Are you ready to get outdoors and enjoy some great music?
This summer promises to be one of the region’s best ever for a diverse selection of top names and new artists. Some of our fondest memories growing up include mega outdoor concert experiences, and while the venues are getting a bit pricey with the shift in artist income moving over the past decade from CDs (remember those?) to live tours, it’s a tough choice between going to see a dozen newer acts or blowing near obscene amounts on a single blockbuster artist.
Whatever you do, get yourself into the great outdoors and bring a blanket. You’ve earned the rights of summer to spend with your favorite artists in the sun and under the stars. Go for it!
Here is my annual rundown of what you can look forward to in the way of summer festivals and concerts at outdoor venues that have been announced so far. Don’t forget you sunscreen and sunglasses!
Firefly promises three days of unforgettable musical performances set among lush wooded landscapes surrounding Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. The festival will be held from June 19 through 22. Check the times at www.fireflyfestival.com.
Single-day passes are still available from $49 to $99. Four-day passes are sold out.
This year’s Firefly Festival is headlined by Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters, the return of Outkast, and surfer dude Jack Johnson. Also on the bill are Broken Bells, Beck, Ziggy Marley, Band of Horses, Weezer, Cage the Elephant, Tegan and Sara and Kaiser Chiefs, among many other supporting acts.
The woods will offer outdoor cinema playing black-and-white silent films in the hammock hangout, a big-time pinball arcade, and a cosmic light show in the forest pathway.
The Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival is on hiatus this year, but producer Don Hooker and the gang are still at it, focusing on their Southern Maryland Blues Festival, which takes place on Aug. 23 and 24 at the Calvert County Fairgrounds.
The performers are diverse at this festival, with a Saturday lineup that includes Royal Southern Brotherhood featuring Devon Allman (son of Greg), Mike Zito and Cyril Neville of the legendary Neville Brothers, plus The Spin Doctors and always excellent Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas. Also on the Saturday bill you can catch up with the “Soul Queen of New Orleans” Irma Thomas!
On Sunday look for Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes plus Guitar Shorty and one of the truly grand old men of rock ‘n’ roll closing out the festival, the great Leon Russell.
Get your tickets for the Southern Maryland Blues Festival at www.somdblues.org.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is an international exposition of living cultural heritage held on in Washington, D.C., and the ticket price is … well, it’s free! Each year this colorful outdoor festival highlights the arts and culture of three chosen subjects, regions or countries.
The 48th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival runs two weekends, June 25 through 29 and July 2 through 6. The programs begin daily at 11 a.m. and continue until 5:30 p.m., with special performances in the evenings beginning at 5:30.
This year the festival will feature: “China: Tradition and the Art of Living” and the East African country of Kenya. The Folklife Festival is easy to find on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Capitol building, with easy Metro access at the Smithsonian stop.
Just a couple weeks after the Smithsonian Folklife Festival comes the big event of the summer for Baltimoreans, Artscape 2014.
This three-day free festival includes 120+ arts and craftspeople, visual art exhibits, concerts on three outdoor stages, and a full schedule of performing arts, including dance, opera, theater, fashion, film and classical music, along with hands-on projects and children’s entertainers.
Don’t forget to sample the food, which consists of a delicious international menu.
Artscape also includes the Billie Holiday Vocal Competition in the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The complete concert schedule is usually announced in early June.
Artscape is said to be America’s largest, municipally-produced arts festival. The event celebrates its 33rd anniversary July 18 through 20. This free festival is located on the 1200 block of Mount Royal Avenue (near Meyerhoff Symphony Hall).
The 34rd annual Washington Folk Festival will be held May 31 and June 1 in historic Glen Echo Park.
This festival showcases the diversity of traditional music in the Washington area. All the musicians, storytellers, dancers and craftspeople live in the greater Washington metropolitan area and volunteer their talents to put on a first-class festival of national renown.
With performances representing cultures from around the world as well as around the country, it is your chance to find out what is going on in the folk communities of the area, all on seven stages.
