Another summer of popular music comes to Del Mar

By Rob LeDonne

Current chart-toppers, yesterday’s favorites, and everyone in between will be descending on Del Mar these next few weeks and months thank to a summer music lineup that seems to get stronger every year. Throughout the year, residents mostly rely on the Belly Up for their live music needs, but with the San Diego County Fair to the new season of the Del Mar Racetrack, the North County music scene gets a large boost every summer season.

“We’ve always been striving to get the best caliber entertainers we possibly can,” said Linda Zweig, the head of media relations for the County Fair. “Historically across the board, we’ve had huge names on our grandstand stage and we’re just trying to carry on that tradition.”

Zweig isn’t kidding; since the fair’s inception in 1936, it’s had a steady drumbeat of the day’s hottest acts. Looking at a complete list on the fair’s official website, names such as The Temptations (1978), Johnny Cash (1988), and Bruno Mars (2012) pepper the list. This year is no exception; some of the highest charting and most buzzed-about artists will be appearing at the fair this year, right alongside stars from yesteryear. That’s all part of the plan, said Zweig: “While trying to be family friendly, we want to appeal to every demographic, every age.”

Train, perhaps best known for one of the biggest songs of 2009, “Hey Soul Sister” and on the charts today with the smash hit “50 Ways to Say Goodbye,” will be appearing at the fair on June 27; the next day Kendrick Lamar, an R&B darling known for the hit track “Swimming Pools” and a collaboration with Jay Z will be at the fair June 28. Both shows will be a part of the Toyoto Simmer Concert Series at the Grandstand Stage, which began with the Beach Boys on June 8.

After the fair wraps up, the Del Mar Racetrack will begin another season of weekend concerts; this year’s roster includes the same number and variety of chart-topping acts as well. Chris Bahr, the director of events and promotions for the track, says it’s sometimes tricky to book a consistent slate of quality acts.

“It’s always a bit of a challenge when booking. We only have these bands on Fridays or Saturdays, so they have to be available then and on the West Coast. This year, I think we have one of our best lineups.”

That lineup includes bands such as Fitz and the Tantrums (July 26), whose single “Out of my League” has been a recent indie hit. “Fitz and the Tantrums have been getting quite a bit of radio airplay,” said Bahr. “When they played last time, they were a real high-energy group and we definitely wanted to bring them back a second time. They fit our lineup really well.”

Also performing are San Diego-staples Pinback (Aug. 9) and Weezer (Aug. 27). In addition, indie darlings the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s are also slated to perform in support of their new album Mosquito, which was released by Interscope Records this past April.

Bahr says because of all the booking that goes on in North County every summer, the track has “a close relationship with the San Diego Fair and the Belly Up. We all talk about who’s going to have who.” These discussions result in a full summer of music with extreme variety — and no double-booking.

As for Zeig, she explained she’s been attending the fair since she was a kid and relishes the music acts every year. “There have been so many favorite performances over the years. I have a soft spot for Chubby Checker who was here in 2005; he was such a pleasure. It was also thrilling to meet Mel Torme back in the 1980s because he has such a long history.”

As for who Zeig is looking forward to this year, she points out Adam Lambert (July 2) is both a public and staff favorite. “For some reason,” she mused, “I’ve been getting a lot of requests to see Adam by older women...”

For more information on upcoming concertsm visit (concerts and entertainment category) and (season info category).