It may not be obvious to the commuters speeding through Novato on Highway 101, but there’s an oasis of live music among the big box stores located on Vintage Way in the HopMonk Tavern, where regional and nationally-touring acts have routinely stopped in for intimate concerts in the tavern’s Session Room and on the patio where an outdoor stage dominates the beer garden.
Much of the music coming to Novato is thanks to independent concert booker and promoter KC Turner, who keeps himself busy by running KC Turner Presents. This summer, KC Turner Presents hosts its sixth annual Cookout Concert Series at HopMonk with top-notch bands and performers appearing in the beer garden on select Sundays through the summer.
“It started off as a fun idea, bring the grill, book some shows,” says Turner. “It’s turned into a really special event, probably my favorite thing to do every year.”
Originally from Missouri, Turner moved to the North Bay in 2005, living in Novato until 2010 when he moved to San Francisco. It was while living in Novato that he first forayed into organizing live shows.
“I found myself always driving to San Francisco to perform open mics,” he says. “There was really nothing happening in Novato.”
Turner’s first shows were open mic events at Finnegan’s Marin in Novato. “Nobody came at first,” he laughs. “But, it began to snowball and became a community event.”
He began working with HopMonk Tavern at their Sonoma location, then moved operations to Novato shortly after that spot opened in 2012. Over the six years of the Cookout Concert Series, the shows have evolved from casual get together into fully produced concerts. “We’ve really upped the ante to make it a professional venues,” says Turner. “That’s so we can get better names to play there a make it a more legit stop on a tour.”
With an eye toward folk and indie-rock, the Cookout Concerts are boasting big names all summer with guitar master Alejandro Escovedo playing with a full band on June 16 and Texas-based “Titan of the Telecaster” Bill Kirchen performing on Jun 30 with several former Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen bandmates including Bobby Black.
Other confirmed shows include Americana duo Birds of Chicago on July 21, jazzy ensemble Charlie Hunter & Lucy Woodward Trio on Aug. 11 punk-meets-folk co-headlining concert with John Doe and Robbie Fulks on Aug. 25, and many more.
“I feel like the lineup is the strongest yet,” says Turner. “And we’ve got the grill going.”