BY LISA JONES TOWNSEL
What a fine time to have music on your mind. Look for great sounds to reverberate throughout the area as dozens of fairs and festivals get under way. Youll want to plan vacations and sick days around this seasons calendar thats chock-full of homebred, indie and top-billed artists ready to knock your socks off with their brand of country and jazz, Celtic and soul, blues and rock and more. So, take a moment to browse a sampling of the musical acts that are coming to ignite a stage near you. (Dates and times may change without notice.)
JAZZ IN THE PARK
June 7-Sept. 6
Itll be hard to sit still while listening to the upbeat and funky sounds of neo-soul vocalist JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound (June 14); the group is one of the headliners for the Jazz in the Park outdoor music series. This marks the 21st annual celebration of the festival that takes place in Cathedral Square Park on Thursdays. Later, be mesmerized by New Orleans Suspects (Aug. 4), among others. The event is free.
PHOTO BY ROPER
Its the 25th anniversary of the festival that celebrates LGBT culture and community. Among the artists coming in to trump up the fun are classic pop star Belinda Carlisle (June 8), best known as lead singer for the super-fabulous 80s Go-Gos girl band, and American pop singer-songwriter Taylor Dayne (June 9). General admission tickets, $15, include all entertainment and shows.
June 13-Aug. 29
The full-bodied tribal sounds of Australian Celtic trio Brother will again woo the crowd at this annual festival with its lively rhythms. River Rhythms, one of the few area festivals that allows guests to bring their own food and drink, will also keep music lovers enamored with acts that feature lounge, pop, Latin, folk, rock and soul sounds. The event is free.
June 15-Aug. 24
Theres a little something for everyone at Summer Sounds, which takes place at Cedar Creek Park in Cedarburg on Fridays. Celebrating its first decade, the musical party gets under way with upbeat rocker Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers (June 15) and continues with various bands bringing signature sounds ranging from pop and reggae to disco, blues and country. The event is free.
SHARON LYNNE WILSON CENTER FOR THE ARTS
June 22-July 27
Snuggle under the stars with your honey as the Wilsons Center annual Starry Nights outdoor concert series commences each Friday at the Gerlach Outdoor Theater. Nestled in your lawn chairs and blankets, youre bound to be warmed by the magical sounds of The Florentine Opera, combined with the Starry Night Orchestra (June 22), the Milwaukee-based Celtic ensemble of Leahys Luck (June 29) and the straight-forward melodies of singer-songwriter Carey Ott (July 6), whose work has been featured on Greys Anatomy. The event is free.
Thirty years ago, Bastille Days started as a way to promote the downtown business district. Now, the French-themed celebration, which includes an international marketplace, food and wine tastings, workshops and parades, is one of the largest in the nation. This year, it continues to keep the crowds a-rocking with the rousing sounds of such groups like New Orleans funk band Big Sams Funky Nation (July 14), the soulful Revelations featuring Tre Williams (July 12), and Milwaukee-bred blues-soul-rock band Herman Astro (July 15) and singer Robin Pluer (July 15). The event is free.
GATHERING ON THE GREEN PERFORMING ARTS FESTIVAL
Prepare to be dazzled by the retro sounds of festival headliner Under the Streetlamp (July 13), the original Chicago cast members of the Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys. The arts festival will also include Music in the Movies festivities (July 14), where festival-goers can take in live performances by the Florentine Opera, Danceworks Performing Company and the Gathering on the Green Orchestra. Fun kid activities and fireworks will round out the event. Single tickets, $45 reserved; $20 lawn; children 12 and under, free lawn admission.
PAUL NATKIN PHOTOGRAPAPHY
WAUKESHA COUNTY FAIR
The 170th Waukesha County Fair on the Waukesha Expo Grounds promises much in terms of food, farm (yes, there will be dairy workshops and a poultry clinic) and fun. It is the oldest county fair in Wisconsin and the largest event in Waukesha County. And, music will be a definite highlight thanks to rock n roll headliners like My Darkest Days (8 p.m. July 19), the multiplatinum uber-rock band Foreigner (8 p.m. July 20) and Cinderella (8 p.m. July 21). Country crooner Craig Morgan (6 p.m. July 22) will round out the schedule. Main stage shows are free with paid admission to the fair.
WISCONSIN STATE FAIR
Delicious food, fun games and play areas and rad entertainment have come to characterize the Wisconsin State Fair. This years 11-day event marks the 161st year of the fair that will feature the energetic, three-time Country Music Award winner The Band Perry (7:30 p.m. Aug. 6), alternative rockers Neon Trees (8 p.m. Aug, 4), and the Last Summer On Earth Tour 2012 featuring Barenaked Ladies, Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd and the Monsters and Cracker (7 p.m. Aug. 10), among others. Main stage tickets include fair admission.
SUMMER SIZZLE HISTORIC THIRD WARD JAZZ FESTIVAL
It may be for one day, but Summer Sizzle will feature more than a dozen local and regional acts on four stages over the course of 12 hours. The smooth deliberateness of jazz saxophonist Steve Cole (9-11 p.m.) will headline the neighborhood jazz event. Others sure to please include the internationally tinged Vivo Rio (1:30-3:30 p.m.) that bounces from jazz pop to bossa samba with the help of local sax favorite Warren Wiegratz, and the Mississippi and world blues ensemble, Keith Scott World Blues Band (4-6 p.m.). The event is free.
PHOTO BY RAJ NAIK
The sixth annual Waukesha BluesFest will showcase 14 acts during a two-day period. In fact, music will run from 1 to 10:30 p.m. daily. Headliners include guitarist and singer Coco Montoya (Aug. 10), who though left-handed is known for his upside-down, right-handed playing style. Also there will be JJ Grey & Mofro (Aug. 11) sharing his intimate singing style and raw talents on the keyboard and harmonica. At-the-gate prices are $20 for a single day and $35 for a two-day pass, which includes parking and taxes.