A Brief Tour of Summer Music Festivals The summer of 2005 may not go down in history as another Summer of Love, but Woodstock's legacy includes a summertime routine of music festivals across the country. Weekend Edition Sunday music director Ned Wharton lists some of the best bets.

A Brief Tour of Summer Music Festivals

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Unidentified Man: Hey, if we think really hard, maybe we can stop this rain!

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Man: No rain! No rain! No rain!


Thirty-five years ago half a million music fans gathered at a farm in upstate New York. It was muddy, rainy, cold, but Wavy Gravy helped the crowd make the best of it.

WAVY GRAVY: What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000.

(Soundbite of applause)

HANSEN: Woodstock instantly became a defining experience among music lovers. While 2005 may not go down in history as another summer of love, part of Woodstock's legacy includes a summertime routine of a wide variety of music festivals across the country. WEEKEND EDITION Sunday's music director Ned Wharton looks forward to the season's fun.

NED WHARTON reporting:

It's hard to say who holds the torch these days for the Woodstock legacy, but Bonnaroo is a good bet. Since 2002, a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee, has hosted bands that throb with energy and extended groves born in the music of the '60s. The party gets under way this Friday, and over the weekend dozens of bands will rock, including The Grateful Dead's Bob Weir, Trey Anastasio from Phish and relative newcomers, such as the Kings of Leon.

(Soundbite of music)

KINGS OF LEON: (Singing) The nights are long. You're coming out to play, yeah. ...(Unintelligible).

WHARTON: Urbanites can appreciate the chance to get away to far-flung fests out in the countryside. But if you're stuck in the city, take heart that the big cities can really come alive with spectacular summer shows of their own.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Singer: So, everybody, put your best suit or dress on. Let's make believe that we are wealthy for just this once.

WHARTON: In New York City, Central Park's SummerStage has a truly hip lineup this year with groups including Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists and Modest Mouse. Best of all, aside from a few benefit concerts, many of the shows are free. Also in New York, the River to River Festival runs through September with free shows, including this throwback to the Woodstock era: Arlo Guthrie, as part of the 40th anniversary Massacre Tour, plays his magnum opus "Alice's Restaurant." And Richard Thompson, who's been a folk-rock hero almost as long as Arlo, plays later this month at the World Financial Center. He'll no doubt play classics including 1952 "Vincent Black Lightning" and, with any luck, some new tunes from his upcoming CD, "Front Parlor Ballads."

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ARLO GUTHRIE: (Singing) When the bride's veil lifted, his mind's adrift. At least that's what had happened before. Let it blow. Let it snow. Let the mercury bubble and dive. Life's little traumas and courtroom dramas remind me I'm glad I'm alive.

WHARTON: For jazz fans in New York City, there's the classy JVC Jazz Festival, and this year's performers have a gorgeous new venue to play in, the Rose Theatre at Lincoln Center. Oh, yeah, there's Carnegie Hall and the Beacon Theatre, too.

The music begins next week, and highlights include a 90th birthday celebration for guitar innovator Les Paul and tributes to singer Rosemary Clooney and bass player Jaco Pastorius. Another jazz tribute takes place late this summer across the country at the Monterey Jazz Festival when John Scofield pays homage to the late, great Ray Charles. Mavis Staples will share the stage with Scofield. They also play together on Scofield's new CD, "That's What I Say."

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JOHN SCOFIELD: (Singing) Tell your mom, tell your pop I'm going to send you back to Arkansas, hey, hey, if you don't do right, if you don't do right, yeah.

WHARTON: One of the great pleasures of the summer music festival is the chance to see great music in some beautiful settings. For the past 32 years bluegrass fans have had it good at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival nestled in a valley surrounded by the snow-peaked San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Starting next week there'll be some fine picking and fiddling and singing echoing through that valley. The lineup this summer includes Leo Kottke, Earl Scruggs and Alison Krauss and Union Station.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. ALISON KRAUSS: (Singing) Don't choose me because I am faithful. Don't choose me because I am kind. If your heart settles on me, I'm for the taking. Take me for longing or leave me behind.

(Soundbite of applause)

WHARTON: A couple hundred miles northeast of Telluride, Aspen has been a mecca for classical music fans and students for over half a century.

(Soundbite of music)

WHARTON: Scottish percussion superstar Evelyn Glennie will be at Aspen next month, and audiences can hear her play a world premiere by American composer Steven Stuckey. Violinist Joshua Bell, the Kronos and Takash(ph) quartets and conductor Marin Alsop are just a few of the big names there.

Farther west at the Ojai Music Festival, just north of Los Angeles, there's been a bit of a crisis this year. Music director Oliver Knussen underwent abdominal surgery and had to cancel his plans to conduct an ambitious program at Ohi. Knussen's shoes are big to fill, so there are two conductors stepping in--one for each shoe, I guess: Los Angeles master choral director Grant Gersham and conductor-composer Brad Lubman. On the docket are world premieres by John Adams, Steve Reich and Bobby McFerrin as well as works by Lukas Foss and Igor Stravinsky.

(Soundbite of music)

WHARTON: Stravinsky was once a guest conductor at Ohi, and this is a 1961 recording of the composer conducting his movements for piano and orchestra with Charles Rosen at the keyboard. This year Peter Serkin will perform the work at Ojai.

(Soundbite of music)

WHARTON: Finally, it's been a quarter century of chamber music by the lake at Skaneateles in New York and a longtime summer home for violinist Hilary Hahn. She's been attending practically every summer since she made her debut there at age 12, and this year she plays music by Ravel, Sibelius and Dvorak.

From Tennessee to Telluride, from Manhattan to Monterey, you might have to slather on the sunblock and maybe a little bug spray, but it's a great time of year to go out and hear some great music.

HANSEN: Ned Wharton is WEEKEND EDITION Sunday's music director. There are links and lists of more summer music festivals on our Web site, npr.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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