Eight Great Outdoor Summer Music Events

Good vibrations abound, there are alfresco musical soirees of every flavor, from Bob Dylan to LL Cool J.

Jun 12, 2013 at 10:29 am
click to enlarge Public Enemy
Public Enemy

1. Kings of the Mic Tour featuring LL Cool J, Public Enemy, De La Soul, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh and DJ Chuck Chillout

Riverbend Music Center is hosting an impressive amount of Hip Hop superstars this summer (Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky), but to hear and see the pioneers without whom those artists wouldn’t be profitable, er, possible, the Kings of the Mic concert on June 27 is the show of the summer. From one of Hip Hop’s first “Pop” stars (LL Cool J) to a pair of its greatest revolutionaries (De La Soul and Public Enemy, one of three newly-inducted Rock & Roll Hall of Fame groups at Riverbend this year), the concert will be like a fun history lesson … and a hell of a party. 6:30 p.m. June 27. $18.50-$84.50 (ticketmaster.com). Riverbend, 6295 Kellogg Ave., California, riverbend.org.

2. AmericanaramA featuring Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket and the Richard Thompson Electric Trio

American Roots music is in one of its many “revival” stages right now, with a slew of younger artists embracing the pure, vintage sounds of Folk (and other early forms) and turning them into something new without losing the original essence. The AmericanaramA tour features a jaw-dropping lineup that meshes pioneers old and new. Headed up by one of the most influential musicians of all time — Bob Dylan — the show will also feature full sets from modern day legends Wilco and My Morning Jacket, plus British Folk pioneer Richard Thompson and his Electric Trio (which sold out the 20th Century Theater earlier this year). 5:30 p.m. July 6. $26.50-$76.50 (ticketmaster.com). Riverbend, 6295 Kellogg Ave., California, riverbend.org. 

3. Bunbury Music Festival

One of the Midwest’s best new music fests, Cincinnati’s own Bunbury Music Festival, presents its second annual event this summer. With another stellar lineup for the three-day affair — including headliners like Fun., MGMT and Cincinnati-bred Indie Rock stars The National (whose latest album debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s album chart), plus a great number of Greater Cincinnati’s top acts — a “sophomore slump” seems impossible. The fan-friendly fest returns to the gorgeous Sawyer Point park. Visit bunburyfestival.com for the full lineup and more info. July 12-14. Tickets, available for purchase through the fest’s site, are $55 for each day or $110 for three-day passes. Prices increase after June 30 to $65 per day and $130 for a three-day pass. Sawyer Point, 705 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, bunburyfestival.com. 

4. Willie Nelson

Except for behind-the-sceners, it’s safe to bet that no one expected more than the usual casino musical fare (nostalgia acts or artists on the downslide of their career) when it was announced that Cincinnati would be getting its first casino this year. Boy, were we wrong. The inaugural summer music lineup for Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati’s outdoor venue The Shoe boasts a number of arena- or theater-worthy artists (like earlier performers The Killers and The Shins, plus the likes of Ke$sha and Jane’s Addiction). Sure, there are a number of “nostalgia” performers, but they’re primarily cooler ones that maintain a consistent draw, like the eternally cool American music icon Willie Nelson, who will bring his 80th birthday tour to The Shoe on July 19. 8 p.m. July 19. $38-$62 (ticketmaster.com). Horseshoe Casino, 1000 Broadway St., Downtown, horseshoecincinnati.com. 

5. Macy’s Music Festival

Since it originated in 1962 as the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival, the Macy’s Music Festival (still often simply just referred to as “Jazz Fest”) has undergone a lot of name changes and makeovers. But over the past couple of decades, the R&B/Soul music celebration has hit a few ruts where it’s seemed as if the lineups from year to year were completely interchangeable. Not that most mind — “Jazz Fest” is a legendary Cincinnati event, bigger than the music. This year’s festival — July 26-27 at Paul Brown Stadium — features one of the best lineups in recent memory, with modern superstar R. Kelly headlining night two, contemporary greats Jill Scott and Fantasia and Cincinnati’s own Rock and Hall of Famer Bootsy Collins playing a rare local concert. 7:30 p.m. July 26-27. $45-$85 single day (ticketmaster.com). 1 Paul Brown Stadium, Downtown, macysmusicfestival.com. 

6. Cincy Blues Fest

Hitting the 20-year mark for a music festival is a wildly impressive feat. Hitting that mark with a dedication to one distinct music style is even more impressive, and that’s exactly what the Cincy Blues Fest will do this year when it returns to Sawyer Point Aug. 2 and 3. Presented by the Cincy Blues Society, the Cincy Blues Fest is the Blues event of the summer for the region, thanks to its welcoming atmosphere, cool bookings, dedication to local artists and creative “niche” side stages, like the unique Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame Stage. This year’s event will feature a “Women in the Blues” showcase, headed up by EG Knight, plus artists like Ana Popovic, Stacy Mitchhart, Steve Tracy and the Crawling Kingsnakes and Watermelon Slim and the Workers. 5 p.m. Aug. 2; 4 p.m. Aug. 3. Tickets prices are among the best deals of the summer ($15 for Aug. 2; $20 for Aug. 3 and just $25 for a two-day pass) and available at cincybluesfest.bpt.me. 705 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, cincybluesfest.org.

7. Whispering Beard Folk Festival 2013

The Beard is back! One of Cincinnati Roots music fans’ favorite music fests, Whispering Beard Folk Festival, returns to the perfectly named Friendship, Ind., (just 50 miles from Cincy) Aug. 23-25. Held at the Old Mill Campground, WBFF has, in the past, featured top-shelf artists like Peter Rowan, Todd Snider, Langhorne Slim, Justin Townes Earle, Trampled by Turtles and many more over the past five years (not to mention nearly all of the best Greater Cincinnati Roots acts). Like each of the past fests, this year’s lineup — with Jason Isbell, Dead Man Winter, The Tillers and more — should top last year’s. $20 for Aug. 25; $40 for one-day tickets Aug. 23 and 24; or $70 for a weekend pass. Old Mill Campground, First Street and Friendship Road, Friendship, Ind., camping details (off-site camping is free with a ticket purchase), directions and more info can be found at whisperingbeard.com.

8. Free Concerts at Fountain Square/Washington Park

If you’ve read some of the descriptions of the various outdoor concerts coming to Greater Cincinnati this summer and thought, “Yeah, that’s great, but I don’t have the money to drive to Riverbend, let alone pay for a concert ticket there,” we feel you. Luckily, Downtown’s Fountain Square and Over-the-Rhine’s Washington Park have jam-packed summer music lineups, featuring everything from Reggae, Americana and Hip Hop to Bluegrass, Indie Rock and Jazz five nights a week. Visit washingtonpark.org and myfountainsquare.com for details on the free shows, which include a mix of local and national musical acts.