Top 15 Shows of 2023 and More

by Bart MendozaDecember 2023

This month we look at my Top 15 Shows of 2023, drop some info on submissions for the 2024 San Diego Music Awards, and share info on a batch of upcoming holiday events!

TOP 15 SHOWS OF 2023
I was fortunate to be able to take in a lot of great live music this year. Here are 15 of my favorite shows from 2023.

11/12 Jeff Lynne’s ELO: Vetsaid @ North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre
An event for a great cause. The other performers on this bill were really good, including MC and DJ Drew Carey, Lucius, War on Drugs, the Flaming Lips, Jack Tempchin, and headliner Joe Walsh with Stephen Stills, but the audience was clearly most excited to witness ELO’s 10-song set. The roar of the crowd at the opening notes as the set began with “Evil Woman,” was impressive. You can see in clips from the show that the band is very happy with the crowd’s response, and they delivered a stunning performance. Highlights included “Telephone Line” and a rocking “Do Ya,” more than enough to make us forget the night’s freezing temperatures.

09/23 California Music Hall of Fame @ TVHS Golden Bears Theater

Rick Derringer and Bart Mendoza. Photo by Donna Daly.

The Zombies’ Colin Blunstone. Photo by Donna Daly.

A dream gathering of musicians took the stage this night, including Rick Derringer, Ron Dante (The Archies), Joey Molland (Badfinger), Laurence Juber (Wings), Larry Tamblyn (The Standells), Terry Sylvester (The Hollies), Merrilee Rush, The Sanford Townshend Band, and more, all performing their biggest hits.

10/07 The Zombies @ the Belly Up Tavern
Promoting their latest album, Different Game, the band’s 17-song set list was a great career overview, including all the hits, a selection of tunes from Odessey and Oracle, and new songs.

10/09 Squeeze @ the Sound
A 17-song (and reprise) run through the hits, with a handful of deep cuts, such as “What Have They Done.” Absolutely wonderful, with Tilbrook’s guitar leads particularly hot, and the crowd taking the vocals on “Tempted.”

11/11 The John Reis Band @ The Casbah
Yet another great band from John Reis. Loud, high-energy rock and roll, played with adrenaline and plenty of hooks.

03/11 EXTC @ The Casbah
The trio featuring XTC drummer Terry Chambers was really good, playing 26 songs including an exceptional version of “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead.”

05/22 Hoodoo Gurus @ The Belly Up Tavern
A 24-song set including songs from their latest album, Chariots of the Gods, and wrapping up with a storming “Like Wow Wipeout.”

03/18 Oasiz @ Vinyl Junkies
A communal late afternoon sing-a-long to Brit-pop favorites as played by Scott Samuels, Chris Landolo and company in a South Park parking spot. A huge crowd and a lot of fun.

01/21 The Trebels @ The Casbah
It was great to see 1980s combo, The Trebels, back in action for a show, with even latter-day guitarist Jim Davies making an onstage appearance. Bonus: The show brought out a lot of folks, and it was nice catching up with so many old friends.

02/04 Nathan Hubbard @ Dizzy’s
It was an ambitious undertaking for Hubbard to recreate Arthur Lyman’s 1958 exotica masterpiece, Taboo, but he put together an amazing show that really delivered.

07/17 The Laidback Country Picker @ The Casbah
Truth in advertising. Some great country picking and a whole lot of humor sets this guitar / drum duo apart. If Hee-Haw had created the White Stripes?

02/19 The Nashville Ramblers @ The Casbah
Carl Rusk, Ron Silva, and Tom Ward are a marvel, and they never fail to get a crowd up and dancing. A superb, long set with choice cover songs, topped by Rusk’s classic song, “The Trains.” 

06/16 The Fred Benedetti Trio @ Dizzy’s
Virtuoso guitarist Benedetti’s solo Beatles tribute shows are always a treat, but the humor and harmonies were particularly on the mark for this night dedicated to Paul McCartney’s Birthday 81st Birthday.

09/12 Samantha Fish @ The Belly Up Tavern
The crowd went wild for Fish’s revved up blues, especially the tune “Better Be Lonely.” The gig’s 18 songs were topped by a jam with opener Eric Johanson.

08/26 The Wylde Goomes with Ray Brandes @ The Casbah
Great to see Ray Brandes of 1980’s garage rock heroes, the Tell Tale Hearts (and much more!), teaming up with Outro Records favorites, the Wylde Goomes, for a mini-set of classics.

Wednesdays Gilbert Castellanos Young Lions @ Copley Hall
No specific date as this weekly event is a regular stop. It’s hard to beat a drink and a snack mixed with great jazz from students of the Castellanos music conservatory and a closing set from major names in the California jazz community. The perfect way to kick off a Wednesday evening.



Submissions are open for the 2024 San Diego Music Awards, it’s free and takes just a few moments. Submissions must be released between January 1 and December 31, 2023, to be considered. Artists must be San Diego residents to qualify. Stay tuned for details on date and venue!


If there’s one thing that’s synonymous with the holiday season, it’s music. There are plenty of options for fun this December. Here are a few of this year’s top events and who will be providing the tunes.

December 02 Tim Pyles Holiday Toy Drive: Winstons
The Diz, Authentic Sellout, Substitute Gym Teacher, Vitto & The Trees

December 05 Randi’s Jingle Jam: Humphrey’s Backstage Live
Randi Driscoll, Eve Selis, Larry Mitchell, Garrison Bailey, Lady Psychiatrist Booth, Channel, Roni Lee, Taylin Rae

December 05 Winter Concerts: Jazz / Mission Bay High School
Music Director JP Balmat, Swing Choir, Mambo Orchestra, Preservationists,

December 06 Winter Concerts: Classical / Mission Bay High School
Music Director JP Balmat, Symphony and String Orchestras, Concert Choir, Wind Symphony

December 08 & 09 Carols by Candlelight / California Center for the Performing Arts
Deana Carter, Charlie Worsham, Anna Vaus, Back to the Garden, Steve Vaus

December 10 Troubadour Christmas Party / Tio Leo’s
The Sara Petite Band, The Shenanigans, Bayou Brothers, The Chuck Schiele Band, Sue Palmer & Her Motel Swing Orchestra, The Mothmen. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.

December 12 Queen Bee 15th Anniversary / Queen Bee
Gregory Page, Mercedes Moore, Rudy Francisco, Gilbert Castellanos, Zzymyzz Quartet

December 19 Surfin’ Christmas Party / Tio Leo’s
The Tourmaliners, Sierra & Good Company

December 23 The El Vez Mex-Mas Show / The Casbah
El Vez, Chaki, Lion Cut



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