Just because her dad wrote many radio hits of the ’70s classic rock era, don’t expect Lara Johnston to be riding his coattails. The young singer-songwriter is blazing a musical career all her own, with her first Sonoma Plaza appearance tonight, May 23, at Burgers and Vine at 9:30 p.m. Johnston has been paying her dues by touring extensively, both as a solo act opening for acts such as KISS and Heart, and as a backing vocalist for Don Henley, Belinda Carlisle and others. Johnston has also shared the bill with Luke Bryan, Willie Nelson and Journey. In September of 2012, Johnston was selected from more than 7,500 competitors as the first Grand Prize Winner of the “Unsigned Only Competition” for her song, “K.I.S.S.” In Feb. of 2013, that song and “Here at the End of the World” were chosen from over 20,000 entries as finalists in the famed International Songwriting Competition. K.I.S.S. went on to win first place in the Adult Contemporary division. She also appeared at the 2013 SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas. Since then, she has been focusing on her debut album, due out soon, but you can catch a glimpse of her sound before tonight’s show by pointing your browser to larajohnston.com. There is no cover for the show.
It’s a busy weekend at Burgers and Vine, with western swing hall of fame member Tommy Thomsen taking the stage on Saturday, May 24, also at 9:30 p.m. A hometown Sonoma boy, Thomsen grew up at a time when small town values were still a way of life in the Valley of the Moon. As a child, his first instrument was the piano. He studied the classics and worked his way up to performing Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody at his last recital. After his mother, Jean, aka “Big Red,” taught him to play a mean “Boogie Woogie,” he segued into all things Americana. He leapt from Liszt to Jimmy Reed’s “You Got Me Runnin’” and never looked back. As a teen, he took up guitar and began his first professional band, The Headsman, incorporating Texas Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll classics. There is no cover for that show as well.
Sunday afternoon at Burgers and Vine, it’s delta blues with 3 on a Match, for an early show at 3 p.m. Describing themselves as “from Dylan to Delta,” the act is “Smokin’” Joe Herrschaft on vocals and harmonica, Paul Christopulos on guitar and Mikey Cannon on drums. There is no cover.
Muscardini Cellars in Kenwood is presenting another “Wine Down Friday” tonight, May 23, with the WildKats for a 5 p.m. show. The admission charge includes a glass of wine and picnic baskets are encouraged.
Sebastiani Winery and Vineyards has music in the tasting room tonight, May 23, with Mike Z and the Benders, kicking off at 6 p.m. There is no cover and the venue is child- and dog-friendly.
The Annex Wine Bar has Ralph Cetola and Krazy Kat tonight, May 23, kicking off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 24, it’s the DaveEdJohn Quartet, also for a 7:30 p.m. show. There is no cover for any of the shows but the venue is 21 and over.
The Erik James Tasting Room has music tonight, May 23, with the Left Coast Syncopators, featuring “Snakebite” Jacobs, Tim Eschliman and Kevin Zuffi, kicking off at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 24, it’s Austin deLone, Tim Eshliman and Bowen Brown, also for a 7 p.m. show. There is no cover either night.
Viansa Winery in Carneros has three shows this weekend, starting on Saturday, May 24 with Total Recall, starting at noon. Sunday, May 25, also at noon, it’s Bern Man. Monday, May 25, it’s local favorites Ten Foot Tone, also for a noon show. There is no cover and folks are invited to enjoy wine and a sandwich from the deli.
Murphy’s Irish Pub presents the Cork Pullers tonight, May 23, for an 8 p.m. show. Saturday, May 24, it’s comedy night with Myles Weber for two shows, at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Sunday, May 25, the weekly pro-jam session, featuring Vanguard Jazz Ensemble, begins at 1 p.m. Later that night, it’s the Jami Jamison Band for a 7:30 p.m. show.
HopMonk Tavern Sonoma has Craig Corona on the beer garden stage today, May 23, for a 5 p.m. show. Later, on the tavern stage, it’s Wendy DeWitt and Sean Carney at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, May 24, the beer garden stage welcomes Michael L. Castle for a 1 p.m. show, later that night, the tavern stage has Jamie Clark for an 8:30 p.m. show. Sunday, May 25, the garden stage has Aria and the Gathering Sound for a 1 p.m. show. There is no cover and the shows are family-friendly.
The Epicurean Connection presents Keady Phelan tonight, May 23, for a 7:30 p.m. show. Saturday, May 24, it’s Six Cents, also for a 7:30 p.m. start. Sunday, May 25, has an early start for the Leftovers, kicking off at 1 p.m.
The Plaza Bistro welcomes the John Kalleen Quintet tonight, May 23, at 7 p.m. Kalleen assembled the John Kalleen Group in 2004, inspired to create an ensemble based on the full-sounding style of the ’50s and ’60s classic jazz quintets, as exemplified by the great Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter groups, going back as far as the bebop era Clifford Brown bands.
“I took my time finding just the right musicians,” Kalleen explains. “What I expected was that we were going to be a bebop/hard bop quintet that essentially cover the classic tunes of that era, with some imaginative new arrangements. But the musicians who joined the band really clicked. Soon the guys started bringing in new compositions to play. With those original tunes in our repertoire, the band has taken on its own unique sound and style. So the band has taken off in ways that I originally hadn’t imagined…” There is no cover for the show.
Sunday, May 25 The Blue Moon Saloon presents the continuation of the blues jam, starting at 9:30 p.m. There is no cover.
Wildflower Weed is on the road to Mendocino at the Didgeridoo Dreamtime Inn on Saturday, May 24, for a 6 p.m. show.
Showcase the Band is in Rio Nido at the picnic grounds for the annual chicken barbecue on Sunday, May 25, for a 5 p.m. show that will feature rock and country music.
If your gig isn’t in my column, you didn’t tell me about it. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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J. M. Berry knows the local music scene. He also knows website services and social media marketing. Check out his other skills at jmberry.com.
J.M. Berry’s Hot 45s
Editor’s Note: While there is no shortage of great concerts in Sonoma, sometimes it is fun to get out of the Valley. Here’s what you can hear within 45 minutes of fair Sonoma.
Stellamara – Saturday, May 24; Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium – San Rafael; 415-499-6400
Ghosts of Electricity-Bob Dylan tribute – Friday, May 23; HopMonk Tavern – Sebastopol; 829-7300
Pat Benatar-Neil Giraldo – Friday, May 23; Uptown Theater – Napa; 259-0123
House of Floyd – Pink Floyd tribute – Saturday, May 24; Mystic Theatre – Petaluma; 765-2121
Sun Kings – Beatles tribute – Monday, May 26; Rancho Nicasio – Nicasio; 415-662-2219
Pop Rocks – Friday, May 23; HopMonk Tavern – Novato; 415-892-6200
Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes – Saturday, May 24; Sweetwater Music Hall – Mill Valley; 415-388-3850
John Mayall – Friday, May 23 ; City Winery – Napa; 260-1600
Joan Osborne – Sunday, May 25 ; City Winery – Napa; 260-1600
Soup Sandwich + T Luke and Tight Suits – Friday, May 23; Twin Oaks Tavern – Penngrove; 795-5118