In better times if you’ve frequented North County Coastal dining and drinking favorites like Zel’s in Del Mar, Belly Up in Solana Beach, The Roxy in Encinitas, Le Papagayo and Moonage Food Co. in Leucadia there is a good chance you have stumbled across singer-songwriter John Bennett.
Either solo or collaborating with a long list of stellar musicians his mix of crowd-pleasing yet eclectic covers and solid originals provides the perfect vibe for a coastal cocktail and a meal.
It was Le Papagayo and several private parties where I was first turned on to John and found myself immersed in conversation in between sets about music and similar favorites including Wilco, The Replacements, John Prine and more.
Yeah, he plays the crowd favorites but also digs a bit deeper into a wide range of tunes that fit perfectly with the environment, turning audiences on to music a bit less mainstream. One of the great joys of my Leucadia life has been walking by a full Le Papagayo (pre-COVID) full of folks dancing and singing along with John and his band for the night.
Besides seeing folks react to a skilled musician at work, if I stopped on the sidewalk with the stage just feet away and caught John’s eye and got a nod from him, there was a good chance he would bust out a Wilco song next. It was always fun to tell an unsuspecting companion that was going to happen then bask in the moment of my own private concert.
John grew up in South Pasadena which was a melting pot of culture including food and music, in a big family and his parents exposed them to all kinds of music and culture. His mom was a violinist and his dad was an amazing singer in the Frank Sinatra vein. His dad also loved Jazz, Bossa Nova, and classic Mexican music.
He was the youngest of 5 kids and started on Piano, then drums and guitar. It’s a treat to see John joined on stage by his sister Christy Bennett Siebert and daughter Kirra Bennett who are both amazing and their energy and musical synergy together is something to behold.
Surf and music brought John south to Encinitas at 18 where his oldest brother lived where he got his surf on followed by travel to Australia and New Zealand. During our radio interview at Moonage, I got to know a bit about some of John’s musical memories that included an epic first concert of Led Zeppelin at the Forum in LA and more recently John Prine just in time before he passed away a few months ago.
His dream concert lineup that includes three bands, any era dead or alive includes David Bowie, Chris Cornell, and John Lennon…a concert I would surely attend!
Part of that same show included talk of food and restaurants of course and his local choices included the “Sid Fishious” fish tacos at Moonage, anything from Raul’s Shack and The Roxy in the heart of Encinitas, his wife’s stroganoff (of which he promised me a sampling) and pie from his sister Christy.
I had mentioned his collaborators earlier and need to mention them because they all bring a unique element to their gigs with John. They include Chris Torres, Jim Volkert
Rand Anderson, Albert Hurtado, Joe Hagar, Deane Cote, Nena Anderson and Brenda McGonagle. If you see any of these folks sharing the bill with John, even more reason to get there. I just had a fun local music fantasy of booking all those folks together in a local dream concert lineup of sorts.
And speaking of local gigs, because they are an outdoor venue, Moonage Food Co. in Leucadia has become a new regular spot to catch John play and it’s perfect for his style. The eclectic art and pink stage make it even better.
I also mentioned that John is a singer-songwriter and recently completed a full-length album called Dark and Lovely on Grandview records and I would highly suggest checking it out. It is produced by local Deane Cote who is on John’s list of musical collaborators that I mentioned above. You can find it on at www.johnbennettmusic.com and streaming wherever you stream music.
Besides his skill as a musician, John is just one of those guys that exude good vibes and warmth. He always has a fun story to share in between songs and really enjoys what he does and the venues he performs.
Local live music is as part of the culture of coastal North County as surfing and tacos and John Bennett is an essential part of that scene. Check him out when you get a chance.
Follow John on Facebook and Instagram and at www.johnbennettmusic.com.