Sure, you can expend time, energy and gas money by traveling hours from the Grand Strand to be a lemming at Corporate Sponsorship Arena or Faux Cool Frat Fest at McCookie Cutter Amphitheater.
But why go anywhere when we’ve got quality concerts right here at home throughout the summer - and in some instances right in our backyards, and some of them for zero bones?
Exhibit A: To see Melvin Seals and JGB at Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz, Calif. on Friday, it would cost you $20 for tickets. But in August, you can experience Seals and JGB at JerryFest at the Boathouse for free. And you don’t have to go all the way to the Left Coast. Sounds like a deal to us.
If you’re a music lover, summer and concerts go hand-in-hand, as you gather with friends, groove to vibes, perhaps relive the glory days, and forget about your troubles for awhile. That’s what an excellent concert can do - provide an escape from the daily grind.
And the summer is the bread-and-butter for the concert industry as well, as old warhorses trot out reunion tours, hot acts get prime time exposure at the cool festivals du jour, and up-and-comers work the circuit playing neighborhood pubs and intimate theaters.
OK, so here at our little tourist outpost by the sea, we don’t get those mega-tours that flood those behemoth venues in nearby cities and states, but that’s a good thing, because you have the chance to see some talented artists and acts in a more up-close-and personal setting - and isn’t that what it’s really all about - performers connecting with the audience?
So our crack crew of writers sifted through all of the gigs coming through the Grand Strand this summer to hand-pick a dozen we think are sure-fire winners, separating the wheat from the chaff so you don’t have to.
Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 20, but we don’t care about no stinkin’ calendars, our summer concert preview kicks off with a show on Sunday - how’s that for timeliness?
Enough babbling already, here is the fifth annual Surge Must-See Summer Concert Preview.
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus hails from small-town Florida. The background of TRJA is similar to almost every other band around, playing the home town crowd, eventually wanting more, playing the record company showcases, and eventually landing a deal and producing a hit record. Familiar tunes are "Face Down" from the 2006 album “Don’t You Fake It” and "You Better Pray," from the 2007 album “Lonely Road.”
After being freed from the clutches of a major label deal, the guys in TRJA took it upon themselves to produce their 2010 album, “The Hell or High Water.” Led by original members, singer, Ronnie Winter and guitarist, Duke Kitchens, the band took to the virtual streets and employed the power of social media to market the album. With the help of their fans, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus has stood the test of time, which is a testament that good old fashioned word of mouth still works in today’s corporate-run America.
At the show, expect to see a band that loves its fans and delivers rock ’n’ roll with heart and a little scream-o thrown in for good measure. I saw The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus live at House of Blues a few years back - they were sandwiched between The Plain White T’s and Buckcherry. TRJA came on stage and I had only heard “Face Down” and wasn’t expecting much, to be honest, but when baby-faced singer Winter let out his first primal growl, I was hooked. If you decide to go to the show - pay attention, these guys have that great combination of melody and power - exactly what you go to see at a rock show.
The Jason Connelly Band
The band formed in August 2010 when Hirsch moved from Columbus, Ga. to Atlanta to start the project with Connelly. Since then they’ve become a live music fixture on the Atlanta scene and are gathering an increasingly devoted following around the Southeast.
Both are extremely gifted musicians and songwriters who craft indelible lyrics that add new dimensions to otherwise everyday subjects such as relationships, hard economic times and just trying to figure out the meaning of life. On “Dirty Liar,” for instance, Connelly’s voice, by turns angry and plaintive, turns those two simple words into a painful accusation dripping with both sarcasm and sadness. “Father Father” is a moving tune that will resonate with anybody who’s ever been homesick, disillusioned and missing their folks, while “Daddy’s Little Princess” shows these guys can also turn on the down-and-dirty blues side at will.
What ties it all together is the sheer strength and multilayered nature of their music, which crosses effortlessly from Americana to rock, pop, blues and R&B, with the occasional hint of folk and country thrown in for good measure. Few acts performing around the region right now can evoke as many different motions and styles using only guitars and drums.
Connelly’s powerful solo work has recently been featured on a solo acoustic CD “Homemade Wine” available for sale at live shows. The band has also released “Leave Your Hat at the Door” and “Songs from Inside the Attic.”
