Live Music in Marin this July, From County Fairs to Cafés

Marin’s concerts this July are heavy on Americana and folk-inspired tunes, plus some rocking groups that struck big in the ’90s, but the live music doesn’t stop there. This article is just a taste of the great musicians playing the county this month, many of whom are nationally (and internationally) renowned acts. Without further ado, let’s get listening!

Marin County Fair 

Our Pick: All of them!

July 3–7, ticket included with fair admission. 

Three singers of En Vogue performing on stage with pink lights
Photo courtesy of En Vogue Facebook.

The Marin County Fair always secures high-caliber performers. Case in point: 2024’s lineup. First up is July 3 with En Vogue, the legendary R&B vocal trio (once quartet) that came out of Oakland in the late ’80s. Coordinating outfits, matching choreo, three-part harmony… I’m sold. And hey, what a wonderful kind of day! On July 6, reggae royalty Ziggy Marley performs. The fair’s other headliners include:

  • July 4: the Splashback Music Fest, a multi-act set by four tribute bands, taking you back to the ‘70s and ‘80s. 
  • July 5: Daya, a pop singer and talented performer, whose songs have topped one billion plays on Spotify. 
  • July 7: Los Lonely Boys, the self-described “Texican Rock and Roll” group jamming out on Tejano-influenced rock. 

Rancho Nicasio

Our Pick: Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore, with The Guilty Ones 

July 6 & 7 @ 4 p.m., $45

See Rancho Nicasio’s full live music calendar here.  
Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore side-by-side
Photo by Leslie Campbell.

Declaring “We’re Still Here,” Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore are touring their new record, TexiCali. As a duo that’s one part Texan (Gilmore) and one part Californian (Alvin), the group delivers a thoroughly Western sound despite their different musical backgrounds — Gilmore as a country guy and Alvin more of a blues rocker. But that distinction is somewhat unnecessary. “There are two types of folk music: quiet folk music and loud folk music,” says Dave Alvin. “I play both.” 

What else is on this month at Rancho Nicasio? See folk hero Ramblin’ Jack Elliott on July 12 or Southern singer-songwriter Paul Thorn and his band July 27 and 28.  

HopMonk Tavern

Our Pick: A few shows for Gen-X

See HopMonk’s full live music calendar here

Four band members of Cracker stand side by side
Photo of Cracker, by Jason Thrasher.

Well into the summer Cookout Concert Series, HopMonk Novato is packing show upon show into its live music schedule. This July, the outdoor space is a haven for ‘90s alt rock, and these performances are teetering on the edge of being sold out. Cracker goes first with three straight nights of outdoor concerts (July 12–14), bringing their Americana-inflected rock to the bandstand. Then comes Toad the Wet Sprocket for two nights (July 19–20), with tunes that are a bit jangly, a bit folksy. 

Beyond the rock and roll of it all, I’m also interested in the July 21 performance by Sierra Hull, a mandolin master hot off a tour playing venues like Colorado’s Red Rocks. Her skills have won her four Mandolin Player of the Year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. 

Sweetwater Music Hall

Our Pick: Leslie Mendelson

July 18 @ 8 p.m., $23

See Sweetwater’s full live music calendar here
Leslie Mendelson standing in hallway next to Fender amplifier
Photo by Ethan Covery.

Touching songwriting and a clear, beautiful voice — it’s no wonder that Jackson Browne is among Leslie Mendelson’s admirers. Mendelson is a singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, weaving folk and pop rock elements for emotional and complex songs.

Another concert hitting Sweetwater is a return by Big Brother and the Holding Company on July 13. Marin is lucky to get frequent appearances by the historic psychedelic rock group, once fronted by Janis Joplin. Maybe you saw them perform last month at the Fairfax Festival, or their HopMonk concert back in January or at the Sweetwater last year… Regardless, here’s another chance to bask in the glow of rock and roll royalty.

Sunday Daydream, McNears Beach Park San Rafael

Phil Lesh & Friends 

July 21 @ 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. $99 GA

Phil Lesh plays guitar next to bandmate at Sunday Daydream concert in San Rafael's McNears Beach Park.
Photo by Sein Reiter.

This one is for all the Deadheads missing Terrapin Crossroads, the now-shut San Rafael venue established by Grateful Dead bassist and founding member Phil Lesh. Lesh & Friends take the stage again for Sunday Daydream, a project thought up last year by the bassist’s sons Grahame and Brian. Branded as “Vol. 3” of the Sunday Daydream (with a Vol. 4 happening August 18), this show’s ensemble includes jazz guitarist and notorious fretboard tapper Stanley Jordan, singer and harpist Mikaela Davis and others. 

Even More Great Venues in Marin

Usually I touch on a handful of regular venues and performance spaces in these concert roundups, but we’re fortunate to have an abundance of locales which host live music in Marin. Among the county’s restaurants, cafés and bars that feature bands, here are a few:

Way Station, Fairfax 

Roma Ransom

July 7 @ 5 p.m.

This bohemian folk duo from Colorado Springs is stopping in Fairfax before continuing on a tour of the Northwest. Way Station hosts music nearly every weekend, Friday through Sunday with some Thursdays subbed in occasionally. Even more shows this month include acoustic offerings, like singer Eli Lev on July 19, plus jazz, Irish music and classical guitar offerings. 

Cafe Arrivederci, San Rafael 

Wanda Stafford Trio

July 16 @ 5:30 p.m. 
Wanda Stafford trio Cafe Arrivederci in San Rafael, California.
Photo courtesy of Wanda Stafford.

Wanda Stafford is a classic jazz talent who has performed with masters like Bill Evans and Wes Montgomery. You can catch her on the regular at Cafe Arrivederci, singing through a jazzy tune while brushing a beat on snare drum with her band. The cafe hosts live music every Tuesday evening, with a variety of talented musicians coming through. 

Paper Mill Creek Saloon, Forest Knolls 

John Varn with Anahita Skye & Friends

July 18 @ 8 p.m.

Kicking around Marin’s saloons, Anahita Skye performs soulful originals and covers alongside North Bay regulars — her friends, the keyboardist John Varn (of the Crooked Stuff, featured last month) and guitarist James Harman (can be heard playing solo and in groups around Marin). The group performs every third Thursday at Papermill Creek Saloon, where even more concerts are scheduled for July.