Summer just wouldn't be summer without the music festival. But, as evidenced here, the music fests, too, must evolve. The age-old tradition of crowds, lines, funnel cake, corn dogs, beer and stages -- all beat on by a merciless sun -- is no longer the only way to go.
Rib America Fest
Friday, May 27 through Monday, May 30
1315 Chestnut Street
On Memorial Day the heart of downtown pulses with ribs, barbecue sauce, Wet-Naps and, oh, some live music. Appearing over the course of the weekend are Morris Day & the Time, Cameo, the Jimmie Van Zant Band, Head East, Montrose, Beatlemania Live!, Dickey Betts & Great Southern, Cowboy Mouth, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Modern Day Zero, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and George Thorogood & the Destroyers. Admission is free.
Wednesday, June 8 through Saturday, June 11
What began in 1998 as a two-night salute to great American music has grown into a four-night extravaganza of all music with twang. Bluegrass, old-time, folk, country, rock, Americana and alt-country will be represented during this multi-venue fest.
Wednesday, June 8
Schlafly Tap Room
2100 Locust Street
Milton Mapes and Jon Dee Graham open for the not-to-be-missed Meat Purveyors. Tickets are $8.
Thursday, June 9 and Friday, June 10
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room
6504 Delmar Boulevard
Rough Shop and Richmond Fontaine open for the scorching Supersuckers. Friday kicks off the weekend with sets from Matt Grimm & the Red Smear, Nora O'Connor, Moot Davis & the Cool Deal, and Big Sandy & His Fly Rite Boys. Tickets are $18 each night.
Saturday, June 11
6161 Delmar Boulevard
The jewel in the Twangfest crown: The Townsmen, Brent Best (of Slobberbone) and local heroes the Bottle Rockets open for the fiery Neko Case. Tickets are $20.
Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26
Tower Grove Park
4256 Magnolia Avenue
The theme of this year's PrideFest, which supports and celebrates the GLBTA community, is "Come Alive in 2005." That shouldn't be difficult, given the many stalls of art and food, the always-great parade (beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday) and plenty of local bands -- along with concert headliner Jen Foster -- providing entertainment. Admission is free.
US Bank Saint Louis Jazz Festival
Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25
Shaw Park (8025 Bonhomme Avenue)
Now in its fifth year, the Saint Louis Jazz Festival has quietly carved out a niche for itself amid the city's busy outdoor concert season. While the entirety of this year's lineup has not been finalized, Roy Hargrove and New Orleans favorites Los Hombres Calientes will be there -- reason enough to get advance tickets ($20).
Wildwood Folk Fest
Thursday, September 1 through Sunday, September 4
919 Grand Drive
This Labor Day weekend festival at the beautiful Wildwood Springs Lodge in Steelville is the perfect end to a busy summer. The venue at the lodge is intimate and homey, a place where performers sing, tell stories and mingle with the crowd before and after their shows. This year's lineup features finger-picking deity Leo Kottke (tickets are $59), along with Tom Rush, Guy Clark and John Cowan (all $39).
A true summer staple, Big-Ass Tours invade arenas and large venues with anywhere from five to thirty-five bands, countless buses, endless lines for port-a-loos, and $7 beer. God bless America.
Vans Warped Tour
Tuesday, June 21
UMB Bank Pavilion
1414 Riverport Drive, Maryland Heights
Somewhere between a wet dream and your worst nightmare, Warped Tour is an all-day love affair between radio-friendly punk rock, scalding-hot weather and kids dressed in all black. Thirty-four bands (we are so not kidding) will somehow find their way onstage.
Contributions will be made by the All-American Rejects, Another Damn Diss, Atreyu, Avenged Sevenfold, Bedouin Soundclash, Boys Night Out, Dropkick Murphys, Fall Out Boy, Fivespeed, From First to Last, Hidden in Plain View, Matchbook Romance, Mest, My Chemical Romance, MxPx, No Use for a Name, Plain White T's, Senses Fail, Silverstein, Strike Anywhere, Strung Out, Stutterfly, The Bled, The Explosion, The Matches, The Offspring, The Starting Line, The Twenty-twos, The Unseen, Thrice, Transplants, Tsunami Bomb, Underoath and Valient Thorr. Tickets are $27 to $29.
Big Summer Classic
Thursday, July 7
Sauget Industrial Park Drive at Goose Lake Road
If the mountain will not come to Mohammed.... The String Cheese Incident takes the festival on the road with a little help from Keller Williams, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Umphrey's Magee, Yonder Mountain String Band and New Monsoon. Tickets are $39.50.