Gov’t Mule with Dr. John
But that is just the start of why you should go. As if you need more motivation – one of the world’s greatest guitarists returns to the beach. Warren Haynes, Gov’t Mule’s leader and a master of blues and boogie, is a veteran of the House of Blues stage. He always brings a bristling energy as the Mule chugs through marathon sets.
In the ‘80s, Haynes was a member of The David Allan Coe Band before joining up with The Dickey Betts Band, which led to a stint with The Allman Brothers Band’s reunion back in the ‘90s. From this deep pool of talent, Haynes recruited a rhythm section and created a blues and funk goliath of his own.
Since then Gov’t Mule, which is popular on the jam band circuit, has produced a string of studio and live albums that define current blues – from hard-driving propulsive blues to the sweet soul of rhythm and blues on Haynes’ most recent album, “Man in Motion.” A Gov’t Mule show provides a workman, old-school attitude but delivered with a loose, funky feel that is timeless.
Vince Gill and The Time Jumpers
The Ohio-born singer and instrumentalist cut his chops on bluegrass music in the 1970s, his high lonesome tenor voice and quick picking fingers a perfect accompaniment to the genre. Though better known for a string of commercial country hits from the early `80s through the 2000s, Gill will perform at The Alabama Theatre with his bluegrass band, The Time Jumpers. North Myrtle Beach is one of only 12 cities (at press time) to score a Time Jumpers show. That may change after the band releases a studio album this fall.
In 1980 Gill scored his first hit as lead vocalist for ‘70s country rock band Pure Prairie League, “Let Me Love You Tonight” although he was not in the band when it scored the more recognizable hit “Amie.” Gill left Pure Prairie League in the early `80s and his solo career skyrocketed. Some 30 years later Gill’s trophy case is jam packed – 26 million albums sold, 18 Country Music Association awards, 20 Grammy Awards, and plenty of accolades including induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007. His reputation as a humanitarian, family man (he married Amy Grant in 2000), and all around good guy, has helped secure Gill’s place in the hearts of fans around the world.
Fans expecting to hear only Gill’s greatest hits may be disappointed with The Time Jumpers, but real fans, and fans of good music in general, should expect one of the best acoustic-based concerts of the year led by one of the biggest names in modern music history.
The Cult with Against Me!
Although iconic singer Ian Astbury probably won’t be sharing eyeliner with Grace, British rockers The Cult has been known for their mix-mash of makeup heavy glam rock, metal, and ‘80s alternative. Mixing dark themes of sex and drugs with riff-heavy guitars, The Cult has been a thriving force since 1983. Astbury and original guitarist Billy Duffy are currently touring on their newest album, “Choice of Weapon”, which was released May 22 and represents a return to form.
Against Me!, from Naples Fla., is an aggressive, political punk rock band, and is mostly noted for the song “Thrash Unreal.” Although currently fronted by a transgender, the sound is by no means feminine, or even androgynous, and the band will they definitely throw a high-energy performance.
Opening the show will be The Icarus Line, a hard rock/alternative band from Los Angeles.
And who could forget his guest appearance on Usher’s ubiquitous 2004 Smash “Yeah!”?
Whether he’s rapping or deejaying, Jon knows how to get the crowd bumping with bass-heavy beats, electronic flourishes and catch-phrases. According to billing, this June 21 show at The Afterdeck will feature Lil Jon in a “very special DJ performance.”
Bonus: With a pool on-site at the open-air Afterdeck, there’s sure to be plenty of eye candy on display to add visuals to the music.
“While some of their songs border on sexism and homophobia, they are simply too goofy and good-natured to mean any harm with their left-back-four-grades, dumb-ass shtick,” reads an excerpt from The Queer’s biography at www.allmusic.com.
The three-piece band has seen many personnel shifts since forming in 1982, with lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Joe Queer (Joe King) as the lone constant.
Musically, The Queers specialize in quick, fast two-minute poppy punk songs along the lines of The Ramones.
The band’s breakthrough was the 1993 politically incorrect “Love Songs for the Retarded” album issued by Lookout! Records.
Bonus: A triumvirate of local punk-influenced acts Bamboo Forest, Grave Intentions and the reunited Beatholes will warm up the crowd before The Queers take the stage (11:30 p.m.).
