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Andrew McMahon. Photo: Courtesy

By Rachael Mattice

Concert tickets can wreak havoc on entertainment budgets rather quickly, especially the cost to see high caliber musicians and bands. Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness, Dana Point’s local indie-pop musician-turned-star, has made it possible for locals to enjoy a large production-quality show for the entire family free of cost.

OC Parks’ Summer Concert Series will host the former Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin songwriter under the moniker Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness on Thursday, Aug. 17 at Bluff Park at Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point. Concert goers can still bring blankets and their Tommy Bahama Costco chairs like other traditional OC Parks shows, but will be encouraged to stand up and move at McMahon’s show.

“I grew up here and so much of my music was written within miles of Salt Creek, so I think it’s the perfect place to play these songs,” McMahon said. “However people decide they want to listen is up to them, but it’s always my goal to get people on their feet. I hope whoever shows up to this one leaves feeling like they were entertained and would come back again.”

Other than the OC Parks’ series, a lot of local restaurants and bars—with both classy and laid back ambiances—provide free live music for enthusiasts and book a lot of local talent who eventually become the next best-selling artist like McMahon.

  • See below for a brief list of bars and restaurants with free live music

 “The Coach House was my stomping ground in the early days,” McMahon said. “{Gary Folgner} was a huge supporter of my first band, Something Corporate. We used to pack that place full of Dana kids on a Saturday night and try out new songs. I’m really grateful a spot like that existed and supported me when I was coming up.”

For more information on McMahon in the Wilderness and his new album “Zombies on Broadway,” visit his website at For more information on the OC Parks Summer Concert Series and McMahon show, visit

    • Read the rest of the 2017 Go See Do special section here:

Other Concerts at Salt Creek Beach

OC Parks Summer Concert Series presents Family Style and Tijuana Dogs on Thursday, Aug. 24 at Bluff Parks at Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point. Taking place from 6-8 p.m., the free concert will offer local food trucks and a beer and wine garden in addition to live music. For more information on this event as well as other OC Parks concerts throughout the summer, visit 

Dana Point Concert Series

Starting on Sunday, July 9, the city of Dana Point will commence their annual Summer Concert Series at Sea Terrace Park. The free weekly Sunday concerts from 2:30-6 p.m. will host two different bands and musical acts through Aug. 20. To assist attendees, the city will offer a free shuttle service from Dana Hills High School between 1-7 p.m. Interested in one of the shows? Here’s what’s on the schedule:

  • Sunday, July 16, 2:30-4 p.m.: Rio: A Tribute to Duran Duran
    • From 4:30-6 p.m.: Crimes of Passion: Pat Benatar Tribute
  • Sunday, July 23, 2:30-4 p.m.: Saturday Night Fever: A Tribute to the BeeGees
    • From 4:30-6 p.m.: ABBAFAB: ABBA Tribute
  • Sunday, July 30, 2:30 – 4 p.m.: Small World Band
    • From 4:30-6 p.m.: Dead or Alive: The Bon Jovi Experience
  • Sunday, Aug. 13, 2:30-4 p.m.: Neon Nation: The Ultimate Live 80’s Experience
    • From 4:30-6 p.m.: Queen Nation: A Tribute to the Music of Queen
  • Sunday, Aug. 20, 2:30-4 p.m.: My Generation: A Tribute to the British Invasion
    • From 4:30-6 p.m.: Band TBD

 For additional info, go to

San Juan Summer Nights

San Juan Capistrano has a free summer concert series of their own starting on Wednesday, June 21, although planners should expect only one show a month. Concerts will be held on Wednesday evenings on the grounds of Historic Town Center Park from 6-8 p.m. Food, wine and beer will be available for purchase. Take a look at the schedule:

  • Wednesday, July 19: U2 Experience
  • Wednesday, August 16: The Trip, Classic Rock
  • Wednesday, September 20: SMITH, Country

Those interested in additional details can visit

San Clemente Beach Concerts

Just like San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point, San Clemente also offers free live music during the summer months. Most of the shows are held on a Thursday evening at 6 p.m. on the beach near the San Clemente pier or downtown on Del Mar. Here’s what’s on the roster:

  • Thursday, July 15 and 16: Ocean Festival, live music throughout
  • Thursday, Aug. 10: Unlimited Stones on the beach
  • Thursday, Aug. 13: Fiesta Festival, live music throughout

Those interested can look at the city’s events calendar online at

More Music Freebies

If spontaneity is more fitting rather than scheduling something on the calendar, several music venues, restaurants and bars offer live shows on a weekly basis. Whether it’s a classy ambiance, a dive bar or a Sunday Funday spot after surfing, these tri-city establishments have all styles acquired for.

If seeking a classy ambiance, check out these places:

  • The Cellar (San Clemente)
  • Iva Lee’s (San Clemente)
  • Barnoa Wine Bar (San Clemente)
  • Brio Tuscany Grille (Dana Point)
  • Still Water (Dana Point)
  • Mahe (Dana Point)
  • Salt Creek Grille (Dana Point)
  • Luxe Restaurant and Martini Bar (Dana Point)
  • Five Vines (San Juan Capistrano)
  • Rancho Capistrano Winery (San Juan Capistrano)

If seeking a laid back environment, check out these places:

  • H Cotton’s (San Clemente)
  • Knuckleheads (San Clemente)
  • Nomads Canteen (San Clemente)
  • Hennessey’s Tavern (Dana Point)
  • The Swallow’s Inn (San Juan Capistrano)
  • The Brewhouse (San Juan Capistrano)

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