Sounds of the Underground
Saturday, July 9
1403 Mississippi Avenue
"Back off, dudes." That's what the following seventeen bands have to say to everyone who sold out to the Man, otherwise known as the corporate behemoth that is Warped Tour. For your punk, hard-rock and metal pleasure: A Life Once Lost, All That Remains, Chimaira, Clutch, Devil Driver, Every Time I Die, Fear Before the March of Flames, From Autumn to Ashes, GWAR, High on Fire, Madball, Norma Jean, Opeth, Poison the Well, Strapping Young Lad, Throwdown and Unearth. And Pop's, unlike the UMB Bank Pavilion, is open 24 hours. Tickets are $29 to $34.
Saturday, July 16
914 North First Street
If the Warped Tour and Sounds of the Underground seem a little overwhelming, but you still need an annual dose of summer punk and metal, try the Strhess Tour, affectionately known as a Small-Ass Tour. This year Mississippi Nights hosts Bleeding Through, Darkest Hour, Fight Paris, Martyr AD and Zao. Tickets are $13 to $15.
I Am Indie, Hear Me Roar
Your summer music experience need not be limited to festivals and stadium tours. There are plenty of smaller acts out on the road, anxious to add their heat to the thick of our Midwestern humidity. It all starts June 3 with Andrew Bird, who appears at Off Broadway in support of his February release, Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs. Bird spent a good part of last year on the road with My Morning Jacket, so we can only hope this deserving singer, songwriter, violinist and whistler has garnered more fans. Hot on the heels of the Bird brigade will be Marah, who will prove their straight-ahead solidity June 13 at Off Broadway.
Few concerts this summer can be compared to the Hasidic reggae of MC Matisyahu. It's hard to believe these thick roots rhythms and Jah sensibilities come from an Orthodox Jew whose lyrics are drawn in equal parts from the annals of hip-hop culture and Hebrew scholarship. He will turn skeptics into converts on June 15 at Mississippi Nights. Xiu Xiu, beloved by masses of college girls transformed by the Garden State soundtrack, will probably draw the most coiffed crowd ever seen at the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center on June 29. Twelve years ago, the lives of college girls were similarly changed by the soundtrack to Untamed Heart, featuring "Tom's Diner," everyone's favorite Suzanne Vega song other than "Luka." Vega brings her astoundingly reliable catalogue to the Pageant on August 18.
Top 40 Skillet
Thrown into the frying pan this year is a mix of Top 40 hits from then and now. Here's a rundown of the highlights -- bacon grease and all.
The Dave Matthews Band packs the UMB Bank Pavilion June 1, with Jurassic 5 opening. Not wanting to be one-upped by Brian Wilson at Roberts Orpheum on August 24, the other Beach Boys stop at Harrah's on June 19 -- the same night bluegrass king Ralph Stanley performs at Meramec Music Theatre in Steelville. Little Feat hits the casino circuit on June 23 at Ameristar. One-hit wonders Dishwalla tell you all their thoughts on God (they're still on their way to see Her) at Six Flags on June 25. Chicago and Earth Wind & Fire share the UMB Bank Pavilion on June 26, followed on June 28 by a John Mellencamp and John Fogerty double bill. The Moody Blues get in the game June 29 at the Savvis Center.
Alanis Morissette brings her newly softened self to the Fox Theatre on July 2 with Jason Mraz. (Twenty dollars to anyone who explains the logic behind that pairing.) We wish you were still angry, Alanis! In these modern times we are left with the "anger" of "singers" like Avril Lavigne at UMB Bank Pavilion on July 21. Or, stay in the '90s groove at the Roberts Orpheum on July 25, and hearken back to a time when Jewel played "Foolish Games" with us and we loved her for it. July begins with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson teaming up at GMC Stadium in Sauget, Illinois, followed by the Black Crowes opening for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on July 9 at the UMB Bank Pavilion.
Adult-contemporary fans get their due later in July at Roberts Orpheum, with the Neville Brothers on July 21 and Dave Koz & Friends on July 22. ZZ Top rocks Family Arena on July 27, a couple days before Rick Springfield revives old phone numbers at Roberts Orpheum on July 29. It only gets hotter when Mötley Crüe slams into the UMB Bank Pavilion on August 9, and the casinos fight back with legends Chubby Checker at Ameristar on August 11 and Loretta Lynn at Harrah's on August 21. Hometown redneck heroine Gretchen Wilson closes summer with a night of country August 20 at the Savvis Center.