Musical May rebirth: FMH’s Roaring Camp shows kick off array of live offerings at Moe’s, Dream Inn and more

Three more "vertical concerts" are coming to the Dream Inn, but's only the beginning of May's music revival countywide.
Three more “vertical concerts” are coming to the Dream Inn, but’s only the beginning of May’s music revival countywide.
(Courtesy Dream Inn)

Here’s what’s up in the next month for Felton Music Hall, The Rio, Michael’s on Main, Kuumbwa, Moe’s, and, yes, there’s even a music festival coming!

Historically, the month of May has always served as a kind of dress rehearsal for the summer performance season.

It’s when the late, great Santa Cruz Blues Festival happened each year, to name one example. But emerging from the torpor of the year-long pandemic, this May seems even more full of good portents.

Let’s see a bit of what the month has in store:

Felton is getting back to beltin’

One of the county’s newest performance venues, the beautiful Felton Music Hall, is making its first steps back to normal in May with a series of big concerts that won’t exactly be in Felton Music Hall.

The venue is sponsoring a series of weekend outdoor concerts at nearby Roaring Camp, beginning May 7-9 with a three-show engagement with the Bay Area’s premier Grateful Dead interpretation band Dark Star Orchestra.

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Those weekend shows — which will run through June 13 — are all 5 p.m. showtimes, which means that after those shows, there will still be enough time for a 9:30 p.m. show back at the music hall, with a different band.

It’s an intriguing way to get audiences excited about live music again and to get back up to speed with shows at the indoor venue. Check out the club’s calendar to get a sense of who’s playing when at Roaring Camp.

Meanwhile, Felton Music Hall itself is beginning to wade in to regular shows. Next week, May 5 and 6, bluegrass rising star Molly Tuttle hooks up with Old Crow Medicine Show frontman Ketch Secor for two nights.

It’s not a jam-packed calendar, but it’s starting to feel like forward motion again, said FMH marketing manager Kristen Carranza.

“We’re certainly playing it by ear,” she said. “We’ve been erring on the side of caution so far with all these ups and downs and stops and goes. We’ve just been trying to do what we can to keep the lights on, our staff paid, and our performing artists happy.”

For now, outdoor shows and the shows at the music hall itself will be socially distanced and respectful of the pandemic protocols, which means lower capacities and probably quick sell-outs.

As is the case with all performing venues, it’s not clear what the next few months will look like. But Carranza, who is planning to re-book many of the shows she had to cancel in 2020, is confident that FMH can have a full slate of shows by the end of the year.

To get a lay of the land at Felton Music Hall, check out their online calendar.

Dreamy shows by the beach

Those “vertical concerts” in the pool area at the Dream Inn were not just a pandemic thing. The beachfront hotel is planning more concerts available to audiences who are also paying guests at the rooms overlooking the pool area.

Of the three shows coming up, two are already sold out (though eavesdropping from down on Cowell Beach is still free).

On April 29, the Dream Inn welcomes ’70s hitmakers Pablo Cruise (shouldn’t it be “Pablo Cruz” at least for one night, guys?). The roots-rock sister duo Larkin Poe is due May 26. And the magnificent LA combo Los Lobos is at the pool on May 27.

Pablo Cruise and Los Lobos are already sold out, which probably means more dates with other acts will follow this summer. Given that you’ll also get a sweet hotel room on the beach for the night, these are pricey tickets. So take a deep breath and dive in here.

Message from Michael’s

Michael’s on Main in Soquel is cranking back up to close to normal with dates for their venue throughout the month of May, beginning with an intriguing “reunion” show of three of Santa Cruz’s most successful young artists. Anthony Arya, Taylor Rae, and Lindsey Wall come together for a dinner-and-a-show date May 1.

Other notables to look out for include the great Beatles interpreter Drew Harrison with his new show “Across the Universe” (May 20), classic cowboy singer Dave Stamey (May 8), Congolese guitarist Elie Mabanza (May 21), plus “Grateful Sundays” and no-cover Wednesdays.

There’s a lot to choose from for the live-music fan ready to get in the flow again.

Doe’s at Moe’s

The new ownership at Moe’s Alley is eager to show off its new outdoor stage on the intimate club’s patio.

Like other performance venues, Moe’s has been in mothballs for months, but is emerging with a show May 22 on that new outdoor stage featuring former X frontman (you can’t say “ex-X frontman,” can you?) John Doe.

Because of pandemic protocols and reduced capacity — and because we’re talking about John Doe — the show sold out quickly. But they just announced another slate of shows on Friday. including one before the Doe show. Check out the details here.

Doggy stories

The Rio Theatre is now allowing a limited number of people back into its glorious old movie house. The Rio will be screening a series of short films about the human-dog relationship called the Top Dog Film Festival.

Top Dog will be screened live at the Rio on May 14 (and available for virtual at-home screening for nine days afterward). Tickets for the opening-night in-person screening are $16. Not bad for two hours of puppy love. Details here.

Still only virtual

The Kuumbwa Jazz Center enters May looking to raise funds with its “Swing Into Springtime” auction May 1-5. Otherwise, Santa Cruz’s finest jazz club will continue its free Monday night virtual concert series with guitarist Ray Obiedo, vocalist Claudia Villela with guitarist Romero Lumbambo, the neo-country act Hank & Ella with the Fine Country Band, and boundary-breaking violinist Mads Tolling, all on consecutive Monday nights. Make your Kuumbwa plans here.

Can it be? It is!

Your eyes are not deceiving you. We actually have a live music festival laying out before us on Memorial Day weekend.

The site is Hallcrest Vineyards in Felton where on May 29 and 30, about a dozen musical acts will convene in a socially distanced but nevertheless in-person setting.

Among the familiar names performing live is Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra, Kelly McFarling, Wolf Jett, Calvin Arsenia, Kendra McKinley, Whiskerman and tons more. The festival is put together by the boutique Boulder Creek venue Lille Aeske. Tickets are $89 per day; $160 for both days.