Despite the slumping economy, plenty of bands are still hitting the road this summer. The outdoor pavilions will be as busy as they've ever been, and most of the clubs will have music seven nights a week too. There are deals to be had as well. Be sure to check venue websites for last-minute discounts and 2-for-1 offers.
The bad news this summer is that there's little we haven't seen before. A slew of '80s acts that haven't been relevant in years? Check. Right-wing country singers hootin' and hollerin' at Blossom? Check. Reunions of acts that said they'd never, ever tour together again? Check. You can easily lump this summer's shows into a few distinct categories that provide an adequate overview of what's in store.
Sing us a song, you're piano men! Billy Joel and Elton John teamed up for a tour together in the '90s. One's American and the other guy's British; the American's straight and the Brit's as gay as they come. But somehow it works, so they're doing it again. They play Quicken Loans Arena on May 23. Dweezil Zappa carries on father Frank's tradition of playing demented rock 'n' roll with strange time signatures. By all accounts, it's a fitting tribute to the man. Dweezil brings "Zappa Plays Zappa" to House of Blues on July 3. Famous for rearranging his classic tunes to the point that they're barely recognizable, the always unpredictable (and decidedly cranky) Bob Dylan returns to Classic Park on July 11. Once again, he'll have Willie Nelson opening. Rock Hall inductee John Mellencamp is along for the ride this time too. Other classic cases of note: Hippie singer/storyteller Arlo Guthrie plays Cain Park on July 18; the Moody Blues bring their prog-rock to Nautica on August 11; and KC & the Sunshine Band, or at least what's left of them, visit House of Blues on August 21.
Right-wing country singer Toby Keith shills for Ford but counts Stephen Colbert among his fans, so he can't be all bad, right? He's at Blossom on June 19 with Trace Adkins opening. Singer-songwriter Iris Dement has only released four studio albums over a career that spans more than 15 years. But that makes this local appearance all the more significant; she plays the Beachland on August 15. The ever-popular Rascal Flatts play Blossom with former Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker opening on August 7. Crossover Aussie star Keith Urban comes out of rehab to play Quicken Loans Arena on August 21.
IN AN ALTERNATIVE WORLD
Don't let any of this summer's cool club shows fall between the cracks. Rambunctious cowpunks the Supersuckers are at Peabody's on June 2. Neil Innes of Monty Python/Rutles fame comes to the Winchester on June 5. Madcap rapper Mr. Lif takes the Grog Shop stage on June 11. Indie rockers who sing Bruce Springsteen-like anthems that resonate with Guided by Voices fans, the Hold Steady return to the Beachland Ballroom on June 15. The Beatles-inspired Rosewood Thieves come to Wilbert's on June 17. A bluegrass jam band, the Avett Brothers have just signed to a major. See them while they still got their cred at Akron Civic on June 19. Emo icon Conor Oberst comes to the Grog Shop on July 1 for a show that's already sold out. Oberlin-educated singer-songwriter Josh Ritter returns to the Beachland on July 7.
THE LOUD CROWD
Hard rockers Def Leppard, Poison and Cheap Trick have teamed up for a bill that comes to Blossom on June 25. Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd bring a double billing of redneck rock to Blossom on July 10. A suddenly rejuvenated Judas Priest (sorry, Ripper!) will perform their classic British Steel album in its entirety at Time Warner Cable Amphitheater on July 14. Mötley Crüe hosts the second installment of Crüefest at Blossom on July 21. Slayer and Marilyn Manson team up again for what's now called the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival, stopping at Blossom on July 31. Overbearing Canadian rockers Nickelback are back at Blossom on August 14. With a hard-hitting album under their belt, Heaven and Hell play Nautica on August 22 with hipster prog-rockers Coheed and Cambria opening.
You couldn't ask for a weirder mix of reunions than the grab bag coming to town this summer. The Meat Puppets' Kirkwood brothers have put aside their differences and are back together; they play the Grog Shop on June 6. Detroit punks who've just gotten the reissue treatment, the Dogs play the Beachland Ballroom on June 18. Boy-band fever has come and gone, but that hasn't stopped New Kids on the Block from giving it another go. The current incarnation of the group comes to Blossom on June 23. The Germs' frontman Darby Crash died almost 30 years ago, yet the band's soldiered on. The notorious punk group plays Now That's Class on June 26. She's so fabulous on her own, it's not clear why Gwen Stefani thinks she needs those clowns from No Doubt, but she's got the band back together and brings them to Blossom on June 29. The swing revival is all but over, but the Squirrel Nut Zippers are back together. They'll be at Cain Park on July 25. And horrors upon horrors! Scott Stapp and his old Creed bandmates decided they suck harder apart than they do together. They come to Blossom on August 26.
The Fray had one good hit ("How to Save a Life") but little to show for it since. Nevertheless, they'll be at Time Warner Cable Amphitheater on July 1. Move over Miley Cyrus: Camp Rock star Demi Lovato comes to the Wolstein on July 27. Those adorable Jonas Brothers are back. They'll have a new album out next month, and they play Quicken Loans Arena this time around, stopping there on August 27. The top 10 contestants from this year's American Idol aren't household names (and probably never will be). But they're taking the show on the road anyway. They come to the Wolstein Center on August 23.