May 16--Summer has always been a special time when it comes to music. A great concert under the stars can more than make up for the asinine traffic jams you had to sit through on the way to the venue. Music thrives in the heat and humidity of summer, and it doesn't really matter if you're in a small club or on the lawn of an enormous amphitheater. There is energy in the air and happiness under your heels.
So what concerts should you see this summer? I enlisted the help of my brother, Tom, to pick some of the best shows coming to our region over the next few months.
Tom is a summer concert veteran a road-worn sage of the festival circuit with multiple Phish tours under his belt. He's seen it all, from Ted Nugent to Taylor Swift, and there is no better person to tell you which singer deserves your hard-earned ticket money.
In the interest of maintaining good family relations, we took turns with the picks. Since I'm oldest, I went first. Since he's younger, his picks are much cooler than mine, though many of them are incorrect.
My picks, while technically correct, sometimes lack the insightful verve of youth. Hopefully, between the two of us, we'll manage to convince you that at least one of these shows will make your summer.
Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036 -- firstname.lastname@example.org
MAY 18: TITUS ANDRONICUS
Jonas says: Don't let the punk tendencies fool you. This band combines the poetic, introspective New Jersey-ness of Bruce Springsteen with some searing punk rock heat. Nothing kicks off a summer like youthful rebellion.
MAY 22: LOVE CANON
Tom says: Whether you find yourself workin' for the weekend or if you're just a girl who wants to have fun, don't stop believing that this ultra-talented group of twangy string players will catapult you back to the era of pegged jeans and halter tops. It's '80s cover music like you've never heard it before.
MAY 28: FRANKIE VALLI
Jonas says: I'm going back to the New Jersey well to pull up the man who is, arguably, the inspiration for the recent surge of falsetto singing in pop music. Either him or Tiny Tim. I hope he sings "Grease" twice. Man, that is a killer song.
JUNE 7: CHARLES BRADLEY
Tom says: The godfather of soul (GFOS) may be singing songs to St. Peter, but if you want to feel the funk that is reminiscent of Mr. Dynamite, check out Charles Bradley. He was inspired by a 1962 James Brown concert at the Apollo Theater, and has since added his own spirit to the genre.
JUNE 8: HEARD IN THE 'BURG
Jonas says: If you've recovered from the previous night's Andrew W.K. concert in Springfield (clearly the correct answer for June 7), take a short trip to the fairgrounds to see a slew of great bands that have made the local music scene a better place over the last couple of years. Larry Keel, The Hackensaw Boys, Elby Brass and Big Daddy Love play all day, festival-style.
JUNE 11: JOAN BAEZ
nTelos Wireless Pavilion
Jonas says: The first lady of folk is back on the road. When it comes to music of great social import, there was no more powerful '60s artist than Baez, and she still has the unique voice that empowered and enraged a generation. There's also a bonus bit of firepower on the bill: The Indigo Girls open the show.
JUNE 12: WAYNE NEWTON
Tom says: Can you count to 30,000? If you start now you might finish by the time you get to The Birchmere, where Wayne Newton will bring a piece of classic Las Vegas to Northern Virginia and add one more show to that number. Mr. Entertainment will swoon, croon and leave you saying "Danke Schoen." We would expect nothing less from a man with Patawomeck roots.
JUNE 14: BIG BOI AND KILLER MIKE
Jonas says: It pains me to skip Queensr che (June 13), but I need to save my energy for this show. I'll just leave it at this with Killer Mike: He may be the best emcee working today. The real draw here is Big Boi, one of the greatest living musicians, period. No one since Chuck D has made such a strong case for hip hop as a socially important art form. Big Boi has an unmatched ability to convey love, sadness, longing and pain with simple words and personal stories. And he can still make the club jump.
JUNE 19: AMERICAN ROYALTY
Tom says: Mix it up a bit. This trio embraces the electronic tendencies of Beck, the pointillistic synth stylings of '80s techno-pop and the psychedelic guitar riffs of rockers like Zeppelin and, um, Queensr che (it was indeed a bad choice to skip that show). American Royalty holds it all together with some pretty killer harmonies. You may be a bit confused at first, but settle down and learn to love it. Summertime is no time for your musical hang-ups.
