Fans were thrilled to be back at Yoshi’s in Oakland on Friday night (July 9), ready to enjoy the first concert held on the nightclub’s famed main stage in nearly 16 months.
It was only fitting that hometown hero Pete Escovedo would be one to reopen the world-famous venue, after the lengthy shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as he led his orchestra kicked off a run of five shows in three nights.
It was the first concert at the nightclub since the Loose Ends on March 15, 2020. (Although Yoshi’s had already been hosting smaller free dinner music shows in its restaurant area.)
Escovedo and his band — which continue their stand at Yoshi’s through Sunday (July 11) — were in top form as they rolled through one sensational Latin jazz number after another. The music felt so appropriate for the occasion — so vibrant, so full of life and so celebratory.
And there was certainly much to celebrate for these fans who had been waiting so long for the return of live music to their lives
Holly Aurell was smiling as she waited to enter the venue on Friday night. The Sonoma resident hadn’t seen a concert since early March of last year, when she caught Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Patti Smith at the Fillmore in San Francisco, and she was more than ready for that streak to end.
“It’s the hardest thing in the world to not have the arts,” she said. “It’s like living life without the spice.”
Dana Pandey was also thrilled to be back attending a concert, noting that it the reopening of venues like Yoshi’s is a big occasion for both music lovers and the musicians themselves.
“I feel happy for the musicians,” the Santa Rosa resident said. “I felt so sorry for them not to have their livelihood.”
Pandey and Aurell weren’t the only ones who were excited about the return of live music. They had plenty of company as well — in the form of a capacity crowd that came out to Escovedo and company.
It felt strange to be part of a capacity crowd —
Being part of a capacity crowd — especially one that is packed together as tightly as one finds at Yoshi’s for a sold-out show — might have been a little jarring for some of the fans who have spent the last 16 months social distancing from each other and, in general, avoiding large gatherings. Yoshi’s only holds roughly 300 people, but they are crammed in together pretty tightly for a sold-out show like this one. People share small tables and there just isn’t a whole lot of space between you and others.
Still, most of the people in attendance looked comfortable and content as they watched the show. Very few people wore masks, except for the servers, who were busy taking orders and delivering sushi and cocktails to tables.
Escovedo was the perfect host for the evening, commenting that he felt great to be the first act to return to the Yoshi’s stage. The Pittsburg native kept things lively and upbeat throughout the night, using his time between songs to interact with his fellow musicians and share some laughs with the crowd.
“I just got a call on my phone from Sheila,” Escovedo joked after the band performed his daughter Sheila E.’s signature song, “The Glamorous Life. “She said don’t ever play that song that way again.”
Escovedo, who turns 86 on July 13, has several upcoming shows in the Bay Area. Here’s the rundown:
Yoshi’s: Escovedo and his Latin Jazz Orchestra perform at 7:30 and 9:30 July 10, and 7 p.m. July 11; 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland; $34-$75; 510-238-9200, www.yoshis.com.
San Jose Jazz Summer Fest: The annual event, which was idled by the pandemic last year, returns Aug. 13-15; with Escovedo and his Latin Jazz Orchestra taking the stage 6 p.m. Aug. 14; single tickets for the festival are $35-$190; three-day passes run $105-$470; summerfest.sanjosejazz.org.
Golden Gate Jazz Festival: Pete Escovedo & Sons, with Juan and Peter Michael Escovedo, perform during this inaugural event at San Francisco’s refurbished Presidio Theatre; 6:30 p.m. Aug. 28; daily tickets are $85-$135; goldengatejazzfestival.com.
Freight & Salvage: If you can’t catch him this summer, Escovedo and his Latin Jazz Orchestra return to headline two nights at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage; 8 p.m. Oct. 8-9; $40-$44; thefreight.org.