Unplugged on Tap joins popular music festival

By Ken Williams | Editor

Two weekend days featuring 150 free musical performances highlight the fifth annual Adams Avenue Unplugged, bringing thousands of visitors to restaurants, bars, coffee houses, galleries and businesses along a two-mile stretch of Adams Avenue from University Heights to Normal Heights and Kensington.

The popular festival — running noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 30 and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, May 1 — stages all the concerts indoors and off the street. In addition, a new event called Unplugged on Tap will coincide with the music festival, paying tribute to San Diego’s reputation as America’s craft beer capital.

(clockwise, from top left) Augie Meyers, Sam Outlaw and The Cactus Blossoms are the headliners at the 2016 Adams Avenue Unplugged festival. (Photos courtesy of the performers)

(clockwise, from top left) Augie Meyers, Sam Outlaw and The Cactus Blossoms are the headliners at the 2016 Adams Avenue Unplugged festival. (Photos courtesy of the performers)

“We added a beer stroll this year called ‘Unplugged On Tap’ where participants can sample 12 different beers at 12 different retail and service locations spread along Adams Avenue,” said Scott Kessler, executive director of Adams Avenue Business Association, which produces both events as a fundraiser for the organization.

“Musicians are playing inside the taste locations as well. And, we have a trolley running on Saturday only, to make the beer stroll and the festival’s longer Saturday hours, more accessible,” he added.

The idea this year, Kessler said, is to pair Adams Avenue’s unique dining and drinking establishments with free musical performances that match with their ambience. It’s a dream of connecting musical aficionados and foodies to a neighborhood rich in culture, he said.

No streets will be closed and no outdoor stages will be constructed again this year — although food booths will be set up outside Smitty’s Service, an auto repair shop located at 3441 Adams Ave.

“Performances are happening at business locations only and at the United Methodist Church, which will showcase two of the festival’s headliners [The Cactus Blossoms and Sam Outlaw]. The other headliner, Augie Meyers, will be at Kensington Club and is the only performance with a cover charge of $15-$20,” Kessler said.


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The Cactus Blossoms will perform at 3 and 6 p.m. on April 30 at Normal Heights United Methodist Church, 4650 Mansfield St. The band — formed by brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey of Minneapolis, Minnesota — released its first single, “You’re Dreaming,” in 2015. An album with the same title was released in 2016 and the band has been touring across North America. Last December, The Cactus Blossoms were part of the Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets’ “The Quality Holiday Review” that made a stop at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach.

Sam Outlaw will give concerts at 3 and 6 p.m. on May 1 at the church. The singer-songwriter may have been born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, but he grew up in Southern California and he calls his music “SoCal country.” He said he was inspired and influenced by the music of Asleep at the Wheel, The Beatles, Emmylou Harris and George Jones. His first album, “Angeleno,” was released in 2015 by Six Shooter Records.

Augie Meyers will headline at 9 p.m. April 30 at Kensington Club, 4079 Adams Ave. He will be backed by Action Andy & The Hi-Tones, with The Sleepwalkers tagged for the opening set. The legendary Texan is known for fusing Tex-Mex with Conjunto and soulful rock, backed by his trademark Vox organ. His musical partnership with Doug Sahm created the Sir Douglas Quintet in the 1960s. Later he would launch The Texas Tornadoes, famed for its Grammy Award-winning South Texas sound.

To read the biographies of all of the performers, visit

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 8.28.41 AMHosting concerts will be the Ken Café, Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant, The Haven, Dos Palmas Cafe, Java Joe’s, DiMille’s Italian Restaurant, Rosie O’Grady’s, Proprietor’s Reserve Wine Bar, The Rabbit Hole, The Ould Sod, Adams Avenue Integrative Health, Triple Crown Pub, El Zarape Restaurant, Air Conditioned Lounge, Polite Provisions, Cantina Mayahuel, and Twiggs Bakery & Coffeehouse.

Participating in the craft beer crawl will be Mona Lizzy’s, Maven, Dink’s Barber Shop, Heights Optometry, Back From Tomboctou, Ken Video & Vidajuice, Zac’s Attic, Liquid Eden, Adams Avenue Integrative Health, Brooklyn Bicycles, Home Start Thrift Boutique and Zen Sanctuary.

Parking, which is always a challenge along Adams Avenue, is limited to residential neighborhood streets. A good alternative to the congestion would be to take MTS bus routes 2 and 11, which service the neighborhoods. Wear comfortable walking shoes to explore the two-mile stretch of Adams Avenue that is participating in the festival.

—Ken Williams is editor of Uptown News and Mission Valley News and can be reached at or at 619-961-1952. Follow him on Twitter at KenSanDiego, Instagram account at KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.

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