June 23-26: Detroit River Days
Festival season kick-starts in Detroit with the return of Detroit River Days, now in its fifth year. Showcasing the Detroit Riverwalk, the fest features food, frolic and music taking place from the new Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority Terminal just west of the RenCen all the way to Milliken State Park. Highlights include the return of the tall ships, Jet Ski demos, riverboat tours, bike tours, Coast Guard search and rescue demos, sand sculptures and more. Taking to the stage are touring acts such as Macy Gray and Chaka Khan, and local faves including the Muggs, the Hounds Below and the Howling Diablos. Kids' stuff, square dance performances, a 5K run and other activities are also on the agenda; see riverdays.com for more info. As in previous years, a $3 admission fee will benefit the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy; and unlike previous years, the fest will not take place the day of the annual fireworks, which will light up the sky above the river on Monday, June 27.
July 1-4: Stars and Stripes Festival
Also returning for its fifth year, Macomb County's Stars and Stripes Festival offers a glut of free activities to celebrate America's birthday. Carnival rides, fun for the kiddies, laser shows, BMX shows, art displays, Friday night fireworks and more take place alongside four days of free concerts. Headliners include Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley (!) (10:30 p.m. Friday), Smash Mouth (10:30 p.m. Saturday) and Rick Springfield (10:30 p.m. Sunday). Still spindly '70s glamsters Sweet ("Fox on the Run"), Soul Asylum and Tonic also perform, while locals including Ty Stone, Doop & the Inside Outlaws, the Muggs, Robin Horlock, Hush, the Sights, 60 Second Crush, Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas, plus many more round out the lineup. Stars and Stripes takes place in downtown Mount Clemens; starsandstripesfest.com for info.
July 2-3: Jazzin' on Jefferson
With the demise of Cityfest, which took over from Tastefest, there should be more attention to this smaller but spirited community gathering on Detroit's far east, near the border with the Pointes. Jefferson gets closed off between Chalmers and Alter for food and music. Hour-long tours are conducted to show off the business district (and such historic locations as the Vanity Ballroom), the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood, and the marina and little-known canal district. Headliners are Johnnie Bassett and the Blues Insurgents (7:30 p.m. Saturday) and Planet D Nonet with special guest Thornetta Davis (7:30 p.m. Sunday). Perry Hughes with Gerard Gibbs and Gene Dunlap, the Vincent Chandler Quintet, Deon Yates and others round out the noon-9 p.m. daily action. See jazzinonjefferson.com.
July 8-10: APBA Gold Cup Boat Races
What gives this event prestige is that American Power Boat Association Gold Cup is the oldest active trophy in all of motorsports. What makes it a true thrill is the speed. Lots of it. And it's not just the hydroplanes, which can go as fast as 200 miles per hour. This year there are also offshore boats — as big as 44 feet long, with engines capable of delivering up to 3,700 horsepower — that will be showing off their stuff on the Detroit River. For the nostalgic types, there'll be an exhibition of vintage race boats, offering a glimpse at the sport's early years. Adding to all the excitement will be the Navy's West Coast Super Hornet Demo Team, which will be putting on a display of the supersonic FA-18 fighter plane. The fun starts with practice and qualifying on Friday, July 8. Races will be held July 9-10. General admission tickets covering all three days are $15. Cost for reserved seating varies. Henderson and Memorial Annex Parks (off Jefferson); 586-774-0980; www.gold-cup.com.
July 9: Pink Martini
It's a special kind of nostalgia at work with this band, a longing for a scene that never exactly was, but should've been: Parisian cafés where world musics fused much more than they really did in the 1920s. Bohemian sambas, flashes of flamenco and cha-cha, Edith Piaf crossed with Celia Cruz — not campy, but Hollywood's soft-focus glamour is at work, no small part of it focused on alluring lead singer China Forbes. Part of Ann Arbor's Summer Fest at 8 p.m. at Hill Auditorium, 825 N. University, Ann Arbor; 734-764-2538; annarborsummerfest.org.
