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Monday, October 11, 2010

Al Jardine's "A Postcard From California" Concert: A Big Sur Folk Festival Revisited

In September of 1969 many of the giants of folk and folk rock music gathered for the legendary Celebration at Big Sur. Just one month after the much larger and more famous Woodstock Festival the Celebration in Big Sur featured performances by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, and John Sebastian among others.

Although The Beach Boys were not on that bill the one founding member who was obviously the most influenced by folk music was Al Jardine. Al has called Big Sur his home since 1973, however, his Friday night show to debut his first solo album called "A Postcard From California" was also his first ever concert in those coastal woods.

My good friend and Beach Boys aficionado, Les Chan, had alerted me to this show. We made sure to leave Santa Cruz early enough for a stellar drive down Highway 1. About the only traffic hassle was so many drivers continuing to pull off the road (us included) to grab the seemingly endless scenic shots along the way. I decided my California flag cycling jersey would be most appropriate for this evening of props to the Golden State.

It is only about 26 miles between Carmel and Big Sur but the scenery is so spectacular that it attracts visitors from all over the world. There was no shortage of tourists at every scenic turnout to help each other snap photos. Here are a couple of shots I took as the autumn sun was starting set. It is easy to understand why many celebrities choose to live here.

Our destination for the concert was the Henry Miller Memorial Library. This venue is really not a library in the traditional sense but rather a tribute to a local legend. Henry Miller (1891 to 1980) was an American novelist and painter. Visiting the "library" you get an instant feel for Miller's free spirit and counter cultural work which makes for a perfect backdrop for any artistic event.

One of our goals was to arrive in time for the sound check. The sun had set behind the huge redwoods and we knew that a special evening awaited us.

When Al and his Endless Summer Band finally took the stage they thrilled the audience with about twenty Beach Boys classics and all but one of the songs from Al's new "A Postcard From California." The original Beach Boys were all about family and Al Jardine is keeping that tradition alive by performing with his two sons, Matt and Adam. Other regular band members include long time Beach Boys associates, Billy Hinsche, Bobby Figueroa, Ed Carter and poet, Stephen Kalinich.

There was no doubt that Al Jardine is still enjoying the ride. Next year the three remaining original Beach Boys are discussing a series of five free concerts to celebrate their 50th anniversary. In the world of pop music this kind of longevity is as rare as the California condor.

My parting shot is of Al's acoustic guitar. It is covered with autographs of musical friends and has a few stories to tell I'm sure. I am proud to be a fan of his music since 1962. Some might call his new album a "Love Letter To Big Sur" but even at that this brand new music from the original "Folk Beach Boy" is refreshing and long overdue. Thank you A.J.


  1. Great recap of what looks like a very fun day and a great show. Love the close up picture of the autographed guitar.

    Funny thing, I was just online yesterday looking at the Esalen website down in Big Sur. I've only been to Big Sur once but recall seeing cows grazing in verdant fields with the highway on one side of the pasture and the ocean on the other. I thought they were the luckiest cows I'd ever seen. It was a gorgeous location.

  2. Thanks Stacie. One wouldn't have to be a fan of this music to appreciate the sheer natural beauty and very cool community vibe that resonates throughout Big Sur.

  3. So wish that we could have been there for this performance! Big Sur is a beautiful place and to have those musical sounds to soak in the experience would have been a blast.