This summer, Baltimore residents can catch jam bands, pop-punk heroes, classic rock icons, alternative rock giants, comedy, orchestral performances and a variety of up-and-comers at the region’s various outdoor venues.
“There’s nothing like seeing a concert outdoors,” said Toby Blumenthal, director of rentals and presentations at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. “That’s what summer’s all about: being outside and really enjoying the atmosphere.”
Between Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavilion, the city’s music and art festival, Artscape, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s outdoor shows, concertgoers can find any genre quite literally under the sun.
Merriweather hosts a variety of top performers this summer, from the newly wildly popular Sam Smith (July 24), pop-punkers Fall Out Boy with rapper Wiz Khalifa (June 27), ever-evolving rockers My Morning Jacket (July 26), neo-soul queen Erykah Badu (Aug. 8), two days of jam-band giants Phish (Aug. 15 and 16), country star Darius Rucker (Aug. 22), alt-rockers Death Cab for Cutie (Sept. 13) and up-and-coming blues rockers Alabama Shakes (Sept. 18).
Several shows stand out for Audrey Schaefer, spokeswoman for I.M.P., which operates Merriweather and the 9:30 Club, including Willie Nelson, who performs with Old Crow Medicine Show on Aug. 19.
“This guy’s still got it, man, I don’t know how. He’s 82,” she said. “When I grow up I wanna be like him.”
O.A.R. will be setting what Schaefer thinks must be a record by playing at Merriweather for the 11th season in a row.
On the heavier side of things, the punky Vans Warped Tour comes to the venue on July 18 and is the one show that boasts what Schaefer calls a “parents’ depot,” a tent for parents to hang out in while their kids watch the bands.
Faith No More makes a triumphant return to the area on Aug. 2. “I know there are a lot of near-40-year-olds losing their mind about them,” Schaefer said of the band, which hasn’t toured in decades.
“There’s nothing like seeing a concert outdoors. That’s what summer’s all about: being outside and really enjoying the atmosphere.”
For classical music, one can head to Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville, where the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra continues its annual tradition of the Star-Spangled Spectacular on July 3 and 4, which features fireworks at the end of each performance. The symphony is also bringing “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane to sing American standards and perform comedy on July 16 in Baltimore, and then it’s on the road to The Mann in Philadelphia on July 18. The symphony also performs “Pokemon: Symphonic Evolutions” (July 1) and the music of Led Zeppelin (Aug. 1) this summer.
“The summer, for us, is an opportunity to play around with the calendar and really do some unique programming,” Blumenthal said.
Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavilion, located in the Inner Harbor, also boasts a diverse array of artists this summer. The venue hosts alternative rock heroes Third Eye Blind and Dashboard Confessional (June 17), explosive acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriella (June 20), John Fogerty performing Creedence Clearwater Revival songs(June 22), gypsy punks Gogol Bordello and Irish punks Flogging Molly (June 25), progressive jam rockers Umphrey’s McGee and funk band Lettuce (July 19), comedian Jim Gaffigan (Aug. 11), guitar maestro Santana (Aug. 26), The Doobie Brothers and Gregg Allman (Sept. 2), among others.
To top it all off, Baltimore City hosts the nation’s largest free art festival, Artscape, July 17, 18 and 19. Headliners include funk pioneers George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, reggae rockers Michael Franti & Spearhead and New Orleans musician Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue alongside a variety of local and regional bands on three stages.
“This is an area that has a really sophisticated audience in that there are so many people here that are passionate about music and different flavors of music and different styles,” Schaefer said.
While Baltimore is sometimes skipped on big national tours in favor of Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia, Blumenthal said a lot of artists see the value in coming to Baltimore, especially the older ones, given the city’s history with rock music. Merriweather, while showcasing a variety of American music icons, also features a lot of newer artists and focuses more of the younger generation of music fans, Blumenthal said.
“I think that what’s great about this market is you can do any kind of show, whether it’s a bluegrass festival all the way to the heritage artist or newer, younger artists, and there’s always a crowd,” he said. “There’s always a demographic that supports these kinds of concerts.”