July 9: Criterium Detroit City
This inaugural event brings USACycling-sanctioned bike racing to the heart of downtown Detroit, introducing the city and its bustling biking community to the chills and thrills of a criterium race. The short, closed-circuit course gives spectators the opportunity to view the entire race and to get up close to riders hurtling by at speeds as fast as 38 mph — the organizers describe it as NASCAR meets the Tour de France. The event features racers of all ages battling it out in beginner, professional, children's and relay categories, as well as an outdoor marketplace of locally made goods for cycling fans to peruse in between races. The crit will start and finish in front of the Boll Family YMCA, 1401 Broadway, Detroit; a post-race bar crawl led by Inside Detroit starts at 8 p.m. For info, visit criteriumdetroitcity.com.
July 9: Omar Suleyman and Ara Topouzian
He supposedly has recorded 500 cassettes and discs in his native Syria, as he and his collaborators worked from playing local weddings to being a national star. But his stateside reputation dates from four years ago with the first of his Sublime Frequency discs and has grown with YouTube videos, tours and an endorsement from Bjork (with whom he's recorded a disc for summer release). For All Things Considered's "You Must Hear This" series a couple years ago, Bjork wrote: "Some people call what he plays Syrian techno. I think what's refreshing about Omar Souleyman is the party — it's fun. It's really alive and very urgent. And he's not above using synths, electronics, drum machines and YouTube. He's really eager to make something that's vibrant today." Armenian-American musician Ara Topouzian opens, performing not-always-traditional music on an array of traditional instruments. At 8 p.m. at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-6622; $9; all ages.
July 14-17: Concert of Colors
Don Was' first All-Star Revue seemed like a great idea that had just barely scratched the surface in terms of possible stars. Now back for its fourth installment, it's hard to imagine the Concert of Colors without it. This year Was brings in Martha Reeves, Brothers Groove, Ivan Kral, Black Irish, Jim McCarty and Wendell Harrison, among others, and presents such pairings as Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Cobras, and Melvin Davis and the United Sounds. Also on tap this year, headliner Bettye LaVette and such world music exemplars as Latin jazz master Orlando "Maraca" Valle, East Indian jazz-soul songstress Susheela Raman and Colombian folk-jazz fusion artist Pablo Mayor's Folklore Urbano Orchestra. Others to perform include Amp Fiddler, Immigrant Suns, Audra Kubat, Hamtramck World Music Ensemble, Will Sessions, Odu Afrobeat Orchestra, belly dancers, taiko drummers and on and on. Performances will be at Orchestra Hall, as for a number of years, but also now at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and Scarab Club. And it's all free! Man alive! See concertofcolors.com.
July 15-17: Jackson Hot Air Jubilee
No, the Hot Air Jubilee isn't a gathering of politicians. It is, however, an event that will bring more than 50 hot air balloons to the skies above Jackson. Especially beautiful are the balloon "night glows" that will take place Friday and Saturday evenings. In addition to the lofty bags of hot air (we promise, this isn't about politicians) there will be shows featuring arts and crafts, classic cars and wild animals. As if that's not enough fun, there'll also be antique military displays, aerial demos, live entertainment, plenty of food and much more at this free event. Ella Sharp Park, Jackson; 517-782-1515; hotairjubilee.com.
July 16: Scene Reunion Party
It was Detroit's answer to Soul Train, with Nat Morris as Don Cornelius and a crew of Detroiters putting on the dance moves and grooves. As a local show, it hardly had Soul Train's cachet to pull in celebs to chat and lip synch, but it wasn't without its star visitors. "We learned such dances like the shake, the prep, the jit, (various versions of) the Smurf. ... Lawwwwd, the Jheri curl juice lubricated the screen," reminisces former Detroiter Frederick Smith on his blog. What's billed as the first official reunion party is being held at Bert's Warehouse, 2739 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-2030; thescenedetroit.com.
