When you think about summer, what comes to mind first? The beach, barbeques with your friends and family, long afternoons lounging by the pool, maybe even a summer vacation. For me, there’s a little something else that summer brings to mind; music. For as long as I can remember the summer months meant freedom to pack up a small bag of my belongings, hop in a car, and take a roadtrip to a destination that ended entirely in some kind of show. From following the Backstreet Boys through three different states (California, Arizona, Nevada) when I was barely twenty to driving out to Louisville, Kentucky to see my first ever Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood concert while I lived in Nashville or even the endless summer music festivals I’ve attended all across the country… Music has always been what summer was about. It is the essence of summer.
Just this month, when the first hot days of the year turned up early, I found myself yearning for those hot summer nights surrounded by friends. It made me think about the year to come, wonder what the best moments of this summer would be, and got me ridiculous excited to kick off the music. This year it gets started in Las Vegas, where we’re going to help kickoff ACM Award weekend with the dynamic Party for a Cause celebration at the LINQ. The two day festival includes a long list of my long time favorites and rising stars that I can’t get enough of, including; Keith Urban, Rascall Flatts, Charlie Worsham, Brett Eledredge, Kip Moore (y’all know how I feel about him), and so many more talented movers and shakers in the country genre (you can find that list here or head to vegas.com). There’s nothing like three days in sin city to celebrate the talent that often stays centered in Nashville, it gives us West Coast dwellers a chance to experience just a hint of what it’s like to walk down the streets of Broadway and run into an amazing country act, pop open a beer and sway to the music. While Vegas is no Nashville, it definitely comes close during ACM weekend.
The ACM Awards are only the beginning of the summer music celebration here on the West Coast. While I don’t usually venture out to Coachella, so many of my counterparts will be hitting the desert weeks before I do to take in three days and nights of music ranging from rock to pop to electronica. It’s something of a right of passage here in California, it’s more uncommon to meet someone who hasn’t gone to Coachella than it is to meet people who don’t drive. It’s talked about as this crazy euphoric, awe-inspiring experience, even when people steadfastly complain about the line-up right up until they’re tweeting from the side of the stage.
My chance to geek out always comes the last weekend of April when Stagecoach rolls into Indio. Gone are the hipsters and fashionistas, replaced instead by women in cut off shorts and cowboy boots and shirtless men in jeans. Indio Polo field is littered with American flag apparel as songs about a more simplistic life reverberate through the speakers. It’s my time. I live for it. I buy tickets in October and count down the minutes to the first festival of the year with yearning that knows no bounds. This year the big stars are Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, and the ever controversial Eric Church. But, as it it with Coachella, there’s so much chance for discovery that you get more excited about who you might stumble across rather than the larger names. That is, if you’re really there to take in the music. With bands like Shovels & Rope and Spirit Family Reunion and rising artists like Ashley Monroe and Charlie Worsham taking the side stages; what is there not to love?
Needless to say, April in California is the beginning of several music infused months beneath the stars. The Hollywood Bowl opens again, people like Tim McGraw and Keith Urban will make their way to the Verizon Wirless Amphitheater in Irvine, Brad Paisley will once again venture out west, and even indoor venues like The Greek will host Jake Owen and Dierks Bentley. It’s impossible to complain too much about the heat when your calendar starts filling up with shows. The possibilities are truly endless.
I always take a step back as summer rolls around and wonder how I can ever out-do the last. Sure, last year we went to CMA Fest, I flew to Portland to see John Mayer, all that on top of ACM and Stagecoach weekends. But there’s something still electric about it each and every year, about being able to live in the moment, about being lost in the music again. There’s no doubt that I’ll walk away feeling like it was better than it has ever been. And you know what, I hope you do too.
Summer is about freedom. It always has been, and no matter how old you get, it always will be. Grab that freedom, catch it in your hands, travel and see the world (or your country or even just your state). But more than anything, allow music to be apart of it. No matter what you do, there’s nothing quite as powerful as sharing a truly beautiful musical experience with you and your best friends.
Hit the pavement, people. It’s all happening.
What are you doing this summer? Let us know by dropping a comment below or tweeting us @JukeboxMixtape.