The heat and clogged highways along the Grand Strand mean that summer is here, even if it hasn't quite officially arrived according to the calendar.
But we don't need calendars when it comes to one of the most important parts of summer, at least for music lovers.
Summer means concerts.
Many people consider it a time-honored tradition to hop in the car and take a road trip to see summer perennials such as Jimmy Buffett, Dave Matthews Band or the Allman Brothers. You can travel to check out this year's tours by country darling Taylor Swift and professional oddball Lady Gaga (this year's question: does she come out on stage in an egg? Will she wear the bubble dress?)
You don't need to break the bank for gas money, however, because there's plenty of good music going on right around here, even if the Strand's summer calendar isn't quite as diverse as it has been in recent years.
Some concert venues are just plain gone. The Beachwagon, of course, is no more. It's now a Dollar General.
There are no concerts at what used to be the Hard Rock/Freestyle Music Park, and the only things apparently stirring at the Carolina Entertainment Complex way up U.S. 501 in Marion right now are clouds of dust.
We at Surge, however, have found plenty of variety to keep music lovers happy this summer.
Nigel Tufnel of legendary rock band Spinal Tap was proud of his amplifier because, as he said, "this one goes to 11," and for the summer of '11 we've selected 11 of the best shows on tap. They run the gamut from hip-hop to hardcore punk to country-rock, outlaw country, '80s rock and Israeli trance-rock. (Yes, you read that right).
For good measure, this year's summer concert picks includes a show in October, because we all know the summer vibe along the Strand doesn't end in August.
Where: Club Kryptonite at The Afterdeck
When: 10 p.m. Wednesday
How much: $20 advance, $30 at door.
Why you should go: This California duo featuring Earl "Ben J" Benjamin and Dominic "Legacy" Thomas is known for fun, club-ready music that veers from rapid-fire hip-hop to rap-influenced dance pop. Their first single "You're a Jerk" in 2009 came out of the West Coast "jerkin" dance subculture. They collaborated with Chris Brown on the latest single "Better With The Lights Off" from the new album "Too Cool To Care" and with The Cataracs and Dev on another new single, the rock-tinged "Backseat." Expect to hear other hits as well, such as "Tie Me Down."
Where: House of Blues
When: 9 p.m. June 17
How much: $20-$52.50
Why you should go: This band's name alone is reason to check 'em out, but you'll be even more intrigued once you hear this description: Israeli psychedelic trance/electronica. Yep, you read it right. Before relocating to California, Infected Mushroom's members hailed from Haifa in Israel. Since the late '90s, founding members Erez "I.Zen" Eisen and Amit "Duvdev" Duvdevani have combined with other musicians to release increasingly intricate and creative electronic music. They've sampled everything from metal to Middle Eastern music, and 2009's "Legend of the Black Shawarma" included a mind-bending reworking of The Doors' "Riders on the Storm."
Antiseen (with The Mizfits and Grave Intensions)
Where: Island Bar and Grill
When: 10 p.m. June 24
How much: $5
Why you should go: If you like your punk rock straight, with no chaser and no pop influences, thank you, look no further than Antiseen, the Charlotte, N.C. band that has been touring and making what it likes to call "destructo rock" together since 1983. Antiseen is known for action-packed, wide-open live shows and songs that can run the gamut from anti-P.C. commentaries to tributes to pro wrestlers. The Mizfits are a Grand Strand-based Misfits tribute band, and Grave Intensions, a so-called "dark punk" band whose members describe their music as "somewhere between the Misfits and Christian Death."
The Blue Dogs
Where: Dead Dog Saloon
When: 8 p.m. July 1
How much: Free
Why you should go: For more than 20 years, this Charleston-based quartet has been making some of South Carolina's most original, multi-faceted music. It's hard to pin a label on The Blue Dogs' sound, because it combines Americana, country-rock, bluegrass, roots and pop influences into something that is truly a trademark. A live show might even include African percussion instruments thrown in for good measure. Lead vocalist Bobby Houck and crew are homegrown Carolina artists who weave deft storytelling into originals such as "Walter" and "Half of My Mistakes," have flown under the radar at times but never cease to satisfy when it comes to live shows.
The Psychedelic Furs
Where: House of Blues
When: 7 p.m. July 11
How much: $16.50-$53
Why you should go: Anybody feeling nostalgic for '80s music should bypass hair-metal and synth-pop and instead check out these guys, whose post-punk music was some of the best of the decade. Founding members/brothers Richard Butler and Tim Butler are still with the band, and on this summer's tour, they're playing the album "Talk Talk Talk" in its entirety, which includes, of course, perhaps the best known Furs song of all time, "Pretty in Pink."
