by Garrett Wheeler for

FREE FESTIVAL begins 21st season in downtown San Jose. In times of economic instability, finding cheap solutions to life’s problems becomes an important aspect for maintaining a healthy well-being. We amend our daily lives in various ways—by riding a bike to work or eating more ramen—but no money-saving activity can match the pure emotional force of music, especially when it’s presented at the lovely cost of nothing. Not only is the annual Scion Music in the Park series, presented by Metro and Dos Equis, free of charge, but unlike most free shows, the acts rank at the top of their respective genre class, from rock & roll to reggae.

The series kicks off June 4 at 5:30pm in Cesar Chavez park in San Jose with two cover bands, Journey tribute group San Francisco’s Ultimate Tribute to Journey and local band Long Gon Bon, an AC/DC tribute. San Francisco’s Ultimate Tribute to Journey is capable of dead-on Journey re-enactments, power ballads and all. AC/DC fans will revel in Long Gon Bon’s preservation of the hard rock band’s early era, when singer Bon Scott led the group through classics immortalized on High Voltage and the follow-up Highway to Hell. Sierra Leone’s Refugee Allstars (June 11) offer a vibrant blend of traditional West African song, roots reggae and rock-tinged rhythm & blues.

San Francisco’s alt-rock hero Third Eye Blind (June 18) combines post-grunge with catchy, pop-sensible melody. Cal alumni Stephan Jenkins formed the band in 1995 alongside bassist Arion Salazar and guitarist Kevin Cadogan, a former student of Joe Satriani. Ursa Major, due out this year, is Third Eye Blind’s first studio album in five years, and should justly reacquaint fans with the band’s catchy alt-rock tunes. Famed percussionist and band leader Pete Escovedo performs at his 15th Music in the Park on June 25, the most ever by any musician at the series. On July 2, the Tubes get set to reveal their latest art-rock concepts. The San Francisco–based group began as a concept-band led by singer Fee Waybill and guitarist Bill “Sputnik” Spooner. Having inspired everyone from Weird Al to the Foo Fighters, the Tubes legacy remains colorfully intact.

No less bizarre than the Tubes for his place in the reggae world, dancehall pioneer Eek-A-Mouse (July 9) is characterized by a distinctly inventive sing-jay vocal style. The 6-foot-6 reggae star got his start as a Jamaican DJ and roots singer before crossing over into the dancehall market with his 1979 hit “Once a Virgin.” Reggae artist Pato Banton (July 16) brings his socially conscious messages to audiences worldwide. Known for involving audiences in his show during impromptu jam sessions, Banton’s debut came in 1985 with Mad Professor Captures Pato Banton. Local songwriter Matt Nathanson (July 23) made his debut on the scene with a Music in Park performance in 2006. Since then, he’s racked up a nice local following and released a handful of critically acclaimed albums.

Men at Work’s Colin Hay (July 30) is performing with his six-piece band, mixing new solo compositions with classics like “Who Can It Be Now” and “Down Under.” The following week R&B man Anthony David (Aug. 6) performs songs off his latest album Acey Deucy. Alt-rock trio Better than Ezra (Aug. 13) has a new drummer and a new album, Paper Empire, to be released later this year. The “king of Slydeco,” guitarist Sonny Landreth (Aug. 20) recently released From the Ranch, his first album on his own Landfall label. Concluding the festivities is the Bay Area favorite White Album Ensemble (Aug. 27), a Beatles tribute band whose latest indulge is songs from the 2008 film Across the Universe.

SCION MUSIC IN THE PARK, presented by Metro and Dos Equis, takes place Thursdays, June 4–Aug. 27, 5:30–9:30pm, in Cesar Chavez Plaza, downtown San Jose. Admission is FREE.