June 05--While wandering around the Napa County Fairgrounds, Stockton's "peripheral" concert status kept intruding.
After all, 100 bands/acts were performing during the second BottleRock's three-day festival at a venue very reminiscent of the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds.
The three stages were packed with all-everything crowds on two of the three days, though the Cure -- a rare and unexpected vision as founder Robert Smith, 55, led the 38-year-old band from Crawley, England -- was a major mainstage magnet Friday night.
Napa's population of 76,915 -- and its location up mostly two-lane Highways 12 and 121 -- places it on the Bay Area periphery.
The mind begins wondering and pondering. As a pop-music market, Stockton is stuck behind the San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento venues strung around it. Reno-Lake Tahoe, too.
Maybe some personal persuasion is possible.
These days -- as musical shoplifting continues unabated on the Internet -- many bands are getting big bucks for playing at the increasing numbers of summer festivals. Costly touring logistics are avoided. Massive throngs of followers -- and equal numbers of the uninitiated -- can be reached with minimal hassle. Especially at those festivals now being "streamed" and shown in real time on cable TV.
Despite experiencing substantial losses -- including $650,000 for limousine service -- in 2013, the BottleRockers hung in there. It's the festival with the closest proximity to Stockton.
Because there is no San Joaquin County Fair this year, a five-day Family Fair has been scheduled for July 2-5. R&B and soul dominate with Ruben Studdard (July 4), Kelly Price (July 2), and Al B. Sure!, Lakeside and Dazz (July 5). It's Los Morros del Norte on July 6 and a still-unnamed country act on July 3.
There's nothing wrong, though, with some wishful thinking. With a sometime specious, but nonetheless sincere, personal appeal:
-- John Fogerty: One of his most familiar Creedence Clearwater songs remains "Lodi." His "Centerfield" solo hit refers to the "Mudville Nine." Stockton supposedly is the site of Ernest Thayer's "Casey at the Bat" poem (1888). The Mudville Ports once played at Billy Hebert Field. He grew up in El Cerrito. C'mon, John.
-- Bonnie Raitt: Though it might be an uncomfortable memory, her uncle was a resident at Stockton'sO'Connor Woods, where the Marin County blues-folk singer visited him. Automatic sellout at the Bob Hope. With Maria Muldaur, who's performed in Stockton, opening?
-- Santana: San Joaquin County's demographic diversity is an ideal match. Plus, his brother, Jorge, has musical connections here and has performed in Stockton.
-- Eagles: OK, this is a stretch. But Timothy B. Schmit grew up in Sacramento. Plus, they've played the Calaveras County Fairgrounds, where the Mountain Aire Festival was held for 12 years. Peripheral?
-- Green Day: Really good guys, who grew up in places such as Crockett and could be informed of Stockton's punk roots (Dead Kennedys, et al). They could relate to teenage life here and, after the Broadway success of "American Idiot," is money really a big issue? "Broadway Idiot," a documentary about the journey from the Berkeley Community Theatre to New York'sSt. James Theatre, is excellent.
Time Is No Cure
Meanwhile, up in Napa -- and the Lodi-Woodbridge wine appellation could provide some of the same BottleRock amenities -- the Cure boggled the mind.
Smith, whose band invented an entire, mostly doom-laden, genre of glam-ish rock in the 1980s, still proudly rolls out his pancake makeup, eyeliner and bird's-nest hair style.
Playing with typically understated precision -- bending over his guitar fretboard and peering intently at it as though he were inspecting a rare artifact -- Smith still poured his crushed romanticism and occasional delight into his always vulnerable vocals.
Smith and his band -- he's the lone remaining member from its 1976 formation -- created an entire catalog of darkly chiming guitar riffs, often crying through long intros, with dramatic intensity and density.
Dried ice created a suitably foggy feel in a pasture of dead yellow grass as the band, defying the years, poured 34 songs into a 150-minute show.
Due to a 10 p.m. curfew -- the venue abuts a residential neighborhood -- the band was unplugged during two of its seven encore songs ("Close to Me," "Why Can't I Be You?" Smith played around and mimed good-naturedly as the loyalists sang for him. They'd sung with him and his four band mates all through the show.
As it darkened and the full impact of the band's swirling lighting joined in, the usually reserved Smith became more animated and engaged.
The set list -- soul-deep songs that supported youthful romances and consoled crushing breakups in the '80s and '90s -- drew from the group's 15 albums, especially 1989's "Disintegration." Sentimental smiles of recognition and spontaneous sing-alongs abounded:
"Fascination Street," "Pictures of You," "Lullaby," "Lovesong," "Just Like Heaven," "Never Enough," "Friday, I'm in Love," "The Walk," "A Forest," "The Love Cats," "Let's Go to Bed."
Cure-ists were upset when the sound was cut. But if ordinances and curfews aren't abided, daylong festivals aren't held. Residents of peripheral San Joaquin County know all about that.
Contact Tony Sauro at (209) 546-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tsaurorecord.
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