July 17: Michigan Jazz Festival
Particularly poignant this year will be Ed Nuccilli's Plural Circle, performing without its founder conducting; the composer-arranger passed away earlier this year. The all-jazz, all-local festival is a daylong celebration of the local jazz scene with six stages running more or less throughout the day. Among the attractions: The Sean Dobbins Trio, George Benson Quartet, the Johnny Trudell Big Band, Dennis Tini Trio, Paul Keller's Michigan Jazz Suite and a series of solo piano performances, encompassing ragtime (Taslimah Bey), boogie-woogie (Bob Seeley) and players steeped in bop and beyond from Ellen Rowe to Charles Boles. At Schoolcraft Community College, 18600 Haggerty Rd., Livonia; michiganjazzfestival.homestead.com.
July 23: Midsummer Meltdown
Gathering over a dozen DJs from around the country (and world, for that matter), the Majestic and Magic Stick will be home to one helluva show this July. Burst Detroit is providing additional sound and lighting to the venues for a night of sweaty, in-your-face electronic music. Promised is a stellar light show, a pre-party barbecue, a slew of sexy go-go dancers and more than 60 subwoofers in addition to house speakers — that's right, more than 60 massive 18-inch monsters ready to melt your face and damage your ears. Featuring DJ Rozz and Chris Trip (Chicago and Milwaukee), Zoo Logic (Detroit), Dirty Talk (Minnesota and Colombia), Nice Lab (Detroit) and more. Earplugs advised. From 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. at the Majestic Theater and Magic Stick, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; $20 before 10 p.m., $25 after; 18+.
July 28: Death Cab for Cutie
What began as a side-project for a group of wide-eyed college students has turned into one of indie rock's most successful stories. Since its debut in '98, Death Cab for Cutie has achieved relative mainstream success without losing its indie cred, gained new fans without alienating the longtime diehards, and grown and matured without losing the core of what made the band so popular in the first place — dreamy textures, catchy hooks and the heart-bursting sincerity of frontman Ben Gibbard. The group's recently released seventh disc, Codes and Keys, features a foray into keyboard-based electronics and a change from melancholia into a gently uplifting outlook. Death Cab performs in support of the release at 7:30 p.m. at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-471-6611; $30-$45.
July 29-31: Yale Bologna Fest
A friend of ours who lives in these parts jokes that, when you graduate from high school in Yale, chances are you'll either go into the service or apply at the bologna factory. The point being that, in Yale, bologna is the biggest thing in town. And their Bologna Fest is no baloney. Every year since 1989, the sleepy outstate downtown turns into a massive festival that can include everything from fireworks to outhouse races. The quirky bash draws thousands, and its highlight is the selection of the fest's Bologna King and Bologna Queen, who are then crowned and get to ride a parade float dedicated to "Bologna Royalty," courtesy of the Yale Chamber of Commerce. Expect family-friendly high jinks and, of course, food, including bologna. And where does the bologna come from? From C. Roy, Inc., a truly local operation that buys its stock from local farms. Main Street, downtown Yale; yalechamber.com.
July 30: Handsome Furs
Montreal husband-wife duo Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry imbue the sounds of drum machines and keyboards with a plaintiveness and desperation that belies their cold electronics, adding guitars and the cryptic lyricism of Boeckner's vocals to craft delicious tales of disaffection. As in his better-known outfit, Wolf Parade, Boeckner's words often show a kind of opaque braininess, but just as frequently hit on a simple truism filled with meaning and emotion when he sings it. Expect the sonic experimentation and killer hooks of the couple's first two discs to continue on their latest, Sound Kapital, due out June 28. At 9 p.m. at PJ's Lager House, 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668; $10.