Bonus, part two: The Queers have been known to perform a punked-up version of The Who’s “The Kids Are Alright.”
Kent Kimes, Editor
The Mississippi-born songwriter-turned-performer first came to the attention of the Nashville elite after co-writing “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” which became a huge hit in 2005/2006 for Trace Adkins. The 36-year-old Houser then embarked on a performance career and is finding his way through the muck and mire of the music business, with a pure country voice and rock ‘n’ roll instrumentation backing him. Houser is a part of the Jagermeister Presents tour, which kicked off a 16-city headlining journey April 26 in support of his new Stoney Creek Records single release.
Interestingly, Houser, known as a songwriter, did not write or co-write his new single. In an interview with www.theboot.com, he talks about great songs wherever they may come from. “I didn’t even know who wrote [“How Country Feels”] when I heard it,” said Houser. “I was like Bam! I’ve got to have that.” Lyrically the single offers an interesting take on usual country fare, in that it attempts to relate to the millions of country music fans who’ve “never been four wheelin’,” “watched the sunrise from the bed of a pickup truck,” and “ain’t never heard a rooster crow” – but who’d like to. The catchy chorus invites the city gal to “let your hair down, getcha some of this laid on back, kick your shoes off, I’ll take you up and down these hollers and hills, let me show you how country feels.”
Ledisi with Eric Benet
Starting with 2000’s “Soulsinger: The Revival” and the award-winning jazz exploration “Feeling Orange But Sometimes Blue,” she has emerged as one of the most original and hard-to-define artists on the R&B scene.
Ledisi’s vocal style is hard to pin down but never boring, mixing elements of jazz, gospel, old school soul, rhythm and blues and pop into a sound that’s timeless and yet completely modern. 2011’s “Pieces of Me,” was a triple Grammy nominee (Best R&B album, performance and song). The title song is a classic example of Ledisi’s music: thoughtful, affirming lyrics about the complicated decisions women face, layered over smooth-as-butter soul grooves. She’s a master at everything from romantic ballads to upbeat, pop-soul songs like “Shut Up.”
Most people might know Benet better as Halle Berry’s ex, but he’s also an extremely talented soul and R&B singer who is simply great at the kind of classic slow jams heard rarely these days as more and more artists slide irrevocably into auto-tune Hades. He’ll also likely perform the extremely fun throwback soul/funk single “Red Bone Girl,” which he recorded as a duet with rapper L’il Wayne. Christina Knauss, for Weekly Surge
Jerryfest featuring Melvin Seals and JGB
This edition of Jerryfest is a part of The Boathouse’s “Sunday Funday Outdoor Summer Concert Series” and features Melvin Seals and JGB. Formerly known as The Jerry Garcia Band, Melvin Seals played organ and keyboards in Garcia’s band from 1980 until his death in 1995. Seals has propelled the band forward in the spirit of Garcia. Surrounding himself with jam-band alumni, Seals guides the music from his captain’s seat, behind his Hammond B-3 organ. The music bounces along waves of blues, jazz, funk, country and rock – a meaningful meandering of musical styles. JGB keeps the essence of Jerry floating around a party atmosphere, braving the currents of chord progressions and improvisation that could take them wherever the collective consciousness may lead.
No need to stand out front looking for an extra ticket because it’s free – Yes, a free day full day of smiles and swirling sundresses. The smell of patchouli will permeate the salt air.
Steamboat Springs Band
After years on the road the southern rock jam-fusion band eventually called it quits, but reunited in 2010 in the memory of an old friend, local record shop owner Jeff Roberts, dubbed Myrtle Beach’s “Minister of Music” who passed away in January of that year. After the highly successful 2010 reunion at 2001 Nightclub in Myrtle Beach, the band has decided to come back for another round of magic. “This band was Jeff ‘s favorite band, ever,” said local musician Sam Hannaford. “The guys had so much fun at the reunion, they decided to do it again.”
Local music education and concert non-profit organization South By Southeast will produce this 2012 reunion show billed as “Jeffest” at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot. Very limited seating (180 – 200) requires advance registration via an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets not purchased and redeemed by 7:15 p.m. the evening of the show may be sold to others, as the show is likely to sell out.