Arts & Entertainment: Get a night life

Increase your live-music intake with our guide to summer concerts

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Warm beer, salty sunburned skin and hot dogs. The smells of outdoor concerts conjure vivid Proustian memories of nostalgic summers past, singing along with and screaming approval at some of my favorite bands. Secondhand marijuana smoke, miles in the car with friends, empty pockets and ringing ears? Check. Musicians who tour remote cities just to connect with loyal fans through bittersweet moments of music? Check. A terrific soundtrack for one too many failed summer romances? You bet.

This year, you really don’t need to head to the Bay Area to get that summertime-concert-series feel. Sacramento has upped its game with a number of great outdoor shows and so should you, the concertgoer. Even if you have to endure foul smells, get wild with your credit card(s) or listen to some unfamiliar music, we dare you to commit to one of these venues and see an entire concert series.

Downtown Partnership Friday Night Concerts in the Park


1. Sacramento promoter Jerry Perry runs the thing, and he knows how to do it.

2. The diverse crowd features a unique blend of state workers, hazy vagrants and rambunctious teenagers on summer break.

3. The summer breeze rips through high-rise buildings surrounding Cesar Chavez Plaza.


1. Parking is limited, so if you don’t live in the Midtown or downtown area, transportation can be an issue.

2. The 5 p.m. start time is a bit early, so you’ll have to take some hours off on Fridays.

The Lineup

June 17: Debora Iyall, Exquisite Corps, the Generals and Breaking Glass
June 24: Mumbo Gumbo and Los Blazing Hangovers
July 1: Kepi Ghoulie Band, Pets, Dog Party and Favors
July 8: The Nibblers, Gerald Pease Combo, and the Bell Boys with James Cavern and Jesi Naomi
July 15: The Nickel Slots, Whiskey and Stitches, and Bright Faces
July 22: Prieta, the Kelps and the Denver Piledrivers
July 29: Lite Brite, Mondo Deco, Simpl3Jack and Jem & Scout
August 5: Musical Charis, Be Brave Bold Robot and Adrian Bourgeois
August 12: The Brodys, Automatic Rival and A Single Second
Aug 19: Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers, Tess & Hip Trash, and the Kyle Rowland Band

Details, details

All shows are 5-9 p.m. and free. Cesar Chavez Plaza is located at 910 I Street. More details can be found at

Thunder Valley summer concert series


1. It’s like a diverse summer soundtrack of ’60s, ’70s and ’80s music.

2. You can stop by High Steaks or Koi Palace for a nice meal before the show.

3. At only about 3,500 seats, the amphitheater is pretty intimate.


1. The amphitheater is set up in the less-than-glamorous parking lot.

2. The secondhand smoke brewing inside the casino is never appetizing.

The Lineup

June 18: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
June 25: Chinese Summer Concert
July 1: The Beach Boys
July 7: Super ’70s Soul Jam
July 9: Tesla
July 16: Vietnamese Hot Summer Concert
July 24: Train
July 30: Chicago
August 5: Doobie Brothers
August 6: Peter Frampton
August 12: Huey Lewis and the News
August 13: Hitmakers with Jessa Zaragoza
August 20: Gabriel Iglesias
September 11: Daryl Hall and John Oates
September 16: Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson
September 17: Ramon Ayala
September 22: Lynyrd Skynyrd

Details, details

Prices and showtimes vary. Thunder Valley is located at 1200 Athens Avenue in Lincoln. For more information and online ticket purchases, visit

Sleep Train Amphitheatre concert series


1. There are some big-name country and country-rock crossover acts.

2. Dance Gavin Dance and Middle Class Rut return to play a hometown crowd.

3. The grass area in the back of the amphitheater is where the party’s at.


1. Along with high ticket prices, there’s a large ticket surcharge.

2. It’s way out in the boonies.

The Lineup

July 26: Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow
August 4: Toby Keith and Eric Church
August 11: Vans Warped Tour with Dance Gavin Dance, Less Than Jake, Middle Class Rut, Relient K and more
September 11: Def Leppard and Heart
September 15: Rascal Flatts, Sara Evans and Justin Moore
October 14: Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger

Details, details

Sleep Train Amphitheatre is located at 2677 Forty Mile Road in Wheatland. For more information and online ticket purchasing, visit

California State Fair Concert Series


1. Tributes! The Fab Four does the Beatles, Aja Vu covers Steely Dan and Moonwalker honors Michael Jackson.

2. Undertaking this series is only a two-week commitment in late July.

3. Deep-fried twinkies.


1. July is often the hottest month of the year.

2. It’s hard to make your way through a crowd of MC Hammer fans wearing Hammer pants.

3. A night breeze can waft a whiff of manure into the air.

The Lineup

July 14: The Fab Four
July 15: Blue Oyster Cult
July 17: Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán
July 18: MC Hammer
July 19: Neon Trees
July 20: Lee Greenwood
July 21: Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players and SOS Band
July 22: Aja Vu
July 23: War
July 24: Casey James
July 25: Moonwalker featuring Michael Firestone
July 26: Choo-Choo Soul featuring Genevieve
July 27: REO Speedwagon
July 28: Three Dog Night
July 31: Starship featuring Mickey Thomas

Details, details

All shows begin at 8 p.m. except for Choo Choo Soul, which has performances at 1 and 4 p.m. Free general admission to all concerts comes with admission to the California State Fair at Cal Expo. Reserved seats are available for a few extra bucks at More information and updates to the schedule can be found at