Some years, the summer slips up, and I’m in the middle of it before I even realize that it’s halfway over. Other years, I can feel it coming from the turn of the calendar. This happens to be one of those years, and it’s all because of the onslaught of live shows that are about to hit Louisville. I get excited about shows often, but I don’t remember being this excited for a while. So, with these few paragraphs I have at my disposal, let me share with you some recommendations for the upcoming season. There are truly worse ways you could spend your money.
I would be remiss if I didn’t start with WFPK’s Waterfront Wednesday. While I do have an obvious bias here, Stacy Owen has seriously put together a knockout lineup for the last Wednesdays of the month. Having The Mavericks headlining May 31 has kept the phones, emails and tweets at the station constantly coming in. The band have been at it since 1984 and has only gotten better over time. Its many, many fans will attest. Other high points for the series include the just-announced Iron & Wine (replacing White Reaper, who got called up for a national opening spot) in August, Robyn Hitchcock and Pokey LaFarge in June, Strand of Oaks and Low Cut Connie in July, and The Secret Sisters in September, not to mention all of the great local acts such as Peter Searcy, Carly Johnson, Zach Longoria, James Lindsey and In Lightning. And they all come free for you.
Now that that’s out of the way, I don’t mind admitting that most of my excitement points to U2 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on June 16. The Irish foursome hasn’t played Louisville since opening up for the J. Geils Band at the Gardens in ‘82. You didn’t read that wrong. Bono and the Boys were the warm-up act for the “Centerfold” guys. Not only are they long overdue for the return, but we’ll be getting them in a rare moment of nostalgia, as the legends are playing their landmark LP, The Joshua Tree, in full. Some of the songs haven’t been played in decades, and many of them are as poignant now as when they were written during the Reagan administration. Also, I’ve seen them on their last two tours, and both are still, without a doubt, two of the most fun, mind-blowing experiences I’ve ever had with a concert.
Forecastle Fest 2017 arrives just a few weeks after it, and as usual, there’s so much to look forward to there, as well. I’m always more happy to see Weezer live than to listen to their new music, which thankfully, they must know, because many of their live shows are heavy on those first three albums. With LCD Soundsystem having new material, their updated set should be something of bolded note. Sturgill Simpson and Cage the Elephant will no doubt have packed lawns with tons of local love, and it’s always great to have Spoon back, especially riding on one of their best albums ever. But most of my anticipation will arrive with PJ Harvey. I’ve yet to see her in the flesh, though I’ve spent my fair share of time plowing through live YouTube videos. I’m sure I’ll be working a lot while on the grounds, but if I only am able to break away for one show, she’s the one.
The summer season will start to wind down this year with the newcomer, Bourbon & Beyond. The lineup is impressive if for nothing else than having Eddie Vedder on the bill. Yes, I’m also excited to see Stevie Nicks, Band of Horses and Trombone Shorty, and even curious to see Kiefer Sutherland. But let’s be honest — I’ve got a lengthy track record of waving the Pearl Jam flag high, and having Vedder in my hometown has long been a wish. PJ’s only Louisville stop was at the Gardens in ‘94. They came close on the last tour, but it fell apart at the last minute due to a disagreement with the KFC Yum! Center. So while this may not be the all of the guys (from Pearl Jam), it’s the one we can all sing along to (with the lead singer). And I’ll take it.
Those are just the broad strokes. Add the impressive shows at the dozen or so great venues, and it’s a packed bill. Spend the summer with a group of people you may or may not know. Get communal with a sing-along connection. Get out and feel it. It’ll change you, even a bit, every time.