Hot Summer Guide: Concerts and music festivals

Unparalleled in Halifax live music history is a summer as jam-packed as this one, with appearances from former Beatles to the cream of modern dance music, from indie rock to sophisticated jazz. We got it all right here.

Paul McCartney

July 11

A Beatle is coming to Halifax. Some come down on the man for his stand against the seal hunt---though it sounds like these days most blame the militancy on his ex-wife, Heather Mills---or some say that his wanting to change the order of the songwriting credits on "Yesterday" from Lennon/McCartney to Paul McCartney and John Lennon awhile back was at best silly, and at worst, egoistic. And still some will never forgive him for "Mull of Kintyre." But, seriously, a Beatle is coming to Halifax, and it isn't Ringo. This doesn't happen every day, and you can bet that when Macca sings the lyrics "Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner, but he knew it wouldn't last," the voices of 60,000 men, women and children from Atlantic Canada will rise in unison to sing along. And that, my friends, is a pretty cool thing. (CK)

Sarah Slean

June 27, 28

You'll note in the Festivals and Events section that Toronto-based singer Sarah Slean is one of the acts in the Multicultural Festival Supershow line-up on June 26 at Alderney Landing, along with Paula Cole, Divine Brown and MIR. As much as we're sure that will be a fun old time, Slean is a performer who on her lonesome regularly fills the Rebecca Cohn with fans beguiled by her seductive coo, and is simply stunning in a more intimate space, as she proved over two nights with a battered upright piano in December 2005 at the late, lamented Ginger's. For those who've never seen a show in the wood-lined attic that is Sonic Temple, you're in for a treat. Still touring on her best record, The Baroness from last year, and its EP follow-up, The Baroness Redecorates, there is no better time to see Slean. Not that there's ever a bad time, really. (CK)

Halifax Public Gardens Sunday Concert Series

Sundays, June 21-September 13

Ouch: General admission passes to see McCartney on the Common are going for $136. (Paul, we love you, but there's a global recession happening. Can't we just bring you some lentil burgers from The Wooden Monkey and call it even?) Tickets to see KISS later in July aren't much cheaper: general admission for that show costs $99. What's a currently impoverished outdoor-concert-lover to do? Friend, the HRM's Civic Events planners have just the concert series for you: the Free Halifax Public Gardens Sunday Concert Series. Really, the name tells you pretty much everything you need to know---except what time to show up at the band shell (2-4pm), and who'll be playing (a variety of local jazz, blues and big band ensembles, including the John Alphonse Band, the Port City Concert Band, the Eileen Joyce Band and the Mike Cowie Band). Hey, you can't beat the price---and maybe, if you ask nicely, one of the variety of musical ensembles will play "Hey Jude" for you. (LM)

José González

June 25

Almost a year to the day since the Swedish-born singer-songwriter last played in town, González returns to start a cross-Canada tour. According to the New Music Express, González will be joined on this jaunt by percussionist Andres Renterria and vocalist Joel Thibodeau of Brooklyn-based Sub Pop act Death Vessel. González has a hypnotic way around a tune, thanks to his classical guitar chops and his soft, keening voice. He's become well known for his covers, including his take on "Heartbeats" by The Knife, an interpretation that is probably as well known in North America as the original version. He also spins Massive Attack's "Teardrop" out of its doom-laden electronica and into a lovely folk framework, and recently did Nick Drake's "Cello Song" with The Books for the moody compilation Dark Was The Night. With any luck we'll hear all these tunes on Thursday night. (CK)


June 20

Selected highlights from the superstar's biography on "I was born November 17th, 7:58pm at Mercy Hospital in San Diego, California. When asked what she named her baby boy, my Mother replied, 'His name is RuPaul Andre Charles and he's gonna be a star!'" 1964: "I saw The Supremes on the Ed Sullivan TV show. I fell in love with them, particularly, the skinny one in the middle." 1975: "Ninth grade I won Best Afro and Best Dancer at Gompers Jr. High School. In September, I enrolled at Patrick Henry High School. By December I was kicked out of that school for 'never once attending a class.'" 1992: "On my birthday in 1992 the single 'Supermodel' was released." And now, in 2009, RuPaul's Drag Race hits TV, the worlds most famous drag queen releases a new record, Champion, and plays Reflections. (CK)

