I'm a summer baby. I was born in July during a week in 1977 when the temperature was more than a hundred degrees every day. (Mama won't let me forget how miserable she was carrying me while trying to beat that Arkansas heat.) Summer months are usually the backdrop to some of my fondest childhood memories: sitting under a big shade tree with my country cousins, eating ribs and sipping red Kool-Aid (not grape, not lemon, but any flavor that turned the sugar water a bright shade of crimson). Later in the evenings, especially around the Fourth of July, we would look for things to blow up with our firecrackers: tomatoes, apples, soda cans. (Yep, we had way too much time on our hands.)
FOR THE RECORD - The Music Notes column in yesterday's LIVE listed an incorrect venue for some concerts. The Capital Jazz Fest, the Black Eyed Peas and Talib Kweli, Wilco and the Roots, and Green Day shows will take place at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.
The Sun regrets the errors.
But as I grew up and got more into music, I always looked forward to the concerts that stopped in town during the summer months. I remember seeing New Edition, MC Hammer and Keith Sweat back in August 1989 at Little Rock's Barton Coliseum. Hammer, relatively unknown at the time, "turned the mutha out" for real that night.
This week, I'm looking ahead at some of the shows coming to the area in the next few months. Let's hope this year is better than last summer, when concert ticket sales plummeted around the country. Looking at the lineup, though, we may be in for a decent couple of months.
Cavalier Telephone Pavilion at Pier Six
May 28: We have Teena Marie, who shot into the Top 10 with last year's La Dona, the veteran's first album in a decade. Although the set was a bit uneven, it was a solid return for the ivory soul queen who sounds stronger today than she did in the early '80s. She's a phenomenal live performer, rarely skimping on the hits everyone loves to hear: "Square Biz," "Portuguese Love," "I Need Your Lovin'" and others. Marie shares the bill with Tony Toni Tone, an underrated band that presaged the neo-soul explosion of the mid-'90s with hits such as "It Never Rains In Southern California," "Feels Good" and "Anniversary."
June 19: Kem, who sold gold last year with his smooth debut Kemistry, is out on the road promoting the follow-up, the equally satiny but better produced Album II. The Al Jarreau-influenced vocalist will share the stage with Fantasia, the gospel-bred dynamo who won first place on American Idol last season. She has since scaled the charts with her spotty debut, Free Yourself. As we saw on that overblown karaoke show hosted by the forever-lame Ryan Seacrest, Fantasia is undeniably charismatic on stage, pulling you in even though her odd, Esther Phillips-with-a-dash-of Macy Gray vocals are an acquired taste. Fantasia's sanctified urban-pop tempered by Kem's come-hither, midnight-love ballads sounds like an interesting, well-balanced show.
DAR Constitution Hall
June 3-4: Brian McKnight, New Edition and Raheem DeVaughn share the stage. This should be one of the better R&B shows to come to the area. McKnight and New Edition recently released fine but overlooked albums: Gemini and One Love respectively. Although McKnight's music, especially on his last few albums, can feel shapeless and tired, he's generally a decent performer. New Edition, however, is even better these days: looking and sounding great. Plus, the guys still have the sharp choreography down. Washington resident DeVaughn, whose single "Guess Who Loves You More" is one of the best modern soul records I've heard in a while, is definitely an artist to watch. Jive Records is scheduled to release his highly anticipated debut, The Love Experience, later this month.
June 16: Modest Mouse: Last year, the indie rock-pop unit made many critics' best-of-2004 lists with the charged, immediate Good News for People Who Love Bad News. "Float On," the hit off the album, was a mainstay on pop and modern rock radio last year.
M&T Bank Stadium
June 3-5: The Capital Jazz Fest will feature performances by the ever-boring but immensely popular Kenny G, the legendary and still great George Benson, the unstoppable Chaka Khan and the underappreciated Patrice Rushen. Be sure to check out Ledisi, an underground soul-jazz artist whom I featured in my column two months ago. She's one of the few artists whose music and presence genuinely excite me.
June 18: The Black Eyed Peas may have sold out, ditching its earlier substantive, organic-sounding hip-hop for artificially flavored pop-hop. But these guys still put on an energetic show full of gravity-defying dance moves. On the same bill you get "thinking man's rapper" Talib Kweli. But don't be fooled by the Brooklyn rhyme-spitter. Judging from his latest record, a mixed bag called The Beautiful Struggle, Kweli seemingly wants to lose the backpack and boogie down with the rest.