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La Jolla summer concert series returns July 17 with ‘frenzy of excitement’

Funk band Full Strength will play at La Jolla's Scripps Park on Sunday, July 17.
Funk band Full Strength will play at La Jolla’s Scripps Park on Sunday, July 17, to open the 2022 Kiwanis Club of La Jolla Concerts by the Sea series.
(Courtesy of Andrew Johnson)

The return of the annual summer concert series in La Jolla’s Scripps Park is proceeding full steam ahead.

Organizers say the permits have been secured and the performers booked for the four concerts on consecutive Sundays that will kick off July 17 with funk band Full Strength.

Full Strength will donate its time to the show, which proved to be a boost for the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla, the group leading the charge to bring the concerts back after a five-year hiatus.

“My family has lived in La Jolla since 1979, so I have lots of fond memories of the [concert] series,” said Full Strength vocalist and bass player Andrew Johnson. “And like most everyone in the community, I was very disappointed when they ran out of funding in 2016.”

In learning of a new concert funding mechanism using some of the proceeds from the annual La Jolla Cove Swim, the band offered a free performance “to help bring back the beloved concert series,” Johnson said.

Howard Zatkin, chairman of Kiwanis Club of La Jolla Concerts by the Sea, said “that was so helpful. There was a time when we didn’t know how we were going to fully fund the concert series as planned. We knew we were going to use Cove Swim proceeds, but we didn’t know how much the swim would make or how much permits would be. So having them volunteer for this was such a positive thing for us.”

The concerts, once run by the La Jolla Town Council and La Jolla Rotary Club, are now run by the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla, which oversees several large public events, including the La Jolla Half Marathon, Junior Olympics and pancake breakfast.

Four shows are set for Scripps Park in July and August.

The concerts were put on pause after 33 years when the board of directors announced at the end of the 2016 season that it would be the last unless a “substantial long-term funding source” was found to underwrite the shows.

At the time, board President Shirleymae Davis said “it made me sick to [my] heart and I cried my eyes out over it, but that doesn’t bring in the money, unfortunately.” She cited increases in city permit costs and decreases in sponsorships and donations.

In 2019, it was announced that La Jolla Cove Swim proceeds would provide some of the money to bring the concerts back. The swim — a reimagining of the La Jolla Rough Water Swim, one of the world’s best-known open-water swim races — was held in fall 2019 and raised $20,000 to fund the first round of concerts, planned for 2020. The Kiwanis Club of La Jolla oversees both the La Jolla Cove Swim and Concerts by the Sea.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic halted subsequent events in 2020 and 2021.

But now that the city of San Diego has given the Kiwanis Club the green light, “I’m really looking forward to it,” Zatkin said. “I love music and … I hope people come.”

So does Johnson.

“I can’t tell you how excited we are that this concert is coming back,” he said. “There is no greater place to set up a blanket, hang out with friends and family and get up and dance with great bands. Other community concerts are great, but there is nothing right there on the ocean like with these concerts. The weather is always perfect. It’s a great afternoon.”

He said the energy of the crowd feeds Full Strength’s energy “and we just give it right back to the audience.” For the concert, the band will have 11 people onstage, including a full horn section, three lead vocalists and a rhythm section.

“It’s a frenzy of excitement and dance energy; it’s indescribable,” he said.

“We don’t do original material, so these are songs everyone can sing along to, but we mesh them together in a new way that people haven’t heard,” Johnson said. “We’ll start with a Beyoncé and then we work in ‘The Humpty Dance’ [by Digital Underground] ... and Stevie Wonder. It’s so much fun.”

Concert schedule

All Kiwanis Club of La Jolla Concerts by the Sea will begin at 3:30 p.m. at Scripps Park.

July 17: Full Strength

July 24: Mighty Untouchables

July 31: Sue Palmer and Her Motel Swing Orchestra

Aug. 7: The Heroes ◆