The Smithereens perform at the Libbey Bowl on July 8. | Photo: Courtesy

This year’s edition of the celebrated Ojai Music Festival sometimes tilted away from the typical contemporary classical music focus in its 77-year history, especially during a Friday night concert with heroic music director Rhiannon Giddens. The poetic powerhouse artist’s set included vintage blues songs by Alberta Hunter and Ethel Waters and her captivating take on Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” bringing echoes of folk and pop music to the Libbey Bowl stage.

That move seemed a bit alien by Ojai Music Festival standards but was actually in sync with the new and expanding reality of Libbey Bowl as an important 805 venue for pop sounds on a tier below the larger capacity of the Santa Barbara Bowl. With its idyllic outdoor atmosphere and improving concert infrastructure, the Libbey Bowl has become a go-to pop venue during the summer months. And the easily drivable proximity to Santa Barbara — 45 minutes versus the two-ish-hour schlep to Los Angeles — make it a doable go-to music track for locals.

Toad the Wet Sprocket performs at the Libbey Bowl on July 5. | Photo: Courtesy

Speaking of local connections, two of the acts who have struck the ‘90s hit parade and been relevant touring entities ever since are headed to the Libbey in early July — Toad the Wet Sprocket (July 5) and Dishwalla (on a bill with the Smithereens on July 8). The Canyon Concert Series is responsible for a host of summer shows in the park, starting with the Eagles Tribute by the Long Run (June 30) and continuing with original content from The Gin Blossoms on July 1 and with Lyle Lovett (July 7), the Happy Together Tour (July 13), featuring spearheading band The Turtles and a friendly pack of other ‘60s pop radio faves. That tour has stopped at the Chumash Casino and Granada Theatre in years past, and now goes Libbey.

The names and shows keep popping up on the local music-conscious radar, including Chris Isaak (Aug. 6), Judy Collins and Sophie B. Hawkins (Aug. 20), Belinda Carlisle (Aug. 24), Dionne Warwick (Sept. 1), Gino Vannelli (Sept. 2) and “the Monkees Celebrated by Mickey Dolenz” (Sept. 15).

Suffice to say, Libbey Bowl has officially entered the atmosphere of notable, regular 805 spaces to keep a close eye and ear on.

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