Don’t miss tributes to Pete Seeger and the Everly Brothers, plus special performers like The Squeezers and the old time music of the Hoover Uprights. You’ll also hear Japanese music, Klezmer and Flamenco! The list goes on.
The festival runs from noon to 7 p.m. each day and will be held rain or shine. And admission is free.
Equally rootsy and eclectic is 17th annual Common Ground on the Hill, a festival founded on the premise that there is a common thread unifying all people expressed in our various artistic traditions.
The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 12 and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 13 at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster. Performers on the festival’s four stages include Hot Tuna headlining on Saturday, and New Riders of the Purple Sage on Sunday. Other acts include bluesman Professor Louie and his big band the Crowmatix, with Guy Davis and Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble on Saturday, and on Sunday, Ronstadt Generation, Réveillons! from Quebec, Eastman String Band and Walt Michaels.
Washington will be smoking this summer during the 22nd annual Safeway Barbecue Battle on June 21 and 22.
This festival features serious competition between top barbecue competitors, great barbecue restaurants from our area and around the country, cooking demonstrations, free food samples (from noon to 6 p.m. while the supplies last), interactive cooking displays and children’s activities.
You will also experience 30 rock, R&B, jazz, and blues bands. Headliners this year include Robert Randolph & the Family Band with All Mighty Senators, Jah Works and Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band on Saturday, and Rare Essence headlining with Trouble Funk, Be’la Dona, Eric Scott, and Jazzy Blu on Sunday.
The battle will be held on Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 9th and 14th streets (near the Archives-Navy Memorial Metro stop).
This year the 22nd annual Capital Jazz Fest will be held at Symphony Woods at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia June 6 through 8. The festival features cool jazz and soul music on two big stages.
In between musical sets, enjoy fine arts and crafts at the Festival Marketplace, culinary treats at the food court, plus artists’ workshops and autograph sessions. And after the show, check out the late night parties.
Appearing this year at the Capital Jazz Fest on Friday night (6:30 p.m. doors) are Erykah Badu and John Legend. On Saturday (10 a.m. doors) look for a special tribute to the late George Duke from Al Jarreau and Stanley Clarke with special guests Rick Braun, Dianne Reeves, Down to the Bone and Michael Franks.
On Sunday, the main stage features Kem, Incognito, Rachelle Ferrell, Jeff Lorber Fusion and Keiko Matsui, with R&B across the way from The O’Jays, Faith Evans, Peabo Bryson and Loose Ends.
The always excellent single-day Hot August Blues & Roots Festival is scheduled for Aug. 16 at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville. This year’s lineup includes Old Crow Medicine Show, Nickel Creek, Philly’s Dr. Dog, burnin’ Louisiana bluesman Tab Benoit, the nine-piece funk powerhouse Turkuaz, Sister Sparrow, Houndmouth, Cabinet, Long John Hunter, and four other bands. How will they fit all that music into a single day?
The show usually runs from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Parking is limited and you can purchase a parking pass online with your all-day general admission tickets. Children 12 and under get in free.
There are two other day-long festivals in the Annapolis region you won’t want to miss. The Silopanna Music Festival is back with a vengeance on Aug. 16, headlined this year by one of the world’s greatest live acts, The Flaming Lips! Also on the bill are a wealth of veteran and new bands including Dashboard Confessional, Matt & Kim, Sleeper Agent, Hellogoodbye, Jimmie’s Chicken Shack and 11 other acts.
Silopanna (Annapolis spelled backwards) will be held at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds. Gates open at 11 a.m.
The other regional show is the Bay Music Festival featuring blues, rock, rockabilly and bluegrass from Bird Dog & the Road Kings, Ruthie & The Wranglers, The Road House Clams and four other acts on two stages. The festival will be held from 3 to 10 p.m. June 14 at Queen Anne’s County 4-H Park in Centreville over on the Eastern Shore.
