music in the park san jose

.A Wave of Surf Music Rolls Into Art Boutiki

KFJC bring International Surf Classic back to Art Boutiki

music in the park san jose

Surf music is somehow both underground and ubiquitous. Known for its niche fandom, the genre known variably as reverb, surf rock, surf pop or surf guitar is, curiously, everywhere.

From Tarantino flicks, to car commercials to sitcom trips to California, surf music flows into countless aspects of pop culture. It asserts, if not an influence, an available flavor into punk, progressive rock and metal. The fast-picking, reverb-y guitar and tight, dynamic drums evoke the lifting, dropping, balancing and crashing sensations of surfing.  

Lucky for us already in California, summer is here and it’s time for hella good surf music, such as the Bay Area’s own KFJC Radio’s International Surf Classic, taking place at San Jose’s Art Boutiki this Sunday. This year’s event features a bevy of notable surf musicians both local and international: the Young Barons, The Irradiates, Sir Bald Diddley, Pollo Del Mar and The Boss Martians.

KFJC and surf music go way back, says DJ Cousin Mary. That’s because “we play music other radio stations don’t play.” She fell for the genre while listening to DJ Phil Dirt’s popular surf show Phil’s Garage with her then-high school kids. Five years after Phil’s Garage finished its 25-year run, Mary rebooted the surf show as the Reverb Hour on KFJC in 2010. 

Musician/organizer Ferenc Dobronyi has also been vital to reviving the post-Dirt Bay Area surf scene. He and Adrian Cavlan, local surf musician, deejay and musical director for the 49ers, co-present the night’s event with KFJC.

Opening is not-to-be-missed Pacifica trio the Young Barons, child prodigies and heirs-apparent to the Bay Area scene. In the tradition of the surf greats, the early-20-something Barons started playing together when they were 14. Their debut album, Hella California, is mostly covers—but in the Young Barons’ hands, even covers sound fresh. The songs are, as Mary says, “interesting choices,” done their way: fast, tight and expert, all three pieces of the band working overtime to get you dancing. 

While some of the artists playing the modern surf circuit do sing, it’s largely an instrumental form (hence, niche). Mary tells stories from shows where women saunter up to bands to say, hey guys, what you really need is a vocalist. Good news: I’m available! (Yikes).

Dobronyi, who’s gotten this question, is diplomatic. 

“There’s a kind of person who needs to understand music without lyrics—which is difficult for many people who need to have a lead singer.” 

Fans of fun, energetic, uptempo music that makes you want to dance love surf, as well as those who geek out on other instrumental forms—jazz, prog-rock and classical—to name a few. 

Speaking of dancey music, The Irradiates, from France, tour all over Europe with their “worldwide scientific surf rock.” Their music is sciencey-zombie-rock-ish, high-energy and confident modern surf (with the added benefit of a clear message on songs like recent single “Surf Nazis Fuck Off!”). Consisting of members from other renowned French Surf bands like Hawaii Samuraii and Lost Boys, they feature “brilliant guitar playing and songwriting” says Dobronyi. Following their performance at Art Boutiki, the Irradiates will perform live on KFJC the next day, on Cousin Mary’s show.

Fans of the traditional surf sound will dig the humorous, prolific and thoroughly enjoyable surf veteran Sir Bald Diddley, a “character from the UK who has been around forever,” says Dobronyi. His wide range of songs will please both the dancers and the head-bobbers. 

Pollo Del Mar, one of two local bands fronted by Dubronyi, started 30 years ago in San Francisco, where he claims “people just do not like to dance.” So, they developed a moodier, progressive sound to cater to them and “did quite well.” Not that he wants to sell his band short (he is though). Pollo has a slowed-down, chilled-out vibe and their songs are a series of psychedelic little bops. Their new album came out this year.

“Adored by everybody,” headliners The Boss Martians have a huge personality onstage and engage the crowd with “balls-to-the-wall” rock ‘n roll, says Dobronyi.

“They’re a great band,” concurs Mary, “Their guitarist Evan Foster is just incredible. Every time I watch him I realize that my mouth is hanging open.”

International Surf Classic

Sun, 3pm, $28

Art Boutiki, San Jose

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music in the park san jose