Make me an epic live music tour
July 18, 2010 5:00 PM   Subscribe

I want to make the absolute most awesome live music trip across the United States next summer. I need your ideas of where to go.

A couple friends and I are planning a trip after we graduate from University next year. The idea is to head down east coast of the United States to see as many awesome concerts and live music shows as possible.

A couple details:
1) We will being going sometime between May and August 2011.
2) We're mostly looking for blues and rock music, but a bit of acoustic or indie is good too. I like a lot of the bands on Austin City Limits if that helps.
3) Pretty much anything in the eastern half of the United States is valid.
4) We like real music with real musicians. We're fans of the actual music. We're not looking for DJs, clubs, or pop music kinda stuff.
5) It has to make this trip epic!

So, what venues, concert halls, and theaters do we need to see? What are some of the great festivals? What are the best cities for live music? Are there some local bands we absolutely must see?

From a huge week-long rock festival to a single blues man on the streets, I want to see them all. Links to any particular artisits would be very helpful. Every idea helps! Pretend you're making your own epic live music tour!

(bonus question: Has anyone tried something similar before?)
posted by Kippersoft to Travel & Transportation (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In New York there are amazing free concerts here, often in public parks, all summer long. Usually including an epic Fourth Of July concert at Battery Park, in full view of the Statue of Liberty.

There's also Pitchfork Fest in Chicago (which is going on this weekend, so I guess usually mid July?), which I've always been dying to see.

If you can start early enough, Jazz Fest in New Orleans is fabulous (last weekend in April, first weekend in May, annually). Montreal also has a Jazz Fest which I think is in June or early July.

Newport Folk Festival? Bonnarroo? Burning Man?
posted by Sara C. at 5:06 PM on July 18, 2010

I know several people who follow Widespread Panic around. Personally, I can't stand them, but I've never seen them live and that's apparently where they shine. You might want to check out their tour schedule.
posted by phunniemee at 5:12 PM on July 18, 2010

Seconding Bonnaroo. Went this year and it was incredible! Next year will be its 10th anniversary, so I'm hoping they'll pull out all the stops and have an epic lineup.
posted by alaijmw at 5:16 PM on July 18, 2010

Boston has some great bars that have excellent local music. A lot of old sort of washed up rock and rollers who almost made it and now play bar gigs regularly. Erm...I'm a SNOB and some of these guys are really amazing. More amazing that they didn't make it, honestly.

Particularly I would make an effort to catch a Dennis Brennan show. Very great roots rock, a very talented dude and always has a great band with him.

The bars I'm thinking of are Toad in Porter Square, The Lizard Lounge between Harvard and Porter and Atwoods in Inman Square. These are all in Cambridge. You can check out Dennis Brennan's web page but he usually plays multiple times per week.
posted by sully75 at 5:28 PM on July 18, 2010

New Orleans, obviously. Preservation Hall features live music almost every night, mostly Dixieland jazz but there's a fair bit of overlap with blues. There are buskers all over the French Quarter, most quite good, and in my opinion the cream of the crop is The Loose Marbles, who play all-acoustic traditional jazz in the afternoons on Royal St in front of a small museum. Facebook here.
posted by Quietgal at 5:38 PM on July 18, 2010

Maxwell's in Hoboken, 9:30 in Washington dc, Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill, 40 Watt in Athens, The Earl in Atlanta.
posted by spilon at 5:38 PM on July 18, 2010

1) We will being going sometime between May and August 2011.

Too bad you'll miss South by Southwest. Sure you can't go earlier? ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:43 PM on July 18, 2010

Speaking of New Orleans, you may be able to catch part of New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (April 29 - May 8th, 2011). The artist list has historically been varied, including local jazz, blues and funk artists as well as bigger-name rock and hip hop acts.

I've never been, but I've heard great things about Coachella, which is a little early for your time frame, but worth looking into.
posted by KilgoreTrout at 5:55 PM on July 18, 2010

In NYC, there's also Siren Fest.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:04 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

All great ideas and exactly the kind of stuff I'm looking for! Keep 'em coming!

We'll definitely be checking out New Orleans, Chicago, and Boston. But the more stops and venues, the better. I''m really hoping to fit Bonaroo in there. I'd LOVE to see South by Southwest, but we'll still be in classes by then. May (maybe last week of April depending on exams) is the earliest we can go unfortunately. :(

We'll be traveling by car, so I'm hoping to make a big list of all the best places to see and plan the route from there.
posted by Kippersoft at 6:07 PM on July 18, 2010

East Coast, folks, East Coast. Otherwise I'd mention the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
posted by salvia at 6:09 PM on July 18, 2010

CHAPEL HILL!!!- Cat's cradle

Washington DC: Black cat club, 9:30 club
posted by TheBones at 6:29 PM on July 18, 2010

If you're checking out Boston, be sure to checkout Worcester; that is, go to Ralph's and the Lucky Dog.
posted by ifandonlyif at 6:38 PM on July 18, 2010

Why not go see an Austin City Limits show?
posted by crapples at 6:42 PM on July 18, 2010

If you pass thru Birmingham on your way from Atlanta to New Orleans, you should visit The Nick, a run-down dive that reeks of stale beer and cigarettes. It's a converted convenience store that is apparently held together by the flyers stapled to the walls. (Protip: the pool table leans toward the nearest wall.) Everyone from Black Flag to John Prine has performed there. Robyn Hitchcock played during a freak snowstorm. When the power went out, he finished the set out in the parking lot, standing in the swirling snow on the roof of his rented Cadillac, taking audience requests, making up songs on the spot, while the bar staff handed out free beer to the hardy few who braved the storm. To this day, it's where he plays when he's in town, often accompanied by an affable Peter Buck, who said, "The Nick is the best rock club on the planet. It's such a great dive."

