The calendar says September, but it still feels like summer in San Diego. It’s how we can still get away with events like outdoor concerts well after school’s back in session and every other part of the country has restocked on sweaters and coats. Naturally, there are a lot of great shows to look forward to in the coming months—not all of them outdoors—and I’ve selected nine worth putting on the calendar.
September 28: Charli XCX at House of Blues
Charli XCX has come a long way since her early singles like "Nuclear Seasons," released when she was still a teenager. And though she’s still not quite a household name, she’s consistently been one of the most interesting figures in pop music, whether guesting on tracks by Danny Brown and Santigold or delivering her own shape-shifting, futuristic brand of pop gloss.
October 4: Calexico and Iron & Wine at Humphreys Concerts by the Bay
Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam first recorded with Arizona-based band Calexico back in 2005, merging his soft-spoken folk sound with their Southwestern border twang for a brief but eventful EP. They’ve reunited for another new set of music, Years to Burn, and it’s a rich, warm set of music that feels comforting and lived-in. That being said, I’d expect the live performance to be much more animated.
October 7: Idles at Observatory North Park
Idles performed in San Diego earlier this year at the Belly Up, and there’s a good chance everyone at that show immediately snatched up tickets to this encore show once they went on sale. The Bristol, UK-based band is ostensibly a rowdy punk rock band, but that doesn’t really do justice to the depth and emotional honesty of their material. It’s loud music from a band that wears compassion and empathy on their sleeves, and it’s a surprising and much-needed source of positivity.
October 8: Van Morrison at North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre
Van Morrison’s had a long and storied career that’s seen him evolve through various styles over the years, moving well past his early days with the rock band Them and his early hit "Brown Eyed Girl" (which remains his best-known song). But the Irish-born singer/songwriter’s music has a depth and breadth—from the haunting, autumnal Astral Weeks to 1979’s lush and soulful Into the Music—worth getting to know before seeing him dig through his back catalogue onstage.
October 12: Tinariwen at Belly Up Tavern
Tuareg desert blues band Tinariwen have become legendary for putting on electrifying live shows. In a lot of respects, those live shows are very different than the kinds of performances Western audiences are used to. But in a lot of respects, they’re merely playing rock ‘n’ roll with a different language and approach to melody and scale. Their upcoming album Amadjar features guest appearances from the likes of singer/songwriter Cass McCombs and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Warren Ellis. They probably won’t be at this show, but a great performance is guaranteed.
October 24: Lizzo at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatreâ
Lizzo recently made an unforgettable performance on MTV’s VMAs—which, ironically, has been essentially forgettable in recent years—in front of a giant, inflatable posterior. And while I have no inside information about whether or not those cheeks will make appearances on her live stage on tour, I can tell you that you’ll be treated to some highly danceable feel-good anthems such as "Juice" and "Good As Hell."
November 12: Sleater-Kinney at Observatory North Park
For more than two decades, Sleater-Kinney has been one of America’s best bands, the combined talents of Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss adding up to a body of work that few indie bands can match. Unfortunately, Weiss announced her departure from the band earlier this year, but with new album The Center Won’t Hold newly released and a determined Tucker and Brownstein soldiering on, Sleater-Kinney enter a new era. And for what it’s worth, it’s still going to be a killer show.
December 3: Angel Olsen at Observatory North Park
Without having to think too hard about it, I’d point to Angel Olsen as my favorite contemporary singer/songwriter. Since the release of her debut album Half Way Home, she’s made great strides forward with each release, building on Roy Orbison and Leonard Cohen-inspired indie folk by expanding her arrangements and thinking outside of six strings. Her latest, All Mirrors, is a very different kind of album—it’s easily her biggest and most ambitious, featuring both string sections and a heavy dose of electronics. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what that means for her live show.
December 6: Lee Fields and the Expressions at Music Box
Retro-soul acts are becoming remarkably common these days, so hearing the music of Lee Fields—who first began making music in 1969 and has more than earned his frequent comparisons to James Brown—is refreshing to say the least. Fields has the kind of voice that can make every emotion felt deeply and acutely, not to mention a charismatic presence that can’t be faked. Add to that the funky grooves of The Expressions, and you’ve got the making of a spectacular evening.