July 30-31: Maker Faire
Last year, the inaugural Maker Faire showcased local innovations in the fields of art, craft, music, science and engineering. Everything from fantastical robots, amazing musical instruments and new green technology was put on display in this celebration of the DIY creative spirit organized by MAKE magazine. The Maker Faire returns to the grounds of the Henry Ford again this summer, with more than 300 exhibitors, demonstrations and hands-on workshops strutting their stuff for the general public. Learn how to fix, make, alter and customize everything from kites and bikes to tools and appliances; participate in musical performances and biology projects; and check out arts, crafts, local foodie offerings, student projects and much more. At the Henry Ford, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn; 313-982-6001; makerfaire.com for info; $25 for a single day, $44 for the weekend, prices increase closer to the event.
Aug 3: The Glitch Mob
Across the vast musical terrain, you'd be hard-pressed to find a landscape as exciting to traverse as that of the current Los Angeles "beat scene." In that world, you'll find the three-piece Glitch Mob shifting tectonic plates beneath busy digital roads. They've remixed Daft Punk, TV on the Radio, and even the White Stripes, but, live, they throw down ferocious originals like they're trying to snap the San Andreas from wherever their stage is. Also on the bill are New York's electro-fuzz-blip duo du jour Phantogram (dig "Mouthful of Diamonds"), as well as Ghostly's summer star Com Truise (producer and DJ Seth Haley) who threw down hard at Movement this year with his washed-out stoner synth thing. (Try out "Cyanide Sisters.") Anyway, get there early, stay late, and drink. At 8 p.m. at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; majesticdetroit.com; $18 advance; all ages.
Aug. 5: The Whispers and Ashford & Simpson
The smooth vocal quartet of such hits as "And the Beat Goes On" and "Rock Steady" headline. But if Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson can't boast many big hits as performers — "Solid" and "Is It Still Good to Ya" went No. 1 R&B, but they never cracked the Top 10 pop — their songwriting catalog is a modern marvel, from "Let's Go Get Stoned" and "I Don't Need No Doctor" for Ray Charles to such Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell hits as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "You're All I Need to Get By." Not to mention hits for Chaka Khan, Teddy Pendergrass, Diana Ross and the Brothers Johnson. At Chene Park, 2600 Atwater, Detroit; 313-393-7128; cheneparkdetroit.com; tickets $37 and $57.
Aug. 5-6: 162nd Annual Highland Games
Founded in 1849 by the St. Andrew's Society of Detroit, these games are a celebration of all things Scottish, from the heavy athletic competitions featuring such events as the caber toss and the stone put to piping and drumming competitions to a tug-of-war featuring both men and women's teams. There's also a showcase of Scottish animals, a marketplace offering Celtic goods galore, and ways to trace your Scottish heritage. There's live musical entertainment, of course. And if you've been suffering from a long-unfulfilled craving for haggis, then this is the event for you. The fun begins with a Ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee) which is a traditional Scottish party that'll be held from 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5. The games and other activities will be from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6; Historic Greenmead Park, 20501 Newburgh Rd., Livonia; highlandgames.com. Ticket prices range from $10-$50 (children under 12 free).
Aug. 7: Bob Dylan and Leon Russell�
Dylan, at 70, could easily take a couple years off from his 100-or-so annual gigs, drive up demand, and restrict himself to playing mega-halls or pay-per-view specials. Instead, he's a road warrior with a schedule unmatched by any of his contemporaries of the '60s. If you wonder how he'll mix up classics and more recent tunes, you can check bobdylan.com or setlist.fm to figure your chances of catching "Tangled Up in Blue" or whatever you're dying to hear. At Meadowbrook Music Festival, 3554 Walton Blvd., Rochester Hills; $29.50 and $64 at ticketmaster.com.
Aug. 16: My Morning Jacket with Neko Case
After proving there's no sound they can't or won't approach — taking on the Americana of the Band one minute, Prince's the next, and ripping out Erykah Badu's "Tyrone" at live shows — Kentucky iconoclasts My Morning Jacket are back with a sixth record, Circuital, which is, more or less, a return to experimental roots rock form. Each dude in the band is a musician's musician, and they dip their live show into jam realms without ever coming close to self-indulgent wankery. Have you ever been experienced? New Porno's siren Neko Case is also on the bill, making it a phenomenally refreshing folk-rock summertime slam. At 7 p.m. at Meadow Brook Music Festival, 3554 Walton Blvd.; Rochester Hills; palacenet.com; $40.50 pavilion and general admission pit; $26 lawn.
