SM PIER — Consider your Thursday nights this summer planned.
The Santa Monica Pier Corporation, the nonprofit that runs Santa Monica’s most famous destination, announced the lineup for its 29th annual Twilight Concert Series Monday.
The series of 10 concerts kicking off in July will feature major musical firepower like Jimmy Cliff, the reigning godfather of reggae music, and newcomer Hanni El Khatib, a Los Angeles-based artist who’s been tearing up the airwaves and festival circuits all year.
Meshell Ndegeocello — the 10-time Grammy-nominated musician whose latest album, “Pour une ame soueraine,” attracted the talents of Sinead O’Connor and Lizz Wright — will also make an appearance, and things get an international flavor with Australian singer-songwriter Xavier Rudd.
“As someone once told me, summer starts and ends with the twilight concerts at the pier,” said S. Jay Farrand, the executive director at the nonprofit. “Where else can you hear great bands with friends for free over the sound of crashing waves?”
The concert series took on a new life this year when producer Rum & Humble joined up with fellow concert production company Spaceland Presents to pack the series with talent covering a wide range of the musical spectrum like rock, neo-soul, punk, R&B and jazz.
Spaceland Presents is a sister company to quintessential Los Angeles music destinations The Echo and Echoplex, and is responsible for booking “First Fridays” at the Natural History Museum, a chance to dance amongst the dinosaurs in Downtown L.A.
“I always strive to merge the most exciting artists with the most spectacular venues in order for the audience to have a transformative experience. Partnering with Spaceland to do just that at the pier is a dream situation for me and my company,” said Martin Fleischmann, owner of Rum & Humble.
Long-time partner and local public radio station KCRW lent its name and musical credentials to the mix, as did alternative station 98.7 FM.
The crew hopes to surprise newcomers and old hands alike with a variety of new food offerings in the form of gourmet food carts and new restaurants that will be opening on the pier shortly, as well as a beach-side beer garden.
This year, people don’t even have to be in Santa Monica to enjoy the show (although they’ll be missing out) — for the first time, the Twilight Concert Series will be live-streamed so fans across the globe can tune in to see a little slice of Santa Monica’s homespun tradition.
The Twilight Concert Series has seen major changes since Rum & Humble first took over production from King and Co., the company that led the series for its first 26 years, in 2011.
That year, Fleischmann had less than two months to book all the concerts, but still managed to land famous rockers the Bangles to anchor the series otherwise filled with eclectic bands.
Even with the behind-the-scenes chaos, 2011 meant upgrades, including a beer and wine garden and a large screen brought on to satisfy the growing number of concert goers who chose to enjoy the music from the sand below the pier.
Dance-focused nights got a groovy new spin with the installation of a dance floor as part of the Tango on the Timbers, a night of free dance lessons to Latin music.
By the time 2012 came around, the series had hit a groove under the new leadership, rounding out its season with a concert by the famous L.A.-band Best Coast and NO.
The first of the concerts kicks off July 11, and the last chord will be struck on Sept. 12. Several of the bands have not yet been announced, so check in at santamonicapier.org/twilightconcerts for updated information, times and parking locations.