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Ten essential summer concerts for open-minded music lovers 

Sounds of summer

click to enlarge FAKE MAKE DESIGN
  • Fake Make Design

Summer tours can be a lucrative business. Last year's Guns N' Roses reunion tour, which kicked off with a "secret" gig at LA's 500-capacity Troubadour, ended up grossing $192 million. This year's tour, which includes an Aug. 2 date at Denver's Sports Authority Field at Mile High, isn't doing too badly, either, with more than a million tickets sold in just 24 hours.

Of course, not everyone out there is quite so lucky. Of the thousand-plus touring acts who have so far announced summer shows in southern Colorado — with many more to follow — the majority will be playing venues closer in size to the Troubadour than to Mile High, and traveling to them in modest vans and buses.

What follows is a sampling of highly recommended shows by artists who are mostly on their way up or already there. And while some may be less-than-familiar names, you can rest assured that each of them, in their own way, is worthy of attention.

Corey Feldman & Corey's Angels

(June 24, Sunshine Studios)

Some things defy description, and if you saw the former child star and his angelic backing band's famously idiosyncratic Today show performance, you know that's one of them. If not, you owe it to yourself to catch the clip online and then decide whether you're brave enough to experience it live.

White Reaper

(June 30, Larimer Lounge)

click to enlarge JESSE DEFLORIO
  • Jesse DeFlorio

Despite the tongue-in-cheek title of their newly released third album, White Reaper are not "The World's Best American Band." But the Louisville, Kentucky, garage-punks may well be moving in that direction, as they shift from the sludgy low-fi punk of previous releases to a muscular glam-rock sound that embraces the best elements of Mott the Hoople, Material Issue and Jane's Addiction. Frontman Tony Esposito's guitar parts alone are worth the price of admission.

Soulshine Yoga & Music Tour with Michael Franti

(July 13, Red Rocks)

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So this is different. The former leader of the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy will be bringing his band Spearhead along for this return visit to America's most scenic venue. But what makes this show altogether unique is its pre-show yoga workshop, during which Franti will be performing a handful of acoustic numbers and "physically participating" with fans in a yoga session led by professional yogis Ryan Leier and Baron Baptiste.

SHEL

(July 15, Stargazers Theatre)

This Fort Collins folk-pop sister group's vocal and instrumental prowess is unassailable, as is the sometimes wistful, sometime poignant music that graces their 2016 sophomore album, Just Crazy Enough. Bonus points for their cover of Metallica's "Enter Sandman."

Blues Under the Bridge with the Blind Boys of Alabama

(July 29, 218 W. Colorado Ave.)

True story: Blind Boys frontman Clarence Fountain once told me in an interview that Sam Cooke, after leaving gospel for secular music, was doing the work of the devil. Fountain and his gospel cohorts, meanwhile, have taken no such risk. Even at the height of their crossover success, this year's Blues Under the Bridge headliners have kept their Lord front and center while delivering the sweetest vocal harmonies this side of paradise.

Steve Earle & The Dukes

(Aug. 4, Boulder Theater)

From a political and lyrical perspective, Steve Earle is the closest thing we have to a latter-day Woody Guthrie. The San Antonio native also has a way with electricity, from the tuned-down Telecaster twang of his breakthrough Guitar Town and Copperhead Road albums to the folk-blues terrain of the more recent Terraplane. Earle's top-flight live band, meanwhile, manages to make the songs uplifting even in their most sober lyrical moments.

Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys

(Aug. 12, Cowboys)

With lyrics like "He's a rebel, a redneck, grew up in the sticks / A standard American sombitch," it would be easy to dismiss this upstart Michigan group as just another Southern-rock band pandering to Trump-country sentiments. And while frontman Gunnar Nyblad does pronounce American with at least one "u," his songwriting (with assists from Keesy Timmer and Big & Rich's Big Kenny) is a lot deeper than you'll notice on first listening. The band also pulls it off live, with a generously goofy sense of humor and keen rock arrangements that have just enough grit around the edges. Will they be accompanied onstage by women dancing in stars-and-striped bikinis? One can only hope.

Ed Sheeran

(Aug. 15, Pepsi Center)

Just kidding.

Die Antwoord

(Aug. 20, Red Rocks)

There have been persistent rumors that this will be the final tour by the surrealist South African rave-hop duo, who started out with the beguiling "Enter the Ninja," blew the roof off Denver's admittedly outdoor Riot Fest, and has now achieved Red Rocks headliner status. Are Ninja and YoLandi preparing to adopt new identities, as they did when abandoning their preppy Max Normal TV personae? Stay tuned.

ChameleonsVox

(Sept. 13, Bluebird)

Yes, the '80s gave us new wave, with all the synths and shoulder pads that entails, but it also gave us some musically sophisticated bands that embodied post-punk, goth-rock and — in the case of Manchester's The Chameleons — the shoegaze/dreampop sound that wouldn't be "invented" until decade's end. The ChameleonsVox project, which consists of frontman Mark Burgess plus "whoever wants to play alongside him," has booked shows in just three American cities: Cambridge, Chicago and, yes, Denver. The group's 1983 debut album Script for a Bridge remains as compelling now as it was then, and the new band's live performances are as melodic and mesmerizing as ever.

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