Aug. 19: Return to Forever
Pianist Chick Corea has gone through many sonic phases. Yet throughout his career, from his work as a Miles Davis sideman or the founding of his groundbreaking group Return to Forever, Corea's chameleon approach to music never diluted his one-of-a-kind virtuosity and composition. Presently, the fourth version of RTF has embarked on the "Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy World Tour." Composed of the group's core members — drummer Lenny White and bassist Stanley Clarke — the new ensemble has added legendary violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and guitarist Frank Gambale to the mix. The band will revisit the album that shares the tour's name, along with brand-new material composed by the group. They are supported by Zappa Plays Zappa, helmed by the late Frank Zappa's son, guitarist Dweezil Zappa, at 7:30 p.m. at Meadow Brook Music Festival, 3554 Walton Blvd., Rochester Hills; $25-$45.
Aug. 24: Tony Bennett
If you caught him during his last visit a couple years ago, you know what a compelling performer Bennett remains, a master of poise, a guy who gets to the audience by being almost radiantly personable, somehow projecting small club intimacy into big halls. He's the last giant performing from that pre-rock era when what's now called the Great American Songbook was just the pop music of the day. At 7:30 p.m. at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-471-6611; $55-$85.
Sept. 2-5: Detroit Jazz Festival/Arts, Beats & Eats/Hamtramck Festival/Bass Fest
The Labor Day week ends the summer with an explosion of free music (and we count the following Saturday's Dally in the Alley as the summer's Cass Corridor aftershock). Arts, Beats & Eats is in its second year relocated in Royal Oak, but, as usual, no lineup until later in the summer. Ditto the more DIY Hamtramck Fest and the second annual Bass Fest. But the Detroit Jazz Festival has another stellar lineup well in place, with this year's theme of "We bring you the world." Former Detroiter Regina Carter returns with her African-influenced Reverse Thread project. Vinicius Cantuaria, Paquito D'Rivera, Sammy Figueroa, Ivan Lins Quinteto, Luciana Souza and others bring various Latin flavors. Israel's Anat Cohen, Japan's Vertical-Engine and Azerbaijan's Amina Figarova are among the others adding to the international mix. To name some of the additional performers: Jeff Tain Watts (this year's artist in residence), Kevin Eubanks, Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer, the Sun Ra Arkestra, Joe Lovano, Dave Holland, Curtis Fuller and a reunion of the J.C. Heard Orchestra. Hart Plaza and Campus Martius, Detroit; see detroitjazzfest.com. 313-961-4668; $10.
All Summer Long: New Center Park
The free entertainment offered by this New Center green space is nonstop from now through the first weeks of September. On Wednesdays, the office set can catch free lunchtime concerts that run the musical gamut; upcoming performances include Zap Toro (June 22), the Reeferman (June 29) and the After 5 Jazz Ensemble (July 6). Wednesday nights, catch free outdoor movie screenings; our personal highlights are The Big Lebowski (June 29), Back to the Future (July 27), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Aug. 10) and season closer The Wild One (Sept. 7). Thursdays feature a jazz and blues happy hour with performances starting at 6 p.m. — Sean Blackman & Wayne Gerard's Violao, Thornetta Davis, Scott Gwinnell and Johnnie Bassett are all on the schedule; and on Saturdays, Camp Hi-Fi brings together art, fashion and music for a wide variety of performances all summer long. Coming weeks feature Child Bite (June 18), Odu Afrobeat Orchestra (June 25), the High Strung (July 9) and American Mars (July 16). New Center Park is located at 2990 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit; 313-784-9475; find a complete schedule at newcenterpark.com.