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Music in the Park Returns Thursday with the English Beat

In Music

The San Jose Downtown Association took a risk last year when they restored the storied, and briefly shuttered, Music in the Park—bringing back the once-free summer concert series as an annual ticketed affair.

Last year, Deputy Director Blage Zelalich was cautious when she told Metro about the event’s possible return.

“There might be Music in the Park in the future but we’re not really ready to make that commitment or that announcement right now,” Zelalich said ahead of the July 2013 reboot.

With a year to reflect on the reception of last summer’s successful one-off show, featuring Ozomatli and Sonido Clash, the Downtown Association is now a bit more optimistic.

“We had a great event,” Downtown Association Community Director Rick Jensen says, looking back on last year’s engagement. “People were happy to pay [to attend] and knew that they were going to have a quality experience.”

Thanks to the vote of confidence from the public, the Downtown Association is doubling the lineup to two dates this year. British 2 tone ska group The English Beat, a South Bay favorite, kick off the series this Thursday in St. James Park, headlining a night that will include the Holdup, an emerging reggae band from San Jose, and San Francisco-based indie pop outfit Finish Ticket.

Next month will mark the series’ return to Plaza de Cesar Chavez, its former home. Bay Area Latin jazz heavyweight Pete Escovedo re-christens the plaza on Aug. 21 when he makes his record 18th Music in the Park appearance.

The Downtown Association started receiving complaints about the numbers—and audience—the series was attracting during the final few years of its initial run. Last year’s Ozomatli date, with its gated perimeter and fee at St. James Park, was a way for the organization to place the focus back on the music.

“We wanted to be sure that we were going to be able to offer a quality event that was safe for everybody, [and that] everybody was going to be having a good time and be there for the right reasons,” Jensen says.
Both ticketed events pair well-known local draws with emerging talents.

Escovedo will be joined by recent Grammy winners La Santa Cecilia, who performed to a packed house in San Pedro Square Market in March as part of San Jose Jazz Winter Fest.

Although Jensen says the Downtown Association will aim for at least two more events next summer, they may double their output to four. “In the old format of Music in the Park, we started with one and we doubled it, then we kind of doubled it again,” Jensen notes, though he’s quick to dampen any speculation over returning the event to a weekly affair when he adds, “I don’t think we’re going to go from four to eight any time soon.”

Music in the Park is July 17 at St. James Park. More info.

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