Without checking with promoters or tabulating ticket sales, 2015 was a good year for live music in the central San Joaquin Valley – at least in its offerings.
We got our share of big-ticket arena shows (Ariana Grande, Kenney Chesney), theater and club tours (Newsboys, Halestorm, Sir Mix-A Lot) and a free local music festival just about every other month. Here is a quick look of the bands, events and venues that were big on my radar in 2015.
Morrissey: The distinctively coiffed English singer-songwriter (and political instigator) headlined Los Angeles’ famous FYF music festival. He also played a sold-out show at the Visalia Fox Theatre. It was the final stop on his U.S. tour and a coup for area fans.
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Shania Twain: The queen of country pop brought her “Rock This Country” tour to the Save Mart Center. It was her first tour in more than a decade — and also her last. Twain retired from the road to focus on writing and recording music. It’s sad because by most accounts, this was Twain in top form.
Summerland: Everclear headlined the ’90s nostalgia tour this summer, bringing along rock contemporaries Fuel, American Hi-Fi and Toadies. Local promoter Art Silva upped the ante, turning the tour stop into a full-on festival. More than 40 local and regional touring bands played across six stages at Fresno’s Regional Sports Park.
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Catacomb Party: After a year-long hiatus, the downtown music festival returned in 2015, with 60 bands, performers and DJs playing on nine stages in and around the Fulton Mall. The festival moved to spring, which kept it out of the summer heat and put it within weeks of other regional festivals (Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho; the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio; and SXSW in Texas). There was a big focus on touring acts this year, such as headliners Dan Deacon and How to Dress Well, punk band Joyce Manor, San Francisco rock band the Stone Foxes and rapper K.Flay.
Spanspek Music and Arts Festival: Orosi’s Spanspek music festival celebrated its 10th anniversary in October, a milestone that makes it the longest-running event of its type in the area. Who knew Orosi would be the place to scout up-and-coming local talent? It is. This year’s lineup included Lance Canales and the Flood, Sanger-rapper Kooleidoscope and Fresno psych-rock band Light Thieves.
Grizzly Fest: Fresno rapper Fashawn looked to make an annual go of his Grizzly Fest concert. The rapper co-headlined the $5 festival at Chukchansi Park, with San Diego indie-rock band Delta Spirit, Visalia psych-rockers Slow Season, Bay Area rapper Iamsu and local legends 40 Watt Hype. It was one of the most diverse festival lineups we saw this year. Look for the festival to return in 2016.
Fresno Convention Center: Last year, the convention center began a program to co-sponsor certain live events – sharing liabilities (and profits on things like food/beverages, ticketing commissions, rent and facility fees). It is beginning to pay off. In July, the center announced a deal with Hyphy Music Inc. that would bring 10 Latin concerts to the venue over the next year. The first was the Mariachi Festival 2015, which featured Hector Montemayor and Chelo. The center also recently inked a deal with Icon Entertainment for six shows in 2016. The first, comedian Jo Koy, happens Sunday, Jan. 24.
On a related note: Rock and metal fans will be happy to know that the Saroyan Theatre (mostly known for hosting the Fresno Philharmonic) proved itself as a more than passable venue this year. The 2,000-plus-seat theater hosted both the metal band Godsmack and Judas Priest. The only drawback I see is there’s no room for a mosh pit.
Visalia Fox Theater: Visalia’s historic Fox Theater has become fairly consistent in its live music offerings over the past six months, hosting the English singer Morrissey (see above), plus 1970s rockers Joan Jett and Heart. This weekend, the theater has Mariachi Sol De Mexico (Dec. 11) and the Sons of the San Joaquin (Dec. 12). Next weekend it hosts the Buddy Holly Winter Dance Party Tribute.
Kuppajoe will always hold a special place in my heart.
Luke Freeman, on the closing of the all-ages nightclub
Kuppajoe: It wasn’t all happy news in 2015.
This year marked the end for the all-ages venue Kuppajoe. To say the club was an integral part of the local scene would be an understatement. Kuppajoe hosted live music every Friday night (and some Saturdays, too) for close to 20 years; that’s hundreds of shows, and thousands of local and touring musicians that passed through its doors. Its final show was a mostly local affair with Lakes (from San Luis Obispo), the Soma Holidays (doing a reunion set), the Sleepover Disaster, Brother Luke and the Comrades, and Swimming In Paint.