San Jose Music Scene
Lauren Wells | May 21, 2014
During the 1950s, San Jose native Nikki Sixx helped form the iconic heavy metal band Motley Crue as he did most of their songwriting and served as their bass player. The 1960s introduced acts like The Chocolate Watchband (a psychedelic rock group) and pop band Stained Glass known for their hit “We Got A Long Way To Go.” Also emerging from San Jose in the 1960s, the garage rock band Count Five gained popularity with their hit “Psychotic Reaction” while the norteno band ensemble Los Tigres del Norte got their start. People!, a psychedelic rock group, was known for their one hit single “I Love You” written by The Zombies’ bass guitarist and songwriter Chris White. During the 1970s, The Doobie Brothers released heartland rock hits such as “China Grove,” “Long Train Runnin’,” “Black Water,” and “It Keeps You Runnin’.” San Jose’s edgy 80’s scene introduced hardcore punk band The Faction, ska punk band Skankin’ Pickle, punk rock band No Use for a Name, and hip-hop funk DJ/producer Peanut Butter Wolf. Hip-hop producer DJ Shadow and Bryan Mantia also emerged from San Jose during the 1980s, the latter has drummed for bands like Primus, Guns N’ Roses, Praxis, and Godflesh and has worked with Tom Waits, Bootsy Collins, Buckethead, and Bill Laswell, among others. Stoner rock band Sleep kicked off the 1990s before nu metal band Insolence began melding their rap, reggae, and hardcore influences into more unique sounds. Alternative rock band Smash Mouth, known for their 90s hits “All Star” and “Walkin’ on the Sun,” also called San Jose home as they gained popularity. Rounding out the 1990s was production and DJ group The Bangerz, known for producing the scores for the dance crew Jabbawockeez, winners of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. The millenium has introduced San Jose natives such as Xiu Xiu, an experimental post-punk group, and Highcyde, an indie rock band. Heavy Heavy Low Low, an experimental metal band, and the alternative rock band I Am Empire also have called San Jose home, contributing to the medley of sounds coming out of San Jose.
The City National Civic Auditorium is a 3,036-seat venue owned by the City of San Jose. Formerly known as the San Jose Civic Auditorium, the venue is a concert space and sports arena in the downtown portion of the city. Morrissey, Calle 13, The Piano Guys, Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band, George Lopez, Yes, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and “The Voice” tour are all among the acts that come through the City National Civic Auditorium throughout the year. An official San Jose landmark, the venue hosted The Who’s first U.S. headlining tour, and has since seen performances by artists such as the Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand.
Also owned by the CIty of San Jose and operated by San Jose Theaters, The Center for the Performing Arts in San Jose was built in 1972 by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The 2,677-seat theater hosts Broadway performances, dance competitions, award ceremonies, concerts, and stand up comedians. This Art Deco style theater offers breathtaking views of the city and features sophisticated fountains, columns, reception areas, and garden spaces. Home to the Ballet San Jose and Broadway San Jose, locals and tourists alike will never want for entertainment with a venue like the Center for the Performing Arts in town!
Another San Jose Theaters venue, the California Theatre was opened in 1927 as the Fox Theatre, a premiere cinema. Having played host to a wide variety of vaudeville shows and films, the venue has a 1,122-capacity and is a popular spot for wedding ceremonies, private events, meetings, movie screenings, concerts, and product launches.
The last of the four San Jose Theaters, the Montgomery Theater is an intimate, 475-seat theater that has been going strong since 1936. With a gorgeous courtyard and outdoor cocktail reception area, the Montgomery offers orchestra and balcony seating for performances from tenants such as the Lyric Theater and the Children’s Musical Theater San Jose (the largest musical theater and training program for youth).
The Event Center Arena at San Jose State University hosts 7,000 patrons for concerts and 4,600 sports lovers for athletic events. Home to the SJSU Spartans men’s and women’s basketball teams, the women’s volleyball team, and the gymnastics team, the Event Center Arena is located in downtown San Jose. Built in 1989, the venue has hosted a wide array entertainers over the years: Eric Clapton, George Lopez, Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Kelly Clarkson, Conan O’Brien, and Pearl Jam have all performed here.
