As that great philosopher Brian Wilson once observed, summer means fun. Concert promoters throughout New England know that summer also means lots of vacationers with money to spend, and built-in audiences for live music. So once again, they’re all out there — not just the hot new acts, but roots artists and cult heroes worth the extra legwork. The old guard is back on tour as well, including a few artists you probably didn’t realize were still alive.
Wilson’s former group, the BEACH BOYS, is one of many old-timer acts hitting the boards this summer (they’re at the South Shore Music Circus August 10, the Cape Cod Melody Tent August 12, and Boston’s Hatch Shell (for free) on August 11), and they’re not even the most seasoned act on the road again. So you’ve always had a secret desire to see BOBBY VINTON? The “Blue Velvet” guy is at Foxwoods June 30. How about PETE BEST, the drummer who got kicked out of the Beatles? He’s at the Iron Horse (20 Center Street, Northampton), with a show cheekily billed as “Best of the Beatles,” on June 24. Or maybe your secret musical passion is NEIL SEDAKA? Head for the North Shore Music Theater (62 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA, $63 and $53) on June 24, and tell us if breaking up is still hard to do.
One dependable antidote to these oldster shows is the punk-themed VANS WARPED TOUR, which has become a summer ritual in itself. This year it moves from the usual Fitchburg Airport location to the Tweeter Center (Mansfield, MA) on August 9. Headliners Bad Religion are themselves old-timers by punk standards, with a history going back to the ‘80s, but current teen faves Cute Is What We Aim For and New Found Glory are there as well, along with a handful of happening Boston acts ranging from precious popsters Boys Like Girls to metal grinders Kilswitch Engage. It’s fun for the whole family — in other words, if you remember the Rat, your kids will probably be dragging you. And with a $24 ticket, it’s one of the few true bargain on the Tweeter schedule.
At the other end of the demographic scale is JIMMY BUFFETT, who makes his annual visit to Gillette Stadium (1 Patriot Place, Foxborough, MA) on September 2 and September 8 — yes, Buffett is well-heeled enough to take a full week’s vacation between gigs. The show is the traditional signal for otherwise well-adjusted adults to set up patio grills in the parking lot and drink too many margaritas. Just think of it as the Warped Tour for “grownups.”
The summer sheds offer the usual mixed bag of shows this year. In Boston, the Tweeeter Center generally skews younger with louder teen-friendly headliners. You can get a steady diet of headbanging with prog-metal favorites TOOL (July 12, $30–$50), NICKELBACK with Staind (July 13, $28–$58), the Korn-headlined FAMILY VALUES TOUR (July 27, $10–59.50), frat favorites 311 (July 29, $25-35), metal senior Ozzy Osbourne’s OZZFEST (August 20, with tickets available only through radio giveaways); and the PROJEKT REVOLUTION tour headlined by Linkin Park (August 24).
If your ears are ringing just from reading all that, you’ll probably prefer the more refined line-up at the Bank Boston Pavilion (209 Northern Avenue, Boston); starting with what has to be the first ever gay-themed package tour: TRUE COLORS (June 16) with rainbow-friendly headliners Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry, Rufus Wainwright, and our own polymorphously perverse Dresden Dolls. We’d guess that anyone who attends that show will want to be back a week later for MORRISSEY on June 26.
Getting back to the oldies, one of our favorite guilty pleasures is the Saturday OLDIES CONCERTS at the Hatch Shell, where surviving ’50s and ’60s figures dig up their greatest hits. Fresh from getting whacked on The Sopranos, Frankie Valli inaugurates the series on June 16. The Stylistics and Bluenotes do an old-school soul night on July 28. But we especially recommend Johnny Rivers, who plays all his hits — a good 30 of ’em — as well as some killer swamp-rock guitar.
Another oldies fix can be found at the LOWELL SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL (at Boarding House Park, Lowell, $12–$28) whose wide-ranging line-up includes the Natalie Merchant–less version of 10000 Maniacs (July 7), blues great Buddy Guy (July 20), ousted Allmans guitarist Dickey Betts (August 9), songwriting aces Shawn Colvin and John Hiatt (August 24) and the long-MIA, ex-BS&T singer David Clayton-Thomas (August 25).