Virgin Festival

With The Tragically Hip, The Offspring, Dinosaur Jr., Metric, Handsome Furs, Plants & Animals, Arkells, In-Flight Safety and hey rosetta!, July 4

For the second year running we get a diverse summer rock festival taking place right downtown. Summersonic in July 2008 was quite the hit, with bands like Stars and Black Keys bringing the rock despite the rain, so this should go over just as well. Canadian rock icons (yes, we can call them that---it's been 22 years since "Highway Girl") The Tragically Hip headline, supporting their lovely summer-at-the-lake sounding record We Are The Same. Expect Southern California punk band The Offspring to play a number of their wildly successful hit singles. Has anyone been able to forget the devious earworms "Come Out and Play," "Self-Esteem," "Original Prankster," "The Kids Aren't Alright," "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)" or the most fiendish, "Why Don't You Get A Job?" That would be plenty of music for your dollars, but the bill is stuffed with plenty more, including the too-hot-to-touch Montreal duo Handsome Furs, the forever-cool-in-The-Coast-offices Dinosaur Jr. and forever-cool-everywhere Metric. (CK)

Bon Jovi

June 27

You have to give the band credit for longevity. Did anyone predict that the poodle-haired '80s rockers with a touch of the epic in songs like "Living on a Prayer" or "You Give Love a Bad Name" would still be filling the big spaces in 2009? Why were they more likely to succeed on that scale than Skid Row, Poison or Whitesnake? Bon Jovi always understood its appeal, and managed to continually appear on the charts with hit songs through the years. Even when the music went out of style, they managed to grow their fanbase---their most recent hit record has more of a new-country sound. On June 27 in Moncton you'll be sure to see a whole new group of fans who wouldn't be caught dead with Slippery When Wet in their collection, but definitely have their wheels on that Lost Highway. Also on the bill are Bachman-Cummings, State of Shock, Mobile and Alfa Rococo. (CK)


July 17-19

Music evolution is constant and the Evolve Festival keeps up with this change. Thousands of campers settle in for the weekend to hear a plethora of musical performances. This year's line-up includes: Xavier Rudd, Shout Out Out Out Out, Jon Lajoie, A/V, The Sleepless Nights, Caledonia, Rich Aucoin, The Ukeladies, Share, Ghost Bees and Cool Dad. But it's Toronto's own Valery Gore, looking forward to the isolation, outdoors and camping, who promises to inspire dancing and howling at the moon. "Indoors, the music feels contained and the crowd is sheltered by walls and ceilings," says Gore. "I think the crowd feels more freedom with the open sky above them." It may be her first time in Antigonish, but a good friend has given her the heads up on the highland heart of Nova Scotia. "She has already told me about the beautiful beaches and how her grandpa and I will get along." (SWC)

Stan Rogers Folk Festival

July 3-5

Celebrate 13 years of folk music and the legend of Stan Rogers at one of Nova Scotia's finest summer festivals. The weekend-long event features everything from gospel to jazz, rag, bluegrass, folk, country and swing. This year's lineup includes Juno award-winning songstress Sarah Harmer, Mr. American Pie himself, Don McLean, Bruce Guthro, Jimmy Rankin, Thom Swift, Amelia Curran, Christina Martin, Lynn Miles, Tom Fun Orchestra, bluegrass quartet Blue Horizon, Steven Bowers, The Divorcees, Po' Girl, Kim Dunn and more. Artistic director Troy Greencorn is thrilled for this year's StanFest. "When we started the festival I always dreamed that someday we would be able to present the songwriting legends of our generation. It's really come true," he says. With on-site camping and nearby green space, thousands of people soak in the sounds of six daytime stages and one evening stage that operates late into the night. (SWC)

Summer Rush

July 25 with Akon, Girlicious, Basshunter, Robin S, September, DJ No Luv, Supercrew, Karl Wolf

It's hard to deny the massive event that is the arrival of Chrystina, Nichole, Natalie and Tiffanie on the Dartmouth Waterfront. It's a reality show and it's a girl group---it's Girlicious, and it's what we've been waiting for all our lives. We'll be jumpin' like a Cadillac, yeah. Next to them, Akon, well, we know he wants to get with us, and we're so damn beautiful, but he's gonna have to work hard to make us forget all that Girlicious lovin'. Then there's Basshunter, bringing his Swedish beats to the table, and we can see how those partying on the Saturday night of Pride in Halifax might take the ferry over to Alderney and let Basshunter make 'em feel like they're down in Ibiza. (CK)


