Guide to outdoor concert season

This summer is heating up to be one of the most musical ever.

And it's really important to get your tickets early if you want to sit down front. Of course, many shows also sell out quickly. But an early ticket buy is a great way to guarantee fun events to look forward to all summer long.

For outdoor summer concerts there is always the lawn seat option for relaxing with a cool drink and a bite to eat. Nothing beats listening to a great concert under the stars.

You can keep an eye on my Music Box column each week for up-to-date information on artists and new shows going on sale. Artist websites and fan clubs many times offer special deals. Most of the big shows now also have presale opportunities that allow you to buy tickets before they go on sale to everyone else.

So, here is a rundown of what you can look forward to in the way of summer festivals and concerts at outdoor venues that have been announced thus far. Don't forget your sunscreen and sunglasses!

Let's start with the festivals:

Folklife Festival


The two-week Smithsonian Folklife Festival is an international exposition of living cultural heritage held on the National Mall 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. This year the focus areas include: Campus and Community, a program commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of land-grant universities and the USDA; Citified: Arts and Creativity East of the Anacostia River, a program that looks at creativity, identity and community in far southeast Washington, D.C., neighborhoods.

Initiated in 1967, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival has brought more than 23,000 musicians, artists, performers, craftspeople, workers, cooks, storytellers and others to the National Mall to demonstrate the skills, knowledge, and aesthetics that embody the creative vitality of community-based traditions.

The festival has featured traditions from more than 90 nations, every region of the United States, scores of ethnic communities, more than 100 American Indian groups, and some 70 different occupations. This is the 46th year of this event, which will be held June 27-July 1 and July 4-8. It's open each day from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with additional evening concerts.

Enjoy performances by line dancers, African dancers and drummers, church choirs, hip-hop artists, comedians and go-go bands. 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.

Artscape


Just a couple weeks after the Smithsonian Folklife Festival comes the big event of the summer for Baltimoreans, Artscape 2012.

This three-day free festival includes 120+ arts and craftspeople, visual art exhibits, concerts on four outdoor stages, and a full schedule of performing arts including dance, opera, theater, fashion, film and classical music, hands-on projects and children's entertainers.

Don't forget to sample the delicious international menu of food and drink.

Artscape also includes the Billie Holiday Vocal Competition in the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The complete schedule is usually announced in early June. Artscape, said to be America's largest municipally-produced arts fest, celebrates its 31th anniversary this year.

The festival, held July 20-22, is located on the 1200 block of Mount Royal Avenue (near Meyerhoff Symphony Hall) in Baltimore.

Folk Festival


The 32st Annual Washington Folk Festival will be held June 2-3 in historic Glen Echo Park.

The fest showcases the diversity of traditional music in the Washington area. All of the musicians, storytellers, dancers and craftspeople performing live in the greater Washington metropolitan area and volunteer their talents.

Seven stages include international folk traditions as well as Americana folk in a variety of styles. Highlights include Bill & Owen Danoff, and for children and adults alike Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, Spanish Flamenco, Japanese Koto, Paraguayan harp, Soul in Motion, Irish step dance, Greek dance, Lindy hop, Magpie, skiffle, folk and blues.

The festival runs from noon to 7 p.m. both days and is held rain or shine. Admission is free.

Common Ground


Equally rootsy and eclectic is 15th annual Common Ground on the Hill, a festival founded on the premise that there is a common human thread unifying all people expressed in our various artistic traditions.

This festival, according to festival inspiration and founder Ira Zepp, is to "...provide opportunities to teach and to study various musical instruments and art forms representing various ethnic and cultural traditions..."

Common Ground On the Hill will be held from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 7 and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 8 at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster. Performers on the festival's four stages include John Hammond, bluegrass from The Kruger Brothers, Celtic music by Comas, Guy Davis, Sierra Hull (think of a young Allison Krauss), the incomparable Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, Sankofa Dance Theatre, bluesman Phil Wiggins, fiddle master Dave Bing and Nula Kennedy.

Barbecue Battle


The National Capital Barbecue Battle, featuring serious competition between top barbecue competitors and great barbecue restaurants from our area and around the country, returns to D.C. June 23-24.

It also offers cooking demonstrations, free food samples, interactive cooking displays and children's activities.

You also will experience the best in top national and regional rock, reggae, jazz and blues acts. Headliners include Soul Asylum, ConFunkShun, Cowboy Mouth and many others.

The National Capital Barbecue Battle will be held from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 23 and from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. June 24 on Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 9th and 14th streets (near the Archives/Navy Memorial Metro stop).

