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Del Mar Racetrack concert series gearing up for another sensational season

The popular setting for the racetrack concert series. Courtesy photo

It’s an early Wednesday afternoon and Chris Bahr, the Director of Events and Promotions at the Del Mar Racetrack, is perusing through a list of upcoming artists slated to perform during the Racetrack’s famed concert series this summer.

“We’re thrilled with this year’s lineup,” notes Bahr, who is one of the masterminds behind the long-running North County staple. “I think 2015 is our most diverse year ever.”

Looking at the list, it’s easy to see why. From reggae (The Wailers, Ziggy Marley) to electronic (Paul Oakanfold) and even parody (“Weird Al” Yankovic), this summer’s lineup offers enough genres to please as many demographics as possible.

“91X FM is our radio sponsor, so we look for bands that fit within their mold,” explains Bahr of the alternative station based out of Mira Mesa. “But with 11 or 12 acts every season, we’re looking to branch out with one or two as well.”

The way the track is branching out this year is apparent by the choice of Yankovic, the parody singer who has been a draw since the 1980s with his take-offs of songs by Michael Jackson (Yankovic spun his hit “Beat It” into the food ode “Eat It”) to the present day, when he lampooned Robin Thicke (turning his smash “Blurred Lines” into “Word Crimes,” which focused on common grammatical errors).

“Believe it or not, Weird Al is one of the people I’m really looking forward to seeing,” says Bahr of the performer who staged a comeback last summer thanks to a string of viral hits. “He really captures people’s attention, so I’m interested in what kind of crowd he draws.”

Rockers, of course, will also be well-represented this summer, with a performance by Southern California’s very own The Offspring (known for their late ’90s, early ’00s hits like “Pretty Fly” and “Why Don’t You Get a Job”). Weezer, another SoCal act who rose to fame around the same time with chart-toppers such as “Beverly Hills” and “Island in the Sun,” closes out this year’s series for Labor Day. (Their last appearance in 2010 drew 25,000 extra people and Bahr is expecting a big crowd this time around as well.)

Planning for the summer-long lineup began in the midst of last year’s series and ramps up during the winter, as Bahr and his team look at a variety of factors — from scheduling to budget — when it comes to booking the acts that grace the Racetrack’s stage.

“It’s actually a year-round planning process,” says Bahr, noting he’ll look at who’s available to travel to Del Mar on a Friday or Saturday — the only nights the track holds concerts. “Unlike other places who can have shows during the week, we only look at who can come on the weekends,” he explains. “There’s also so much competition in the area — now, more than ever.”

Starting as way to draw more people to the track, the concert series began in the mid 1990s and took years to develop. “I think we really kicked off when Jack Johnson played here,” Bahr says of the show that launched the series into the next level. “This was about the same time when he went from an unknown to a superstar in a very short time. Judging by the attendance he brought that day, we figured we were onto something.”

Since then, the series has drawn a variety of top acts — everyone from ZZ Top to Alice in Chains, but there still are some dream acts the track is working on getting for the future. “Beck, Billy Idol, and The Black Keys are on the top of our list,” says Bahr. “We’d even hope to have a country act like Willie Nelson in the future.”

For more on the Racetrack’s concert series and to see a complete schedule, check out their home on the web: www.DMTC.com.


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