Bigger acts play Bottletree or Workplay, and both of them are great venues, but they just don't have the shabby dignity of The Nick, Birmingham's dirty little secret.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:00 PM on July 18, 2010

Siren Fest happens in mid-July at Coney Island and is always free and usually awesome.
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:19 PM on July 18, 2010

My venue suggestions lean towards rock, and generally towards reasonably small, quirky clubs with a history. In Boston, go to the Middle East, TT The Bear's, & Great Scott's, along with Club Passim for more folk/roots/blues stuff and the Palladium in Worcester for metal; in Chicago, the Empty Bottle and (depending who's in town) maybe Schuba's, the Bottom Lounge, or the Double Door. In Cleveland, check out the Beachland Ballroom and the Grog Shop.

Beyond Pitchfork, Chicago's got a new experimental music festival going on this year - neon marshmallow - which looks pretty exciting, and may become annual. If Terrastock happens in 2011 - it's generally been somewhere in the Eastern half of the US - it's a great psychedelic rock festival.
posted by ubersturm at 7:24 PM on July 18, 2010

Summerfest Milwaukee Wisconsin 10 days around the 4th of July!
posted by Cainaan777 at 7:34 PM on July 18, 2010

You should consider going to FloydFest in Floyd, VA on the Blue Ridge Parkway! It's always the third or fourth weekend in July (this year it's next weekend). They always have a stellar lineup which includes all the music genres you mentioned. One of the best festivals around and because of the high elevation, it is not hot there like a lot of the East Coast is in the middle of Summer.
posted by ourroute at 7:57 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

New Orleans Jazzfest. Bonnarroo. If you want blues, you have to come to Memphis. Memphis in May Music Festival. Beale Street. Graceland, because everyone should go once in their life. Sun Studio. We're a Memphis music family, and would be happy to take you to the local places.
posted by raisingsand at 8:34 PM on July 18, 2010

In Chicago...

Kingston Mines - Touristy but still has some stellar blues acts.
B.L.U.E.S - Right across the street and more divey.
Buddy Guy's Legends.

As for alt-country type acts, it may be a stretch since Chicago takes to country like Superman to kyrptonite. Just outside of Chicago is a great club called Fitzgeralds. That has a real ASL vibe and it's a very cool place to see music.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:18 AM on July 19, 2010

Forgot to mention Old Town School of Folk Music. Great venue and ASL-friendly. In my neighborhood too!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:22 AM on July 19, 2010

I keep typing ASL for "Austin City Limits" hahaha. My bad. You know what I mean.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:23 AM on July 19, 2010

I'm planning a music-themed vacation for this fall. I'm coming from a different direction, though, but maybe you'll find it interesting. It is basically Austin's Sixth Street southern rock, to New Orlean's Bourbon Street jazz, to Memphis' Beale Street birth of rock and roll, to Chicago's blues clubs (I haven't nailed down the musical center in Chicago yet). This could be done in reverse, by going from the East Coast to Chicago, then heading south.

We'll start in Austin, TX, then take a train to New Orleans. From there, we'll take the City of New Orleans train.
About the train's music history
Amtrak's web page of the train
A virtual tour of the train stops
Possible itinerary
Famous song about the train
posted by Houstonian at 4:13 AM on July 19, 2010

Hit FitzGerald's during their American Must Fest, and you will see all the bands that are worth seeing.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:10 AM on July 19, 2010

Whartscape in Baltimore usually happens mid- to late-July and is hugely fun and awesomely cheap
posted by balmore at 9:18 AM on July 19, 2010

Coney Island's Siren Fest is fun but very often on the hottest day of the year. There's little to no shade for fans thanks to the giant VIP area. Also due to Coney Island construction projects, its future seems in doubt, so keep tabs on whether or not it's coming back for 2011.

The Pitchfork guide to summer festivals 2010 may help -- keep in mind that for NYC, stuff like Seaport Musical Festival, Celebrate Brooklyn, Central Park SummerStage, and Gone to Governor's Island aren't festivals per se but a series of concerts with a different headliner each night, spread out over several weeks.

I'd look into:
Pitchfork Fest
All Tomorrow's Parties NY (technically September but amazingly intimate venue for the level of talent they draw)

One thing to be aware of is that a lot of acts will be doing the summer tour circuit so you might be accidentally doubling up on some. And the future of large music festivals seems perpatually in the air: HARD Fest in LA was just cancelled. All Points West in NJ was also cancelled.
posted by kathryn at 11:50 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the ideas! This is really helpful. I pretty much want to mark them all as 'best answer' :)
posted by Kippersoft at 8:12 PM on July 19, 2010

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