Concert highlights for this season at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia include Ray Lamontagne with Jason Isbell and The Belle Brigade (June 4, 5:30 p.m. gates), Jack Johnson with Amos Lee (June 5, 6 p.m. gates), Brad Paisley (June 12, 5 p.m. gates), Willie Nelson plus Alison Krauss and Union Station (June 14, 5 p.m. gates), Queens of the Stone Age with St. Vincent (July 17, 5:30 p.m. gates), O.A.R. with Phillip Phillips (July 19, 5 p.m. gates), Queen with Adam Lambert on vocals (July 20, 6:30 p.m. gates), Vans Warped Tour (July 22, 11 a.m. gates), Beck (July 24, 6 p.m. gates), Phish (July 26 and 27, 5:30 p.m. gates), the Summer Spirit Festival with Lauryn Hill, Raheem DeVaughn, Talib Kweli and others (Aug. 2, 3 p.m. gates), and ZZ Top with Jeff Beck and Gary Clark Jr. (Sept. 3, 4 p.m. gates).
Be aware that no lawn chairs are permitted at most Merriweather shows.
At Wolf Trap this summer you’re invited to picnic with your own bottle of wine! There are always a ton of great shows at Wolf Trap in the summertime, including: Ringo Starr with members from Santana, Journey, Toto and more (June 12, 8 p.m.), teen opera heartthrobs Il Volo (June 13, 8 p.m.), the all-day Louisiana Swamp Romp featuring Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Beausoliel avec Michael Doucet, and Stooges Brass Band (June 14, 2 p.m. gates), John Butler Trio (June 18, 7:30 p.m.), Hall & Oates (June 19, 8 p.m.), and Diana Ross (June 29, 8 p.m.).
Key July performances at Wolf Trap include: Crosby, Stills & Nash (July 3, 8 p.m.), Counting Crows with Toad the Wet Sprocket (July 5, 7 p.m.), American Idol Live! (July 6, 8 p.m.), Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland (July 13, 8 p.m.), Sara Bareilles (July 14, 7:30 p.m.), Lionel Richie with special guest CeeLo Green (July 21-22, 8 p.m. each night), Sarah McLachlan (July 26, 8 p.m.), and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis (July 30, 8 p.m.).
August highlights include: Yo-Yo Ma with the National Symphony Orchestra (Aug. 2, 8:15 p.m.), Pat Metheny Unity Group and Bruce Hornsby with Sonny Emory (Aug. 6, 7:30 p.m.), Nickel Creek with Josh Ritter (Aug. 13, 7:30 p.m.), Boney James and Eric Benet (Aug. 14, 8 p.m.), YANNI (Aug. 15, 8 p.m.), Sarah Brightman (Aug. 17, 8 p.m.), Josh Groban with orchestra (Aug. 19-20, 8 p.m. each night) and The Band Perry (Aug. 28, 8 p.m.).
Another exceptionally lovely and picturesque outdoor concert venue in our region is Pier Six Concert Pavilion located on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Pier Six has a solid lineup of shows, including: Rebulation: Count Me In Summer Tour with Iration, The Green and Stick Figure (June 16, 6:30 p.m.), Dirty Heads & Pepper with Aer (July 27, 7:30 p.m.), The Summer Nationals Tour featuring The Offspring, Bad Religion, Pennywise and The Vandals (July 30, 6 p.m.), Jurassic 5 and more (Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m.), Slightly Stoopid with Stephen Marley plus G. Love & Special Sauce (Aug. 7, 6:30 p.m.), Heart (Aug. 9, 8 p.m.), Panic! At the Disco: The Gospel Tour (Aug. 10, 7:30 p.m.), Gavin DeGraw and Matt Nathanson (Aug. 12, 7 p.m.), Austin Mahone with The Vamps, Fifth Harmony and Shawn Mendes (Aug. 19, 7 p.m.), Boston (Aug. 26, 8 p.m.), and Steely Dan (Sept. 17, 8 p.m.).
Have a safe and happy musical summer!
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