JUNE 22: BRUNO MARS
Jonas says: After I see you at Japandroids in Charlottesville (June 20), you'll need something light. If there was ever a star designed to headline a stadium show, it's this perpetually smiling pop machine. As much as I want to ridicule an artist who so clearly relishes his time in the limelight, the world needs entertainers who can hold an audience's attention for an entire evening. Mars is a showman in the old-school sense: singer, dancer, songwriter and all-around bon vivant. That combination has become increasingly rare, so catch it when you can.
JUNE 24: LORD HURON
Tom says: What makes music sound epic? Sometimes it's hard to put your finger on exactly what makes music conjure images of wide-open spaces. For me it's plodding bass lines, an occasional freight-train shuffle and sparse electric guitar. Those sounds put me in the middle of a spaghetti Western landscape, reminding me of the off-key harping of "Once Upon a Time in the West." Lord Huron hails from Los Angeles and melds a solid indie sound with the aforementioned Western attributes to create a comfortable tone that fits like a broken-in cowboy boot.
JULY 9: LOS LOBOS AND LOS LONELY BOYS
Jonas says: Welcome to "Los" fest! This is a value pick, as you get two excellent bands for the price of one. Los Lobos is an American treasure a phenomenal rock band that will never get the praise it deserves. Los Lonely Boys aren't quite that, but they are supremely talented, with impeccable pop chops.
JULY 19: KURT VILE AND THE VIOLATORS
The Jefferson Theater
Tom says: My brother will never appreciate the understated sonic excellence of Marilyn Manson (July 11). Too bad for him. I'll try this lo-fi hero and former better half of indie duo War On Drugs. Kurt Vile's name may throw you off (or excite you), but his music is on point. It can be as dark and foreboding as it is lyrically heady and melodic. He isn't afraid to borrow from classic British and American rock, but he avoids kitschiness. It's solid, it's good and it rocks.
JULY 22: ROBERT PLANT PRESENTS THE SENSATIONAL SPACE SHIFTERS
Jonas says: Instead of lamenting Plant's refusal to reunite with his Led Zeppelin band mates, you should appreciate the incredible music this man has been making over the past five years. Even better, he has assembled some of the greatest touring bands in recent memory. Consider this group his world music experiment, and consider that it's probably going to be amazing.
JULY 27: LORETTA LYNN
nTelos Wireless Pavilion
Tom says: Fact one: If you've ever been a traveler on I 40 between Nashville and Memphis, you've passed Loretta Lynn's Kitchen, a restaurant in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. Fact two: Lynn has charted 70 songs over the course of her career. Her first record was released in 1960 and her most recent in 2004. That last one was produced by rock's current guiding light, Jack White. Fact three: You can attend this show and feel good about it. It's a benefit for the Charlottesville Free Clinic.
JULY 31: MICHAEL KIWAUNKA
Tom says: If you were paying attention to my previous picks, and I know you were, you will have already seen Charles Bradley this summer. If Mr. Bradley represents seasoned soul/R&B stylings, then Michael Kiwaunka is the new generation. Hailing from North London and born of Ugandan immigrants, he brings a youthful freshness to the classic American genre. Fall in love with the Motown sound all over again
check out his 2012 release "Home Again."
AUG. 3: THE HOLMES BROTHERS
Workhouse Arts Center
Jonas says: This band is a hidden rock treasure, the deepest of deep cuts, the most underground of legendary acts. The Holmes Brothers are a soul, R&B and rock trio from Christchurch, Va. They have a storied history and have recorded or played with an amazing list of rock royalty. But you've probably never heard of them. Time to rectify that situation.
AUG. 11: ATMOSPHERE
Pier 6 Pavilion
Tom says: The Atmosphere album "When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that S**t Gold" says it all, doesn't it? This conscious hip-hop duo has been making music for more than 25 years, and doing it well. Don't let their midwestern politeness fool you; this is not a show for your grandmother. They get down and dirty, constantly challenging our political and social norms with their savvy stylings.
AUG. 14: GRACE POTTER AND THE NOCTURNALS
nTelos Wireless Pavilion
Jonas says: You probably remember her from the Kenny Chesney duet "You and Tequila," but there are plenty of reasons to want to see this Vermont songstress perform with her own band. Trombone Shorty opens, so make sure you get there early.
AUG. 21: JOHN HIATT
Rams Head Onstage
Tom says: If you've spent time in Nashville, you've heard names around town that are as much a part of the landscape as Music Row. A few that come to mind are Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris and John Hiatt. Hiatt is one of the most prolific songwriters in American music history. He is sure to tell some tall tales and make you look at life through his unique songwriting lens. Certainly not one to miss.
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