.
Our last evening in Concord—another Thursday—I decided to revisit the Music and Market Series at the Todos Santos Plaza, where a local reggae band, Native Elements, were set to play. I don’t listen to tons of reggae, but I enjoyed the vibe in the plaza so much, I thought it appropriately completed our trip by coming full circle.
Despite my utter shock at Kevin’s reaction, it began to make sense. Ours was a textbook case of when opposites attract; his taciturn and grounded personality balanced with my own energetic, often whimsical, joie de vivre. His apparently singular preference for the earthy vibes of reggae contrasted with my near unquenchable lust for the new and old of all genres.
Needless to say, following our whirlwind Concord music tour, a lot more reggae has featured in our in-house playlist.