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Hot August Nights in Sonoma Wine Country

Amos Lee

There’s no better time for a weekend getaway in the North Bay than the month of August. Not only does the sun make that glass of cabernet a tad sweeter, but the entertainment choices are almost too plentiful. Concertgoers can visit a slew of perfect-sized venues, and get up close to legends of every genre, from big-band swing and British blues-rock to dub reggae and doo-wop. And Wine Country solidifies its status as fertile territory for modern music with shows from the most acclaimed names in indie, punk and folk rock. Submit your vacation request now, then check out our top picks below.   

Saturday, August 2

Real Estate
Gundlach Bundschu Winery

August brings another huge confirmation that GunBun headquarters is an essential stop for today’s indie rock touring scene. New Jersey band Real Estate plays the outdoor hillside area on the 2nd, followed by SoCal duo Foxygen on the 7th. Real Estate is in the midst of an impressive career arc, with their excellent third album Atlas cracking the U.S. top 40 on the strength of dreamy yet bouncy gems like first single “Talking Backwards.” Older music fans may see some ‘80s college rock jangle pop in the group’s catchy songs, while everyone will enjoy the interplay of Martin Courtney’s sweet vocals and Matt Mondanile’s slinky lead guitar melodies—which rock snob collective Pitchfork Media recently called “near-telepathic.” In Real Estate’s case, the indie cred and internet buzz are justified. North Bay Music fans should not miss this show. More info


Friday, August 8

Tony Bennett
Weill Hall and Lawn, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University
Rohnert Park

It’s downright amazing that an icon like Tony Bennett is still performing, let alone dazzling crowds with his signature smooth-as-silk croon. In this one-night-only performance, the 87-year-old legend performs selections from his extensive repertoire, which in recent years brought us Duets collections to rival Sinatra’s. Will he change the lyrics of “I Left My Heart…” to honor Sonoma County instead of San Francisco? Either way, attendees can also enjoy his daughter Antonia Bennett, a Berklee-trained vocalist who gets the evening started with jazz and pop standards. What’s better than father-daughter time in Wine Country? More info

Saturday, August 9
Steve Winwood
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts
Santa Rosa

It seems that every generation has its Steve Winwood. Those who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s know him as the blues-rock fusion master of Traffic and the short-lived Blind Faith. Children of the ‘80s and beyond will remember “Higher Love” and “Roll With It,” two number-one hits that brought a much-needed dash of classic soul and gospel to the synth-heavy pop charts. Fans rejoiced back in 2009, when Winwood and his old pal Eric Clapton released a live album and embarked on a short tour to perform their classics. Chances are the Wells Fargo Center crowd will hear selections from all four of his decades in the business.


Sunday, August 10

Amos Lee
Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University
Rohnert Park

The Blue Note record label is known for presenting the best in jazz and blues, so it was curious when a young singer-songwriter named Amos Lee released his debut on the imprint back in 2005. But in the decade since, the Philadelphia vocalist-guitarist has proven his mettle with his own infectious blend of folk, rock and soul. Many know Lee for high-profile opening stints for Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Elvis Costello, but he’s currently on tour to promote Mountains of Sorrow, Rovers of Song, his latest album and one he feels breaks new artistic ground. A highlight is the emotional title track, which features sugary background vocals from Patty Griffin. More info


Friday, August 15

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
Weill Hall and Lawn, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University
Rohnert Park

With the reviews to Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of the hit musical Jersey Boys receiving lukewarm reviews at best, it’s the perfect time to check out the real thing. Frank Valli and the Four Seasons themselves come to Sonoma State mid-month to perform doo-wop classics like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and the still-powerful “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Can Frankie still hit those notes? You need to be there to find out. More info


Saturday, August 16

Against Me!
Phoenix Theatre

This August, the legendary all-ages venue hosts one of the most acclaimed rock bands of the past decade. In recent years, the Florida band has made headlines for its recently-out transgender lead singer-guitarist, Laura Jane Grace. This year’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a bold song cycle that explores her identity crises and self-acceptance amid the group’s beloved hard-driving punk guitar riffs. Don’t miss this chance to experience songs from this powerful album in a live theater setting. More info


Saturday, August 23
Lee “Scratch” Perry
Mystic Theatre

Yet another musical legend visits the North Bay this month, this time from sunny Jamaica. Reggae sage Lee “Scratch” Perry virtually invented dub music with his innovative mixing board techniques, and has produced nearly all the genre’s early luminaries: Junior Murvin, Max Romeo, and some guy named Bob Marley. Perry’s latest album—the aptly named Back on the Controls—is a double record that evokes the days of his fabled Black Ark Studio, which closed in 1979 and burned down four years later. The artist and UK producer Daniel Boyle amassed an arsenal of his vintage studio equipment to bring the old school back.  More info


Saturday, August 23, and Sunday, August 24
Bodega Seafood Art & Wine Festival
16855 Bodega Highway

Celebrating its 20th year, the annual art and wine festival continues its tradition of providing enough tasty treats for all the senses to last all weekend. The food, of course, will be delicious, but the entertainment is no slouch. Saturday is an exercise in eclecticism, with a main-stage lineup that spans instrumental world music (L.A.’s Incendio), jump blues (Lost Dog Found), mambo (courtesy of Latin music masters Patron), and a dose of “East Bay Grease,” the brand of funk delivered by homegrown headliners Lydia Pense and Cold Blood. The evening brings a special concert with blues guitar hero Robben Ford and San Mateo’s own Eric Lindell. Sunday wraps up the weekend in style: Popular Bay Area rock band Pride and Joy headline, following acclaimed Beatles tribute band the Sun Kings. Bodega Bay, delicious food and wine, incredible music—can you think of a better weekend? More info


Saturday, August 30
Maria Bija Trio
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery

The free “Jazz It Up” wine and concert series from Ferrari-Carano vineyards continues throughout August, ending the month with a scorcher of a show. Maria Bija made a name for herself performing throughout the Bay Area with her crack trio and authentic Brazilian jazz style of singing. Her life-affirming renditions of beloved standards—and impeccable vocals—make her origin a shock for many. Bija grew up in Boston, where she picked up a jazz jones from her father. She later lived in Brazil, which helped get her hooked on world music. Her love of this musical style is so strong that she’s a former faculty member of the New England Conservatory of Music and still teaches privately. Practice makes perfect? In this case, there’s no denying it. More info

Find more info about things to do, restaurants and hotels in Sonoma County.

By David Sason

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