Where: The Alabama Theatre
When: 7 p.m. July 15
How much: $54.70 rows 1-12, $45.60 rows 13-28, balcony seats $39.20
Why you should go: In an era when plenty of music consists of one-hit wonders, digital download trends and temporary Youtube sensations, LeAnn Rimes is an artist with staying power. It was obvious she had monster talent when she debuted in the late '90s as a teenager and won a Grammy for Best New Artist, and her soaring voice and a survivor's grit have kept her on the pop and country charts since then. Expect to hear everything from early hits such as "One Way Ticket (Because I Can) and "How Do I Live" to new material from her upcoming album, "Lady and Gentlemen," which includes covers of vintage country hits including John Anderson's "Swingin."
Where: House of Blues
When: 8 p.m. July 15
How much: $28-$68.50
Why you should go: The world can never have too many country singers who know how to sing about hard work, heartbreak and honky tonks and sound like they mean it, and Alabama's Jamey Johnson fits the bill. His looks, voice and lyrics are all straight country - none of the pop cowboy stuff that's out there too frequently now. Expect to hear hit singles such as "The Dollar, "In Color" and "High Cost of Living," and plenty more of Johnson's original songs that evoke smoky barrooms, lonely rooms and wide open spaces. Want to know how truly versatile this guy is? He's also the one who penned "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" for Trace Adkins.
Where: House of Blues
When: 8:30 p.m. July 18
How much: $35-$82.50
Why you should go: Here's proof positive that Pittsburgh produces more than winning football teams, Iron City beer, and a good bit of the tourist and transplant population of Myrtle Beach. Pittsburgh-based rapper Wiz Khalifa was all over the airwaves this past year with his more-than-catchy No. 1. single "Black and Yellow" from his latest Atlantic release, "Rolling Papers," which also features follow-up single "Roll Up." Khalifa's lyrics are skillful and fun if not complicated - he raps about women, success, money, and a fondness for the green stuff that goes in those aforementioned rolling papers. His sound combines R&B elements with old-school and more up to date hip-hop influences. If there is such a thing as "The Pittsburgh Sound" emerging in the hip-hop world, Khalifa is the pioneer.
New Riders of the Purple Sage (during Jerryfest)
Where: Boathouse Waterway Bar and Grill
When: 3 p.m. until 1 a.m. July 31
How much: Free
Why you should go: If you care in any way about country-rock music, the Grateful Dead, or simply the sound of a pedal steel guitar, this is the band you need to hear. Originally formed in 1969 in California, the New Riders started as an offshoot of the Grateful Dead, with Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart as original members. That trio eventually left to play with the Dead full time, but the New Riders have continued on touring and recording to this day. Expect to hear the guys that bill themselves as "America's premiere psychedelic cowboy band" play everything from their best known single, "Panama Red," to tracks from the most recent release, 2009's "Where I Come From." They'll be appearing with Firewheel and Poor No More.
Where: Alabama Theatre
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 15
How much: $44.65-$56.50
Why you should go: Because if you care about country or just good music at all, you can't miss a show by one of the original outlaw country artists. Haggard is about as pure country as you can get. He first became known for his anti-hippie hit "Okie from Muskogee," but he's into his fifth decade of recording and touring because his songwriting and guitar skills have outlasted time and trends.
Steve Young and Jubal Lee Young
Where: South by Southeast Music Feast at Myrtle Beach Train Depot
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 1
How much: $20 for concert series members, $25 non-members.
Why you should go: Yes, this show is in October, but we list it here for two reasons 1) this gives you plenty of time to plan for it and 2) everybody knows summer along the Grand Strand doesn't end just because the calendar says it does. Oct. 1 is still bathing suit and beach-sitting weather around here, and that's why this show is included. South by Southeast is the must-go place for anybody who cares about original, hard-to-find music on the Strand, and the organization fills the bill once again with this father-son gig. Steve Young, not the former San Francisco 49ers QB, is one of the pioneers of the movement that spawned what has come to be known as the California country-rock sound (hint: the Eagles) and he wrote the classic "Seven Bridges Road" covered most famously by the aforementioned Henley/Frey clan. Jubal Lee Young is his son, an incredible musician and songwriter in his own right. These two together onstage, for one show, are an Americana-lovers' dream come true. Not to be missed.