Travel Feature Story

Concord Hits All the Right Notes

Bay Area town celebrates history and jazz music through August

By EDDIE RIVERA, Community Editor
Published: Thursday, August 1, 2019 | 4:08 PM

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The month of August is filled with long, lazy days of heat, piled up against the work week. Kids are home, the beaches are full, and you’re running out of cool ideas.

But just northeast of San Francisco and just over an hour away from Southern California by air, there is a spot where jazz, art, history and culture all hang together, surrounded by nature, amidst suburban homes.

And on a recent early summer weekend, we saw a lot of it.

Concord, the original home of Concord records, a seminal label which introduced Dave Brubeck, Art Blakey, Joe Pass, and Cal Tjader to listeners around the world, is celebrating more than 50 years of jazz history this summer, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Concord Jazz festival.

August will see a host of events to mark the occasion. And there’s beers!

We flew out of the Jet SuiteX terminal at Hollywood Burbank airport for the 110-minute flight to Concord. I hesitate to even mention this little miracle of an airline, lest it be discovered by the teeming hordes and lose its secret charm. JetSuiteX offers affordably priced flights to the Bay Area (landing in Concord!) on small private luxury jets. It’s the opposite of flying into or out of Burbank itself, with a private hangar, comfortable lounges, and a swift, no-hassle flight.

We arrived 45 minutes before our flight like the good flight citizens that we are, but—and I don’t recommend this—but you could arrive just prior to takeoff, valet park right in front of the terminal and your flight is but a stroll across the tarmac away. We’ve flown JetSuiteX a few times now, and each time is a secret mystical journey we’re hesitant to tell even our closest friends about. Let’s leave it that, shall we?

We were booked at the Hilton Concord, a massive, family-oriented hotel with hundreds of rooms, meeting and dining facilities (breakfast was included in our stay), and a neighborhood-sized pool.

Perched just off Interstate 680, the hotel is just over a mile from Waterworld California and 1.7 miles from the Concord BART station, if you absolutely must travel to San Francisco. The hotel was teeming with families and athletic teams during our weekend, but never seemed too crowded. You might, however, want to reconnoiter a spot at the pool early.

Our stylish, oversized room overlooked the Waterworld California water park, several corporate motherships, (Bev-Mo, for one), and was parked in the shadow of Mt. Diablo, which offers a smorgasbord of nature-oriented activities of its own. The snazzy and spacious Hilton lobby also features the hotel’s signature restaurant, Plate and Vine.

There are also scores of shopping and restaurant opportunities just across Diamond Avenue at The Veranda, Concord’s newest outdoor retail experience. But we’ll get to that.

We strolled in to the town’s historic Old Town section and Todos Santos Plaza Friday afternoon to avail ourselves of the numerous craft ale pubs, the park, and the hip, small-town vibe. Both Epidemic Ales and the Concord Taphouse offer scores of brews, both micro and macro, along with a familiar, friendly local atmosphere. Hop on over.

That Friday evening found us at Fiore, a unique strip mall restaurant which offered quietly spectacular Italian food in an upscale setting. Dining outdoors, we began with a refreshing Watermelon Caprese, with chunks of watermelon under balsamic vinegar, served on a bed of lettuce, with olives and mozzarella cheese. We followed with a delicious Pescatore with clams, mussels, tiger shrimp, salmon halibut in a tomato lobster sauce over Arborio rice.

Friday went into the books as a “win.”

On Saturday morning, Concord Records producer and arranger Frank Dorritie, literally brought his stereo and first-edition albums from home, to play records for an enthusiastic and attentive group of jazz aficionados at the Concord Historical Society. Sitting in a comfy oversized chair, Dorritie spun tales of the early days of Concord Records and its artists. The coffee klatch was part of the town’s ongoing “Java and Jazz” series, which will run through the rest of August.

We followed up our jazz chat with a stroll through the historic Galindo Home and Gardens, built in 1856 for Don Francisco Galindo and his wife, Maria Dolores Manuela (Pacheco) Galindo, Don Salvio’s second daughter, some of Concord’s founding citizenry.

Following a delicious lunch at EJ Phairs, another friendly and accomodating pub attracting locals and tourists alike, more beer was sampled at the Hop Grenade. There, our guests imbibed on a flight of various golden-toned brews, happily quenching their thirst on a hot Saturday afternoon.

A quick walk around the corner led us to The aRT Cottage, a simple wood bungalow around the corner from Downtown Concord. There we met artist/owner Fro Schmidt, who led the group in a quick watercolor lesson, and a “pinch pot” session where we crafted bowls and cups. Schmidt is friendly, engaging, open and knowledgeable in a wide range of arts, from water colors.

I kept my inestimably suitable-for-framing watercolor, and had I known they would have kept my miserable attempt at forming clay into a bowl, fired it and sent it back to me, I would have taken advantage of the offer. Alas.

Meanwhile, arts classes and exhibitions are available throughout the week.

After a nap in the cruelly comfortable beds of the Hilton (I always sleep like a baby in hotels), we literally walked across the street for dinner. The aforementioned Veranda is a dazzling retail experience housing the equally dazzling Puesto Mexican restaurant. The massive restaurant was jammed on this early summer, packed with locals and presumably travelers, given its proximity to the Hilton.

We feasted on three kinds of tacos—lobster, filet mignon with fried cheese, and grilled shrimp, and each was as delicately delicious as their names sound. Alongside our table we watched as the kitchen staff built hundreds of meals behind a plate glass window. That only made us, well me, hungrier.

The weekend wound down with breakfast at the Hilton’s Plate and Vine restaurant, followed by a JetSuiteX flight home (sssh!), but there is tons of jazz left in Concord, through the end of summer.

The weekend of August 2-4 will see more jazz at the Veranda (for free), as well as the Concord Jazz Festival’s 50th Anniversary concert plus an art and wine expo; plus a free Dave Brubeck tribute concert at Todo Los Santos Plaza downtown.

Jazz events will continue with a host of shows and events through August 24. Click here for the full schedule.

The 411:

Concord Jazz Festival https://www.visitconcordca.com/jazz/
Concord Tap House: https://concordtaphouse.com
Epidemic Ales https://www.epidemicales.com
Concord Hilton: Hilton Concord. 1970 Diamond Blvd, Concord, California, 94520-5718, USA. Tel: +1-925-827-2000 Fax: +1-925-827-2113

Fiore Restaurant, Concord: The Vineyard Shopping Center
3103, 5100 Clayton Rd # A14, Concord, CA 94521

The Art Cottage: http://artscottage.blogspot.com/

EJ Phair Brewing Company and Ale House: https://www.ejphair.com/

JetSuiteX: https://www.jetsuitex.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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