July 18

It's hard these days to separate theatrical rock act KISS from the reality show antics of guitarist/singer Gene Simmons and his OTT entrepreneurial spirit, hawking the KISS brand everywhere he goes and marketing Canadian music with Belinda Stronach. Given all that vulgar showbiz, it's might be hard to remember a time when KISS were dangerous, when folks wondered if the band's name was an acronym for "Knights In Satan's Service" and albums called Love Gun and Lick it Up highlighted their knack for single entendres. What has never been in any dispute are the spectacular live shows---captured on eight enormous, hard rockin' live albums---with the pyro, the spitting blood and the toothy boots, sustained over the years and changing line-ups. At the time of this writing, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley aren't in the band---though never say never with KISS. Expect Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, joining original members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, to rock and roll all night, and party...well, you know. Also on the bill are Thornley, The Trews, Econoline Crush and The Novaks. (CK)

HRM Free Summer Concert Series

Thursdays and Saturdays, July 4-September 5

If you're digging the idea of free summer concerts, but live far from the Public Gardens and can't make it to the Sunday shows there (or if you have other Sunday obligations, like working or buying socks), don't fret: check out the HRM Free Summer Concert Series instead. And hey: that "HRM" in the event's title isn't just there to look pretty. There are eight concerts in the series, and they're all taking place far from the Halifax downtown core---at the Bicentennial Theatre in Middle Musquodoboit (Joe Murphy & The Water Street Blues Band, July 4; The Bill Stevenson Band, August 22), the Black Cultural Centre in Dartmouth (Urban Showcase on July 11; Hot Gospel Concert on August 20), the Band Shell in the Sackville Heritage Park (Andrew Gillis & The Jump Blues All-Stars, July 16), the Sullivan's Pond Band Shell in Dartmouth (Mike Cowie's 010, July 9; Joe Murphy on August 13), and at the Musquodoboit Harbour Train Station (Gordon Tucker Band, September 5). Don't forget to wear those socks you spent Sunday buying---they're getting blown off. (LM)

Acoustic Maritime Music Festival

July 17-19

Outdoor music festivals remind songstress Coco Love Alcorn of her pre-teen summer camp days (circa Grade 8), but with better food and less social awkwardness. "I love how every festival is completely unique and full of surprises," she says.

"Everyone comes because the love music and people. And since there is an abundance of both, I almost always get a contact high from the electric buzz of positive vibes." As for 2009's edition of the Acoustic Maritime Music Festival line-up, campers can experience Ron Hynes, Valdy, Charlie A'Court, Ian Sherwood, Norma MacDonald, Christina Martin, The Hupman Brothers, Gary Cook and more. "I'm looking forward to collaborating with many music friends, old and new," says Love Alcorn. "I'll have my trumpet and Ian Sherwood will have his sax, so we'll be totally ready to throw down an impromptu horn section...if the other acts are brave enough to let us." (SWC)

Atlantic Jazz Festival

July 10-18

Bell Orchestre rings into Halifax with their latest album, As Seen Through Windows, for their first local show July 16. "Physically speaking, the title came from spending time in Banff, Alberta," says Richard Reed Parry, double bassist and producer. "In my mind it refers to a bunch of things. Watching, interior versus exterior experiences, perception and listening, the visual connection that can sometimes come into play in music with words, the process of recording itself and how it changes once its recorded. It's sorta conceptual but in a pretty open way." Bell Orchestre might be new to the city, but Parry's other project, Arcade Fire, blew minds years ago at the Halifax Pop Explosion. Other cats at this year's Jazz festival include: Kenny Garrett, Joe Louis Walker, Garrett Mason, John Abercrombie Quartet, Oliver Jones, Carlos Del Junco, Sisters Euclid, The Bad Plus, Hot Toddy Trio, Jayme Stone and saxophonist Joel Miller. (SWC)


July 27 - August 2

Don't be sad if you missed last year's SappyFest/OK.Quoi?!. This summer's lineup includes: Julie Doiron, Eric's Trip, Shotgun Jimmie, Chad Van Gaalen, Destroyer, Ladyhawk, Shapes and Sizes, Rock Plaza Central and Halifax's finest: Dog Day, Old Man Luedecke, Windom Earle and Bloodsport. What more could one ask for than over 60 bands and a zine/record/small press/craft fair? Ok.Quoi?! caps things off with an outdoor screening curated by Elisabeth Belliveau. "I can't wait to be there this summer," says Belliveau. "It seems like such a great way to check in with Sackville again." (SWC)

