Summer outdoor-concert highlights in the Northwest include Sting, Rihanna, Lilith Fair, U2 and the Jonas Brothers.
No really, summer is just around the corner. Warm sunshine and breezes. Sandals and sundresses. Swimming in the lake and camping under the stars. Any day now.
If we stare long enough at the outdoor-concert calendar, we can will summer into being. There’s a ton of good stuff in store, but to enjoy it we need proper conditions.
Fittingly, our summer-music season kicks off far from Seattle at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Grant County. Memorial Day weekend, May 29-31, is the ninth annual Sasquatch! Music Festival, which has in recent years gained status as one of America’s premiere destination festivals. No blockbuster fan-bait this time means more cult faves: Headliners are My Morning Jacket, Pavement, Massive Attack, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT and Ween. Look for The Seattle Times preview in Ticket on May 30. (Tickets are officially sold out, but plenty are available on Craigslist or other online sources.)
Other major shows at the Gorge include Tom Petty, who’s releasing an album with the Heartbreakers only days after his June 11 and 12 dates; the relaunched Lilith — featuring an all-femme lineup, including Erykah Badu, Sheryl Crow, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Sarah McLachlan and more — July 3; Kings of Leon July 17; the Vans Warped Tour, headlined by Bad Religion and featuring a whole bunch of bands you’ve never heard of, Aug. 14; blues guitar bro John Mayer and country guitar bro Keith Urban Aug. 28; and the Dave Matthews Band making their annual three-day run Sept. 3-5 (800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com).
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Opposite the Gorge’s panoramic grandeur is the pastoral intimacy of Doe Bay Fest on Orcas Island, Aug. 13-14. Now in its third year, DBF is a lost weekend of musical bliss, set in a forested glade near its namesake bay, seemingly a million miles from the real world. Its quintessentially Northwest lineup includes Seattle country-rock barnburners the Maldives and cabaret-pop ensemble Hey Marseilles returning alongside Grand Archives, Grand Hallway, Fruit Bats and a slew of mostly low-key acts (800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com).
Closer to home in Redmond, green, grassy Marymoor Park is a wonderful place to enjoy a concert, though this summer it hosts a relatively disappointing series. Amid the underwhelmers are Slightly Stoopid kicking things off June 19 and Train closing Sept. 19. Highlights are reggae-rock rabble-rousers Michael Franti & Spearhead Aug. 7; acoustic metal guitar heroes Rodrigo Y Gabriella Aug. 13; and the second annual No Depression Festival, featuring gentle folk-poppers the Swell Season, roots chanteuse Lucinda Williams and Seattle dirge-groove trio the Cave Singers Aug. 11 (800-745-3000 and www.ticketmaster.com).
With a few exceptions, this year’s ZooTunes series at Woodland Park Zoo is similarly lackluster. Thankfully, those exceptions are exceptional: career iconoclast Steve Earle June 30; reggae pioneer Jimmy Cliff July 21; Americana legend/former Band member Levon Helm Aug. 11; and master jazz pianist Herbie Hancock Aug. 29. Hancock’s breezy set at ZooTunes back in ’07 was a summer highlight. Like Marymoor, it’s best to arrive early with a blanket and picnic (800-838-3006 and www.brownpapertickets.com).
It’s adult-contemporary business as usual at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville. Be prepared to drop major cash for your bourgeois concert experience; even seatless general-admission tickets for most shows are in the $50 range. Crosby, Stills & Nash already sold out their June 12 season opener, but tickets are available for Steve Miller Band July 14, Lyle Lovett and his Large Band July 16, Ringo Starr July 31, and the B-52s and Blondie — a knockout doubleheader — July 12 (800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com).
If your preferred concert experience involves hellacious traffic, an anonymous venue and Red Bull-buzzed teenagers, White River Amphitheatre’s your spot. Sting kicks off the season June 6 with Royal Philharmonic-abetted versions of his solo and Police material; from there the series goes Hot Topic: KUBE Summer Jam with metrosexual hip-hopper Drake headlining along with the Game and Fabolous, among others, June 18; R&B babe Rihanna July 2; the Rockstar Mayhem Festival with Korn and Rob Zombie plus others July 13; Limp Bizkit and Ice Cube Aug. 15; and the Jonas Brothers Sept. 14. Two bones thrown to aging heshers: Iron Maiden June 22 and Rush Aug. 7 (800-745-3000 and www.ticketmaster.com).
Last year’s most accessible and exciting summer shows were part of the free, KEXP-curated, city-sponsored Mural Amphitheater series. Four August dates are reserved at Seattle Center, but no bands had been named by press time. Also with dates but without names is the Capitol Hill Block Party, returning to its namesake neighborhood July 23 and 24 for two days of uber-hip tunes and unbridled debauchery (800-992-TIXX and www.ticketswest.com; tickets go on sale June 4).
The biggest bang for your concert dollar will likely be delivered by U2 when they bring their 360deg Tour to Qwest Field on June 20, though be warned: Studies show that your choice of $33.50 cheap seats versus $253.50 VIPs is directly proportional to the amount of fun you have.
Finally, think sunny thoughts for Bumbershoot, Sept. 4-6, which last year lived up to its rain-inspired name.
Jonathan Zwickel: firstname.lastname@example.org