In a fit of musical intolerance reminiscent of Pete Seeger's threat to ax the cables on Bob Dylan's electric set at Newport (and the guy wonders why, to this day, no one will lend him a hammer), Oasis' Noel Gallagher is decrying the announcement of Jay-Z as headliner of the 2008 Glastonbury Festival. "I'm not having hip-hop at Glastonbury," the former Britpop star told the Guardian last month, as if he had any say in the matter. "It's wrong."
Gallagher's reaction, however bizarre, suggests the musical xenophobia to which each passing generation of concert-goers can fall prey, be they itinerant Deadheads, jam-band worshippers or pacifier-sucking ravers. Of course, we're all more tolerant and enlightened here in the States, where each summer festival season brings with it new inducements for musicians and fans of all stripes to rise up in the face of escalating gas prices and diminishing attention spans in order to fight for our collective right to party in parks, meadows and amphitheaters for days on end.
Truly dedicated rock and pop fans may consider spending as much time and money on traveling as actually hearing music, given that many of the biggest names on this summer's festival circuit are converging at Tennessee's Bonnaroo, Chicago's Lollapalooza and other remote (from here) locations. But Colorado is getting there, thanks to the inaugural edition of Denver's Mile High Music Festival and the second coming of its indie-oriented cousin, Monolith. Combined with Telluride, Aspen Snowmass and a wealth of other genre-specific events throughout the region, even those who refuse to cross state lines can surely find some ideal pairings of lineup and locale.
In fact, hop in the car right about now and you should still have time to catch Les McCann at the free Estes Park Jazz Festival (May 17-18, estesnet.com/events). The artist behind the classic jazz/R&B crossover hit "Compared to What" will play the scenic Performance Park with the Javon Jackson Band on Sunday afternoon.
Flaming Lips and Cake, both headliners at last year's Monolith, will be setting up camp at Wakarusa in Lawrence, Kan. (June 5-8, wakarusa.com). They'll be sharing the bill with Emmylou Harris, STS9, David Grisman and about a hundred more of their closest musical friends.
Of course, if you're thinking of making the eight-hour drive to Kansas, it's only an extra 10 hours or so to Tennessee's Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival (June 12-15, bonnaroo.com), which is on the itinerary for just about every major artist this summer, including Pearl Jam, Metallica, Kanye West, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, the Raconteurs and, yep, about 150 or so others.
Closer to home, the Colorado Blues Society will take over Island Grove Regional Park with the Greeley Blues Fest 2008 (June 14, greeleybluesfest.com). Canned Heat, of "Goin' Up the Country" and "On the Road Again" fame, will be joined by W.C. Handy winners Magic Slim & the Teardrops, gospel artist Sista Monica and many other purveyors of the 12-bar blues.
If you prefer more rhythm with your blues, then the Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival (June 19-22, jazzaspen.org) offers this summer's first opportunity to catch Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. Emerging from the late, lamented neo-soul Desco Records label, the Dap Kings went on to back Amy Winehouse; they sound every bit as good backing the decidedly more soulful Jones. (Note: Jones and Co. will return to Colorado to play Monolith in September.) Other artists at the Aspen event include Bebel Gilberto, Dianne Reeves, Anita Baker, the Brian Setzer Orchestra and Los Lonely Boys.
The Telluride Bluegrass Festival (June 19-22, bluegrass.com/telluride) will celebrate its 35th year with four days of Summer Solstice festivities, including performances by Swell Season, Tift Merritt, the Frames, Ryan Adams, Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby with Kentucky Thunder, Arlo Guthrie, Solomon Burke, Ani DiFranco, Bla Fleck and Peter Rowan.
In a move likely to perplex Noel Gallagher, Oakland's favorite Marxist hip-hop group, the Coup, is sharing the stage at New Mexico's Taos Solar Music Festival (June 27-29, solarmusicfest.com) with the more guitar-centric Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, Susan Tedeschi and the BoDeans.
The ass will be especially happy as the Happy Ass Ranch Bluegrass and Jam Festival returns for its third year (July 11-13, happyassranch.com) with a newly added songwriting stage and three days of camping, food, festivities and music ranging from Montreal's Okie Weiss & the Murder Ballads to more homegrown talents like Grass It Up and the Stanleytones.
Meanwhile, you'd better move quick on the 2008 RockyGrass festival (July 25-27, bluegrass.com/rockygrass), which as we went to press had already sold out all except for its Sunday lineup, which features Peter Rowan and JD Crowe & the New South.
From Philadelphia's conscious hip-hop heroes the Roots to resurrected Dixie rockers the Black Crowes, Denver's ambitious Mile High Music Festival (July 19-20, milehighmusicfestival.com) offers something for nearly everyone. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Steve Winwood, Spoon, Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer also share the bill.
Lollapalooza (Aug. 1-3, lollapalooza.com) regains its place as a premier summer festival thanks to this year's headliners Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Kanye West, Nine Inch Nails. Gnarls Barkley and Wilco. Artists ranging from goth revisionists Love and Rockets to U.K. remixer Mark Ronson round out the lineup.
A who's who of hip-hop is touring under the Rock the Bells moniker (Aug. 23, guerillaunion.com/rockthebells). The Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre date will include Dead Prez, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Mos Def, Method Man & Redman, Raekwon & Ghostface and the Pharcyde.
Focusing on roots, world and jam-band music, Nederland's Nedfest (Aug 22-24, nedfest.com) offers a pre-Labor Day lineup that includes the David Grisman Quintet, Steve Kimock with Melvin Seals and the Jerry Garcia-less JGB, String Cheese's Kyle Hollingsworth, the Motet, Split Lip Rayfield and more.
Jazz Aspen Labor Day Festival (Aug. 28-Sept. 1, jazzaspen.org) will play host to Widespread Panic, Dwight Yoakam, John Fogerty and plenty of other main-stage acts still to be announced at press time.
The Monolith Music Festival at Red Rocks (Sept. 13-14, monolithfestival.com) is still being booked, but already announced artists include French electronic music act Justice, Neko Case, Vampire Weekend, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, TV on the Radio, DeVotchKa, Silversun Pickups, Tokyo Police Club, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and many more.
Finally, though it's technically past summer and a long haul to the south, you can catch Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Gogol Bordello, the Raconteurs, Foo Fighters, Manu Chao, Beck and a ton of other artists at the Austin City Limits Music Festival (Sept. 26-28, aclfestival.com).
What, no Oasis?!