Live music sounds better while standing under a big open sky. Fortunately, this summer the Blue Ridge region is full of options to get your outdoor sonic fix.
A Big Dose of Alt-Country
While alt-country and Americana sounds are thriving through a continually expanding crop of new artists, an upcoming tour will feature three pioneering artists that have been messing with the borders of traditional twang for decades. The LSD Tour, a triple bill featuring Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, and Dwight Yoakam, will offer a trip through the extensive catalogs of the extremely prolific singer-songwriters. This year Earle has been playing shows that specifically celebrate the 30th anniversary of his landmark album Copperhead Road, acclaimed for its mix of gritty rock and dusty Texas storytelling. Williams, too, has been looking back, last year releasing a re-recorded version of her 1992 album Sweet Old World to mark its 25th anniversary. Once a cowpunk trailblazer, Yoakam crossed over and became a country hitmaker in the late 80s. The honky-tonk icon released his last album, Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars, in 2016, but he stays busy on the road and occasionally as an actor. He appeared in last year’s film “Logan Lucky” with Channing Tatum and Adam Driver.
The tour includes stops this month at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (June 17) and Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore, Md. (June 19). Later in the summer, the tour moves deeper into the South, stopping at Chastain Park in Atlanta, Ga. (August 9), Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, N.C. (August 10), and Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre in Charlotte, N.C. (August 11).
Thirty years ago the Pixies released Surfer Rosa, a breakout debut album that put the band on its way to becoming pop-punk heroes. Six years later similar melodic angst was heard in the debut self-titled record from Weezer; an effort affectionately known to fans as “The Blue Album” that contained the hits “Buddy Holly” and “Say It Ain’t So.” This summer the two bands with mutual admiration for each other are teaming up for a lengthy summer tour of huge outdoor sheds. Fist-pumping alt-rock anthems will be plentiful as both groups dive into their extensive catalogs. The Pixies reunited in 2004 after a break-up that lasted 11 years; the band has since released two albums, the latest being 2016’s Head Carrier. Weezer has been more prolific, recently infusing its sound with modern electronica touches on last fall’s Pacific Daydream. At press time, the band was scheduled to release another self-titled effort (this one known as “The Black Album”) on May 25, but few details had been revealed.
The joint tour includes stops at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Va. (July 22), Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek in Raleigh, N.C. (July 24), and PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, N.C. (July 25).
Breweries Tap into Tunes
Around the region many craft breweries with expansive properties are using their open spaces to host outdoor shows. This summer, Devils Backbone Brewing Company, located in the mountains of central Virginia near Wintergreen Resort, is launching the new Music in the Blue Ridge concert series with shows taking place on the first Saturday of June, July, and August. The series starts on June 2 with a triple bill featuring Yarn, Dangermuffin, and Grateful Dead cover band the ‘77z, and during all shows the brewery will offer onsite camping.
Down in Black Mountain, N.C., Pisgah Brewing Company is known for churning out some great beers like Greybeard IPA and the rich Valdez coffee stout. The brewery also has an outdoor stage with enough room to host bands like Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers (June 26), Rebelution (June 27), Lake Street Dive (July 3), and the Punch Brothers (July 13).
Wheels of Soul Rolls On
It was sad times last year for fans of blues-rock legends the Allman Brothers Band after the deaths of founders Greg Allman and Butch Trucks. But fortunately, former member Derek Trucks and his wife Susan Tedeschi are carrying the torch of Southern-flavored jams with the Tedeschi Trucks Band. The 12-piece outfit tours relentlessly, delivering high-energy shows that highlight Trucks’ blazing guitar licks and Tedeschi’s deeply soulful vocals, backed by a powerful band that includes tight rhythm and horn sections.
For the fourth straight year, the group is embarking on its Wheels of Soul Tour. The roots-driven caravan takes the band across the country this summer, this time pairing Tedeschi Trucks with Drive-By Truckers and the Marcus King Band. Dates in the South: Volvo Car Stadium in Charleston, S.C. (July 1), Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va. (July 11), Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek in Raleigh, N.C. (July 13), and Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre in Charlotte, N.C. (July 15).
Many Southern cities host concert series in the summer with impressive line-ups for little or no cost. In Richmond, Va., the three-decade-old Friday Cheers features top national acts along the James River on Brown’s Island for no more than 10 bucks. Through the end of the month, catch sets from Tyler Childers (June 1), Rhiannon Giddens (June 8), Parquet Courts (June 15), Knower (June 22) and the Turnpike Troubadours (June 29).
In Asheville, N.C., the monthly Downtown After 5 concert series takes place on the third Friday of the month from May through September. This year bands playing for free on North Lexington Avenue include Town Mountain (June 15), Fantastic Negrito (July 20), Southern Avenue (August 17), and hip-hop legends the Pharcyde (September 21).