The SAP Center at San Jose was built in 1990, and has since become the home to a variety of sports teams, currently the NHL’s San Jose Sharks and the AFL’s San Jose Sabercats. The 19,190-capacity venue, fondly known as the “Shark Tank” by locals, is a massive indoor arena. For acts like Lady Gaga, Sonu Nigam, Queen, Adam Lambert, Juan Gabriel, Pitbull, and Enrique Iglesias, look no further than the SAP Center.
San Jose’s 550,000-square-foot McEnery Convention Center hosts events ranging from conventions to concerts. Located in downtown San Jose, the convention center is a versatile space that features state-of-the-art technology that is able to make any event come to life. Whether you’re checking out a trade show or a play, there is always something going on at the McEnery Convention Center.
In 2003 the Blank Club got its start in downtown San Jose. Since then, the club has enforced an anything-goes type of attitude, where there is no dress-code and everyone is welcome. To check out bands like The Airborne Toxic Event, Blackfire Revelation, Buzzcocks, The Cryptics, David Knight, D.O.A., The Epoxies, Free the Robots, French Horn Rebellion, and the Steve Grabber Experience, just come down to the Blank Club for the best in up-and-coming music.
Located in Saratoga, just five minutes from San Jose, the Montalvo Arts Center hosts acts like Wanda Sykes, Chris Botti, Kenny Loggins, Keb’ Mo’, Natalie Cole, and Hugh Laurie with the Copper Bottom Band. With three separate entertainment spaces, the venue features the Great Lawn, the 300-seat Carriage House Theatre, and the Lilian Fontaine Garden Theatre for its outdoor summer concert series.
Also located in Saratoga, the Mountain Winery has an impressive summer concert series that features performances from entertainers like Jewel, Merle Haggard, Il Volo, Jake Shimabukuro, Jeff Dunham, Maxwell, Steve Winwood, Joan Rivers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gary Allan, Brit Floyd, and Jill Scott. When you’re finished checking out a quality performance, go taste some of the wine!
Primarily a jazz venue, Cafe Stritch hosts acts like John Worley and the Mo-Chi Sextet, Andrew Speight Quartet, Rin Tin Tiger, Jesse Scheinin and Friends, Peppe Merolla Organ Quintet, and Ryan Meagher Trio. With a delicious menu and even sweeter tunes, Cafe Stritch is a casual place to catch some smooth jazz.
Held in Bradley, California (two hours outside of San Jose), the Lightning in a Bottle festival takes place every May. The countercultural festival is presented by the Do LaB, a group that promotes sustainability, social equality, and the creative arts. While the festival began as a private birthday party in 2000, the event has grown to celebrate nature and music on a larger scale at spaces such as the Angeles National Forest, Live Oak Camp, and Oak Canyon Ranch. The 2014 festival will be held at the San Antonio Reservoir Recreation Area, as the event continues to gain popularity. Guest speakers, art installations, yoga and meditation sessions, and on-site camping are other added values thrown in with a world-class lineup. Past performers have included Moby, Phantogram, Gramatik, Ana Sia, Purity Ring, Rusko, Paper Diamond, Emancipator, The Human Experience, The Glitch Mob, Eskmo, and Dela Moontribe. The Sierra Nevada World Festival is held every June almost three hours from San Jose in Boonville. Formed in 1994, the festival primarily hosts reggae music and world music acts. With three to five stages offering festival goers plenty of entertaining performers, the Sierra Nevada World Festival is noted for bringing acts like Shaggy, Rebelution, Tarrus Riley, Chuck Fenda, Seun Kuti, and Barringotn Levy, among others. Hosted at Avila Beach Golf Resort in Central California, Forever Never Land takes place in September. The weekend-long music festival features plenty of games, music, food, paint tents, foam pits, slip and slides, laser tag zones, and drinks to bring you back to your teenage years and 20’s. The festival’s three stages will bring in the best of the best, but the lineup for 2014 hasn’t been announced just yet, as this will be the festival’s inaugural year. Expect to be amazed by this 21+ play fest that happily mixes bounce houses with wine tastings! Held at the City National Civic Auditorium every August, the Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest features acts like the Johnny Winter Band, the Edgar Winter Band, Vanilla Fudge, Peter Rivera (formerly of Rare Earth), and Savoy Brown’s Kim Simmonds.