Canadian Forces Halifax Rockfest

August 2 with Chickenfoot, Our Lady Peace, Finger 11 and Sloan, Garrison Grounds, Citadel Hill

If you haven't heard, Chickenfoot is what they call a supergroup, featuring Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony, formerly of Van Halen, stunt guitarist Joe Satriani and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. The tunes certainly have that big party rock sound Hagar and Anthony rode during their days in Halen. Hagar is inevitably listed as a distant second among those who like to talk about their favourite vocalists in that classic rock act, but it's hard to deny that as a musical force, he's been much more vital than either David Lee Roth or the Van Halen brothers without him. He had a solo career before VH and has kept releasing albums since, refusing to become a nostalgia act, while Halen briefly chose a third singer and released a poorly received record, and Diamond Dave became a paramedic.

It'll be cool to see what this new act can deliver. (CK)

Lunenburg Folk harbour Fest

August 6-9

Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival draws visitors annually to the old town for a weekend of music and celebration. "I can't believe I know so many performers this year," says Mary Beth Carty, Bette & Wallet's singer and accordion player. "Smokin' Contra Band, New Tune Society, Swampward Orchestra, Sheesham & Lotus, Kev Corbett. What a line-up." Steve Dawson, Heather Kelday, Lennie Gallant, Kim Begs and The Marigolds also join in on all the seasonal fun.

As for Bette & Wallet, they've got some new songs and collaborative ideas, "with electronic artists and gospel choirs. Gabriel will play jigs and reels on electric guitar, and there will be songs in Scottish Gaelic, my grandmother's native tongue," on the horizon. But Carty knows little compares to sleeping outside, pickling beans, baking red currant pies and picnics, all of which are among her summer plans. (SWC)

Dutch Mason Blues Fest

August 7-9">The festival, named after the late, great Prime Minister of the Blues, keeps on going. Blues masters Buddy Guy and Bonnie Raitt headlined previous years, and though rumours of the appearance of a certain slow-handed British guitarist of note were unsubstantiated, if you love the blues, there are plenty to be found in Truro in summer 2009, along with the bikes (a motorcycle lifestyle show) and the barbecue (cook-offs and best-sauce competitions). This year, the musical line-up includes Canadian guitar shredder and big band leader Colin James, along with James Cotton and Jimmie Vaughan, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Doctor Hook, Rick Derringer, Downchild, Shemikia Copeland, TuTu Jones, Matt Minglewood, Garrett Mason and more. (CK)

Modest mouse

August 17

"I backed my car into a cop car the other day. Well he just drove off, sometimes life's OK." Life's especially OK when Modest Mouse comes to town.

One of the great success stories of American indie rock, the eclectic band from the Pacific Northwest with Isaac Brock, the cantankerous genius at its creative centre, is an unexpected and very welcome addition to the summer concert schedule, especially as this is the band's first appearance in Halifax. We have a lot of questions, though. Will Johnny Marr be invited back for the touring band this time out or will it be former Grandaddy guitarist Jim Fairchild? We've heard the songs "Satellite Skin" and "Guilty Cocker Spaniels"---which feature Marr---and we understand a new single "Autumn Beds"/"Whale Song" is due June 23, but is there a full album to follow? Many of important details are sketchy. What isn't sketchy in the slightest is where we'll be on August 17. (CK)


August 6

OK, so Halifax gets Paul McCartney and Moncton gets Bon Jovi. We win hands down on that one. But Halifax gets KISS and Moncton gets AC/DC? Damn. They might have the edge there. Since 1973, the Australian band has been the one act that almost everyone can agree on, the least pretentious, most reliable deliverers of rock and roll to straddle the planet with their leviathan success. Proud of the fact that their formula has rarely deviated, in 2008, they released Black Ice, a record that features three songs with "Rock 'n' Roll" in the title, along with tracks like "Big Jack," "War Machine," "Decibel" and "Rocking All the Way." But don't expect the show to lean heavily on this wildly successful new album. We saw them in 1987 and again in 2000, and in 14 years the setlist varied on only a handful of songs. No one will go home not having heard "Highway to Hell," "Back in Black," "Thunderstruck" or "You Shook Me All Night Long." (CK)

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