Five Concerts to See in Marin This May

Another month, another great lineup of live music happening in Marin. We’re highlighting just a few of the many great shows across the county, with genres ranging from jazz to country to Malian psychedelic rock, but there’s plenty more still to see at these venues and beyond. May these May concerts in Marin keep you jamming out all month long.

Rancho Nicasio

Our Pick: Tia Carroll, May 10 @ 7:30 p.m. (Dinner reservations 6–8 p.m.)

See Rancho Nicasio’s full calendar for live music here.

Tia Carroll blues singer coming to Rancho Nicasio
Photo courtesy of Tia Carroll.

Los Lobos are the big headliner at Rancho Nicasio this month, but the legendary LA rock group’s sold-out Memorial Day shows are not the only great concerts at the Rancho this May. I’d recommend dinner and a show from Tia Carroll, a blues singer native to the Bay Area with undeniable stage presence. Carroll’s style is classic, and her band keeps up with a blend of rock and R&B backing. She’s been known as a performing artist, but her forays into recording via her 2021 album You Gotta Have It got some buzz from blues and soul publications.

Can’t make it to the May 10 show? Tune into a concert by Keystone Revisited on May 24. The group jams out on songs by Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, father of Keystone Revisited’s bandleader Jerry Saunders. 

Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley

Our Pick: Orchestra Gold with Makuru, May 12 @ 8 p.m.

See Sweetwater’s full calendar for live music here.

Orchestra Gold band playing a concert at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley
Photo by @nicolemariadance

This Afro-psychedelic rock group has been making the rounds at festivals worldwide, and music critics raved about their 2023 album Medicine for its inventive sound and infectious vibe. Their songs are rooted in the musical traditions of Mali, where singer Mariam Diakite hails from. Add in the influence of bandleader Erich Huffaker, a guitarist from Oakland, and you’ve got gold — Orchestra Gold. Jam out to their hypnotic, rhythmic tunes at Sweetwater. 

Another anticipated concert this month at Sweetwater is a May 10 performance by Big Mountain, the reggae group who went certified gold for their 1994 cover of Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way.” Also worth checking out is an appearance by Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express on May 25 for alternative rock. 

Smiley’s Saloon, Bolinas

Our Pick: Sam Shackleton, May 18 @ 5 p.m.

See Smiley’s full calendar for live music here.

Scottish folk singer Sam Shackleton stands in a Scottish town -- upcoming concert at Smiley's Saloon in Bolinas
Photo courtesy of Sam Shackleton Facebook.

Smiley’s has over a dozen concerts this month, and their selection highlights a ton of talented groups – local and touring. It’s hard to choose just one concert to shout out, but my pick for the month is the outdoor concert featuring Scottish folk singer Sam Shackleton. Also known by his Gaelic moniker Sorley the Bard, Shackleton breathes life into hundreds of years of folk music. His Youtube channel frequently posts videos of Shackleton busking around the world with his banjo, singing rebel songs and folk tales that have long forgotten their authors. 

Like I said, Smiley’s has no lack of good concerts this month. A couple other shows that should impress include May 26, when laidback indie rocker Spooky Mansion double teams with acoustic singer-songwriter Jerome Porter, and the May 27 show with the bluegrass trio, the Cody Sisters Band. 

HopMonk Novato

Our Pick: Butch Hancock, May 24 @ 8 p.m.

See HopMonk Novato’s full calendar for live music here.

country musician Butch Hancock plays guitar on stage
Photo courtesy of Butch Hancock Facebook.

Country music artist Butch Hancock emerged from West Texas with collaborators (and also occasional concert stars in Marin) Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Hancock’s profound lyrics and raw style distinguish him as more of a poet than pop star. Catch him performing at the HopMonk Session Room with his son Rory Hancock, whom he’s toured with for years.

Other highlights include a May 4 concert by Lucy Kaplansky, a New Yorker with thoughtful folk tunes played through guitar and voice. And the Soul Rebels, a New Orleans brass band, come through on May 25 and are sure to bring the house down. 

142 Throckmorton, Mill Valley

Our Pick: Paul McCandless/Christian Foley-Beining Quartet, May 31 @ 7:30 p.m. 

See 142 Throckmorton’s full calendar for live music here.

Paul McCandless plays oboe on stage
Cropped photo of Paul McCandless, courtesy of Realphoto via Wikimedia.

Wake up, jazz fans. The Throckmorton organizes its jazz offerings under the umbrella called the “North Bay Jazz Series,” and their latest concert presents a jazz quartet with Paul McCandless and Christian Foley-Beining. McCandless is a rare breed: a jazz oboist, though he also plays just about any other woodwind that you can think of. His style is ethereal, and he works lyrical complexity into all of his compositions and solos. (He got Jaco Pastorius’ vote of confidence.) Foley-Beining is a remarkable musician in his own right, playing jazz guitar and often collaborating with McCandless.