Capital Jazz Fest


The 20th annual Capital Jazz Fest will be held June 1-3 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.

The festival features a weekend of cool jazz and soul music on two big stages. In-between musical sets, enjoy fine art and crafts at the Festival Marketplace, culinary treats at the food court, plus artist workshops and autograph sessions. And after the show, check out the late night parties.

Appearing this year June 1 (6:30 p.m. doors) will be Anita Baker, Bill Cosby, and host Will Downing. On June 2 (10 a.m. doors) it's George Benson, Maysa, Kirk Whalum, Musiq Soulchild, Tower of Power, Stephanie Mills and Kenny Lattimore. What a day! The June 3 show will include Fourplay, India Arie, Walter Beasley, KC & the Sunshine Band, and Spyro Gyra (noon to 10 p.m., gates open at 10 a.m.).

Blues & Roots Festival


The always excellent single-day Hot August Blues & Roots Festival will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 18 at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville.

This year's lineup includes Gov't Mule, Trombone Shorty, Justin Townes Earle, Locos Por Juana, Chris Jacobs Band, Magic Slim & The Teardrops, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, and many more.

Moving onto the outdoor concert venues:

Merriweather Post


Concert highlights for this season at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia include (times noted are when the doors open):


  • June 10, 5:30 p.m. - Foster the People with The Kooks and Kimbra.
  • June 15, 6:30 p.m. - The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour featuring Brian Wilson.
  • July 5, 6 p.m. - Sarah McLachlan with the National Philharmonic.
  • July 8, 5:30 p.m. - Further featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead.
  • July 10, 5:30 p.m. Def Leppard and Poison.
  • July 12, 6:30 p.m. - Scorpions.
  • July 24, 11 a.m. - Vans Warped Tour featuring Taking Back Sunday, All Time Low, Street Light Manifesto, and about 30 other bands.
  • July 30, 5 p.m. - Santana and The Allman Brothers Band.
  • Aug. 4, 3 p.m. - Summer Spirit Festival Concert with Erykah Badu, Common, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and more.
  • Aug. 10, 5:30 p.m. - OAR.
  • Aug. 18, 5:30 p.m. - My Morning Jacket plus Band of Horses.
  • Sept. 19, 5:30 p.m. - Florence + the Machine.


Note that in most instances doors open way before the shows actually start. (I got there early once and waited hours for the show to begin.) Also be aware that no lawn chairs are permitted at most Merriweather shows.

Wolf Trap


At Wolf Trap this summer there's a boat load of great shows. Mark your calendars for:


  • June 6, 8 p.m. - k.d. lang & The Siss Boom Bang.
  • June 8, 8 p.m. - Yanni.
  • June 13, 8 p.m. - Martina McBride.
  • June 14, 8 p.m. - Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples.
  • June 21, 8 p.m. - Diana Krall.
  • June 27, 8 p.m. - Norah Jones.
  • July 12, 8 p.m. - Buddy Guy and John Mayall.
  • July 17-18, 8 p.m. - Wilco plus Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth.


Bring your own picnic basket with a bottle of your favorite wine if you are sitting on the lawn. Other drinks are available for purchase if you're up close in the beautiful Filene Center shed.

If you haven't raced around the Capital Beltway to Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts, you really have to see it. This national park could be the best place in the nation to see a summer show!

Pier Six


Another exceptionally lovely and picturesque outdoor concert venue in our region is Pier Six located on Baltimore Harbor.

Pier Six is in full swing again this summer with a solid lineup of shows, including (times noted are when the doors open):


  • June 10, 6 p.m. - Summer Blast featuring Steven Curtis Chapman, Natalie Grant, Ashes Remain, and Beckah Shae, Gavin DeGraw and Colbie Caillat.
  • June 17, 6 p.m. - Bonnie Raitt with Mavis Staples.
  • June 21, 6 p.m. - Earth, Wind and Fire with an orchestra.
  • June 23, 6:30 p.m. - Childish Gambino with Danny Brown.
  • June 24, 6:30 p.m. - Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles.
  • June 28, 6:30 p.m. - Dierks Bentley.
  • June 29, 6 p.m. - Ledisi B.G.T.Y. Tour with Eric Benet and Chrisette Michele.
  • July 2, 6:30 p.m. - Crosby Stills & Nash.
  • July 13, 5:30 p.m. - Mindless Behavior.
  • July 26, 6:30 p.m. - The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra plays Michael Jackson.
  • July 27, 6:30 p.m. - The BSO plays Led Zeppelin.


Have a safe and happy musical summer!

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