When you look at this summer’s Philadelphia concert offerings, a pretty clear and present theme emerges: Old school matters. We’re talkin’ classic retro vibes for each and every genre, from disco to pop and soul, to hair metal and arena rock. There’s some fresh and lively up-and-coming legends slated to dazzle us through the heat, too, but let me show you what I’m talking about.
First, we’ve got Jurassic 5 and Dilated Peoples at the River Stage at the Great Plaza (7/31). J-5 are underrated sage hip-hop O.Gs, who seamlessly intertwine elements of jazz, soul and breakbeats. Their cerebral rap game’s on par with Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest, k-os, and Gang Starr. Grade A+ stuff.
That Wawa Weclome America lineup looks naturally tight as hell: The Roots with Aloe Blacc, Jennifer Hudson, Nicki Minaj, Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande is, hands-down, the best free concert you’ll get this summer (7/4).
The Tower’s a little gem of retro offerings this summer, too, with local heroes Boyz II Men (6/7) kicking things off nice and romantic-like. Here’s hoping their fades and harmonies are as sick as they were in 1994. And then they’re bringing Peter Frampton and the Doobie Brothers (6/24) and Yes (7/19) to the house and making us long for black lights and lava lamps. “An Evening with Yes” has got to be one of the coolest classic rock shows in town this summer. That or the bizarro/beautiful marriage of Queen with Adam Lambert at Wells Fargo Center (7/16).
Here’s the thing: Travel a little, take a train or a bus or rent a ZipCar, and the oldies-but-goodies plethora gets vast. The Borgata’s got Santana (6/13 and 14), Hall & Oates (6/20), John Fogerty (7/19) and Chicago with REO Speedwagon (8/22). Man, that’s rich! Get yourself across the river, and the Susquehanna’s got Journey with Steve Miller Band and Tower of Power (6/22), Foreigner with Styx (7/3), Lynyrd Skynyrd with Bad Company (7/18), James Taylor (7/22), Lionel Richie with Cee Lo (7/23), Nine Inch Nails with Soundgarden and Death Grips (7/30), Def Leppard with KISS (8/3) and Motley Crue with Alice Cooper (8/23). You can’t make this stuff up! And for some reason all these killer heroes of yesteryear find ways of pairing up into perfect twos. Lionel Richie, y’all! And to sweeten the pot, he’s traveling with a tour he’s titled “All The Hits, All Night Long.”
Get yourself all the way out to Bethlehem to the Sands, and you can catch the friggen’ bomb soul and funk of Earth, Wind & Fire (6/17) and the cheesy but irresistible classic rock might of Boston (7/13). Pretty much two thirds of the Borgata biggies will be at the Sands, too. Hike up to the Mann in Fairmount Park for some more greats—namely Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss and Kacey Musgraves (6/13) and Diana Ross (6/25). We may even bust out a blanket for Queens of the Stone Age (7/20), Neutral Milk Hotel (7/21) and John Legend (8/2) as well.
Do yourself a favor, people: Get to know a thing or two about the Dell Center in Strawberry Mansion, would you? Their “Essence of Entertainment” series is bringing in loads of great classic R&B and soul, like The O’Jays with Will Downing and Chrisette Michele (7/10), Anthony Hamilton with Robert Glasper (7/17), Roberta Flack with Peabo Bryson (7/24), Fantasia with Dru Hill (7/31), Ledisi with Eric Benet (8/7) and Brian McKnight (8/14).
As for the newbies, well, they’ll do their best to jockey attention from their musical ancestors, mainly at the mainstays of the TLA, Union Transfer, The Barbary, Boot & Saddle and Johnny Brenda’s. I’d try not to miss The Notwist (6/10) or Veruca Salt (7/22) on South Street. UT’s got Tune-yards (6/15), Sharon Van Etten (6/18), Kurt Vile & The Violators with those super-cute and super-fresh The Districts (6/20), Wild Beasts with Mutual Benefit (7/11), Cheers Elephant with Toy Soldiers (7/18) and a can’t-miss Sun Kil Moon set (7/23). The Barbary will rattle when Deafheaven blasts their metal in your face (6/9). B&S is packing ‘em in come June with Divers (6/6), Cheerleader (6/7), Nothing (6/8) and Swearin’ (6/13). JB’s hosts our boy Homeboy Sandman (6/11), the funktastic Small Black (6/23), the man Hezekiah Jones (6/26) and local-ish Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (6/27).
And we didn’t even get to The Troc, World Café and Underground Arts. So three from each, respectively: Future (6/5), La Roux (6/7) and Wale (6/27); Kenny Lattimore (7/9), Camera Obscura (7/19) and Kick It Out: A Tribute to Heart (7/25), plus Fuck Buttons (6/14), Mates of State (6/27) and Tobacco (7/17).
Phew! Prepare yourself to travel back in time between beach blasts, pool plunges and booze binges.
10 summer albums we can’t wait for
It’s worth pointing out that in the past week or two, we’ve already seen some heavy contenders for Album of the Summer. (Lookin’ at you, Hercules & Love Affair, Royksopp & Robyn, Sharon Van Etten, The Roots and Little Dragon!) But there are a lot more still to come. Here’s our music critic’s top 10 most anticipated albums of the summer (and find a bigger list of 20 at philadelphiaweekly.com).
10. Mastadon, One More ‘Round the Sun (6/24) Atlanta’s sludge metal slingers’ sixth might top some year-end hard rock lists, but we’ll see if this one’s worth multiple spins in a few weeks.
9. RiFF RAFF, Neon Icon (6/24) This guy. Should be fascinating to watch this gold-grilled idiot sink or swim.
8. Jenny Lewis, The Voyager (7/29) Been waiting for this one for a while. Stop giving us mediocre Rilo Kiley and boyfriend collaboration records already!
7. Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour (6/17) This hype’s been building and piling up for months, but we’re already in love with the singles he’s on. No brainer here.
6. La Roux, Trouble in Paradise (7/8) Elly Jackson is the Tilda Swinton of avant synth pop, and we love her so much. Her long-awaited sophomore should be rad.
5. How To Dress Well, What Is This Heart? (6/23) What a title. Tom Krell gives us great, ambient glitchy R&B beauty and his third will be really pretty.
4. Morrisey, World Peace Is None of Your Business (7/15) Yeah, yeah: Meat is murder. You’re a special butterfly. We wouldn’t be excited if we couldn’t acknowledge the dude’s brilliance.
3. Shabazz Palaces, Lese Majesty (7/29) Black Up was insane. This one’ll definitely be on that level of brilliant avant-hip and trip-hop.
2. Sia, 100 Forms of Fear (7/8) “Chandelier” is currently running around most Americans’ brains once a day. Here’s hoping there are ten more just as good awaiting us.
1. Busta Rhymes, E.L.E. 2 (Extinction Level Event 2) (7/4) Yes! Reminder: the 1998 original boasted “Tear Da Roof Off,” “Do It To Death,” “Gimme Some More” and “What’s It Gonna Be?!”
PLUS: All sorts of free concerts all summer long!