Residents sorely missing the conviviality and top-notch tunes of the Twilight or Jazz on the Lawn summer concerts will find solace and joy in the new “Americana in the Park” series this fall.
Performances will take place in Gandara Park, on Sundays between Sept. 19 and Oct. 10 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and celebrate the great range of Americana music from its origins in African, Appalachian, roots, blues and bluegrass, to its modern forms of folk and country.
The free event is presented by 63-year-old community institution McCabe’s Guitar Shop in partnership with the City, which is providing funding through an “Art of Recovery Grant”. The family-friendly series will also feature food trucks and a McCabe’s pop-up shop.
“In the 90s we had like a long running concert series over at what was formerly called Lincoln Park,” said McCabe’s Concert Producer, Kora Peterson, who grew up in Santa Monica and first worked at McCabe’s at age 15. “This a more meaningful concert series because it’s more open to the community and it involves a bigger part of the community, which, for me, is really neat, having grown up going to these smaller little concert variants in the park.”
McCabe’s has been hosting concerts since 1969, when they pulled together an emergency show for Elizabeth Cotten after a canceled concert left her in a financial fix. This latest incarnation of McCabe’s concerts hearkens back its origins, as it aims to uplift locals in the music and event industry who have been economically impacted by the pandemic, while creating a welcoming space for residents to come together.
“Everyone involved in it is in Southern California, from the artists to the vendors, to the stage crew, because it really is about helping to rebuild the community, both in gathering and also by employing and supporting them financially,” said Peterson.
Americana in the Park is a pilot of a new partnership model, where local organizations are provided funding and support from the City to create unique and diverse community events.
“Our hope is that this new model of partnership will engage and support local community organizations, and will strengthen our communities’ connectedness,” said Cultural Affairs Manager Shannon Daut. “Jazz on the Lawn was a beloved series for 14 years and we’re looking forward to this new approach to continue to bring free family-friendly events to public spaces across Santa Monica.”
The range of musicians selected represents both the diversity of Southern California and the global influences present in Americana music.
The series kicks off on Sept. 19 with the Masanga Marimba Ensemble performing traditional and popular music from Zimbabwe and Latin America. On Sept. 26, Ukulele musicians Heidi Swedberg and Daniel Ward will open for the New Orleans-style jazz band The California Feetwarmers.
Oct. 3 will feature Children’s music duo Hullabaloo, followed by Phil Salazar and the Kinfolk’s mix of traditional music alongside rock, blues, country, jazz and bluegrass. The final Oct. 10 event includes kid folk band the Hollow Trees opening for Joachim Cooder, who will perform African-inspired Americana on his mbira, an African thumb piano.
“I think it’s easy to just think of Americana as country nowadays, but it’s so much more,” said Peterson. “So I really wanted to take it back to its roots in Africa and show how it has transformed from its origins.”
Slaves transported across the Atlantic brought many of the instruments and rhythms that become the foundation of Americana music, and the performances of both Joachim Cooder and the Masanga Marimba Ensemble will highlight these deep ties.
“We’re excited to show that all the music that we play whether it be from Zimbabwe or from Guatemala or from Mexico or from the US, it all has roots in many of the same places,” said Ric Alviso, the bandleader of Masanga Marimba. “What you do on top of African rhythms really determines whether it’s cumbia or blues or salsa. The same thing is true with folk, bluegrass and country, there are African rhythms in every one of those styles.”
Peterson specifically chose the banjo to be the concert series logo, as the instrument was brought from Africa and then became the heart of many traditional American styles that were later exported around the world. She hopes this event will give people a greater appreciation for the great range and geographic influences of Americana music.