The songs will sail you away to an especially smooth time in the 1970s and early 1980s. The soft-rock tunes come from such mellow-minded acts as Christopher Cross, Firefall, Player and other breezy bands focused on love and paradise.
For those who tuned in regularly to AM radio four decades ago, plus a new generation that savors these so-called yacht-rock songs over a sunny hangover brunch, Saturdays concert at the Sunrise MarketPlace Outdoor Pavilion ranks as a must-see show.
Were talking about the Sail Rock 2013 Tour, which is headlined by Cross, perhaps the ultimate yacht-rock act with such anthems as Sailing and Ride Like the Wind. Joining Cross in this musical marina of soft rock are Firefall (Just Remember I Love You, You Are the Woman), Robbie Dupree (Steal Away), Player (Baby Come Back) and Orleans (Dance With Me, Still the One). Also dropping anchor in Sacramento: Gary Wright of Dream Weaver fame and John Ford Coley, half of the duo behind Id Really Love to See You Tonight. (England Dan, Coleys musical partner, died in 2009).
While the above soft-rock songs represent millions in record sales, some artists find that the terms yacht rock and sail rock sound a little too cheeky. The genre conjures images of Sperry Topsiders boat shoes, unoffensive midtempo grooves and sipping chardonnay by sunset kind of like an outdoor scene from the soap opera Santa Barbara.
Being called yacht rock, I dont know what that means other than yuppies and leisure stuff, said Jock Bartley, a founding member of Firefall, by way of phone from Colorado. Id definitely categorize us as adult-contemporary or soft rock, mostly love-song kinds of things. Even though Firefall was categorized as easy listening, we were a rock band that had a couple of hits that were ballads.
Pop culture has certainly embraced this smooth nostalgia. A video series called Yacht Rock aired online from 2005 to 2010, featuring fictionalized storylines and shenanigans based on such musicians as Kenny Loggins, Jimmy Buffet and Hall & Oates. Cover bands including Yacht Rock Revue, Three Sheets to the Wind and Yacht Rock Schooner keep the soft rock sub-genre alive around the country. Yacht rock-themed events could be found over the summer in San Francisco and in Austin, Texas.
Here in Sacramento, DJ Shaun Slaughter has hosted yacht rock parties over the past four years, including a weekly gig at midtowns LowBrau called Wunderbar, which alternates between a day party on the first and third Sundays and a night party each second and fourth Saturday. (Saturday nights Wunderbar would be the perfect place to drop anchor after the Sail Rock concert). Listen for tunes by Hall & Oates and Cross, and also the highly produced and more uptempo songs that Slaughter calls power yacht, such as Steve Winwoods Higher Ground and We Built This City by Jefferson Starship.
He also spins tunes by a generation of newer artists who take their cues from soft rock days of yore, including the relaxed electronic jams from Moon Boots and Los Angeles Poolside.
Slaughter insists hes not just dabbling in irony.
Maybe its because I sort of grew up with it, because my parents had a lot of Boz Scaggs and Hall & Oates records, said Slaughter. It felt like a genre that was underexplored. The sound just clicked. I also started watching Yacht Rock episodes and I became obsessed with that subculture, that breezy Los Angeles and San Diego vibe and all those musicians hanging out. Its chill background stuff where you can have a good time and enjoy the sun.
Back at Sunrise MarketPlace Outdoor Pavilion, Saturdays concert will be treated as a kind of yacht rock revue. Orleans will operate as the house band, with each artist coming to the stage and performing a brief set of their hit songs. Cross will emerge as the final act, and then everyone joins forces for an epic adult-contemporary encore.
The formats different from what Bartley is used to on the concert circuit. Firefall, which formed in Colorado during the mid-1970s, has performed fairly regularly over the past 40 years and over that time logged three gold and two platinum records. Firefall was tapped as an opener for Fleetwood Macs Rumors tour, and usually performs up to a 90-minute set to showcase more of its rock leanings.
But in the end, Bartley is happy that Firefall keeps sailing on and has plenty of fans to entertain on the current tour.
Its a nostalgic kind of thing, said Bartley. Its like, Gosh, I remember that one, or I remember Christopher Cross. Theres 20- and 30-year-old fans who grew up listening to Firefall with their parents, or were taken to a concert back in the 70s or 80s. The truth is, Im just happy to be doing this for all these years and fortunate to be in a band with a lot of hit records.
Call The Bees Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias.