2012 Guide to Philadelphia Summer Concert Season

From the Roots Picnic 2012 to Madonna and Jay-Z, your 30 best music bets.

Summer concert season is here, and this year, we’ve got everything from The Roots Picnic 2012 on the waterfront and Jay-Z’s Made In America festival featuring Pearl Jam on the Parkway, to Roger Waters and Bruce Springsteen in a stadium, to Metallica and Phish in a big airfield. Here, ordered by date, the 30 shows that make this Philadelphia’s best summer concert season ever. (And no, Justin Bieber didn’t make the cut.)

The Roots Picnic 2012

June 2nd and 3rd at Festival Pier Penn’s Landing
?uestlove, Black Thought and the rest of the Legendary Roots Crew team up for their annual festival. Featured guests: Kid Kudi, Diplo, De La Soul, TuneYards, Rakim and Wale. ?uestlove tells me that his original inspiration for the Roots Picnic came from the Police Picnic in the early ’80s, where Sting and friends curated an eclectic lineup of music in some random Canadian town. “I was rather shocked that there was a world in which the Clash could find space with Leon Russell and BB King and the Meters,” explains the Roots drummer. “It was very radical, at least for 1981.”

But while previous editions of the Roots Picnic boasted all-over-the-place lineups, this year’s festival is more hip-hop centric. “Vampire Weekend could sell out the Electric Factory,” he acknowledges. “But we found that it was almost like pulling teeth trying to get their fan base to want to see them in this environment. I don’t know if I’m down to go through 11 acts just to get to a 90-minute Vampire Weekend or Black Keys set. So we are playing to our strengths.”
Tickets: $50 per day or $80 for a two-day pass.

Crosby, Stills and Nash

June 7th at the Tower
With nearly 50 years of material, who knows what you’ll hear? Well, OK. You’ll certainly hear “Woodstock” and “Wooden Ships,” but what else? Note that if you can’t make the Tower show, they’re also at the Borgata on June 30th.
Tickets: $56 to $96.


June 13th at Susquehanna Bank Center
Cerebral rock from those British fellows whose critically acclaimed 2011 album King of Limbs received five Grammy nominations but zero wins.
Tickets: $52 to $84.

Earth Wind & Fire

June 15th at the Academy of Music
An uncharacteristically funky show for the city’s esteemed classical music venue, although the band will be accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.
Tickets: $36 to $96.


June 15th, 16th and 17th at Bader Field
Three days of mud, drugs and jamming in Atlantic City.
Tickets: $60 per day or $150 for a three-day pass.

Bonnie Raitt

June 16th at the Academy of Music

I don’t see how you can pass up seeing Bonnie play in such a beautiful (and beautiful-sounding) space. Plus, she’s joined by gospel legend Mavis Staples.
Tickets: $45 to $75.

Neil Diamond

June 18th at Wells Fargo Center
Cheesy? Yes. Rhinestoned? For sure. But he’s an American songwriting classic, and he’s not going to be around forever. Go ahead, sing “Sweet Caroline” as loudly as you want. Everyone else will be doing the same.
Tickets: $55 to $120.

Sharon Van Etten

June 21st at Union Transfer
This “fearless balladeer and … blood-and-guts rocker” visits in support of her latest release, Tramp. Opening: Philly’s own Meg Baird.
Tickets: $15.


June 23rd at the Borgata
Remember “Loser” and “Where It’s At”? The oddest musical success of the ’90s returns. He’s rumored to be working on a new album.
Tickets: $95 to $125.


June 23rd and 24th at Bader Field
Two days of mud, beer and heavy metal mayhem in Atlantic City. On day one, Metallica plays The Black Album in its entirety. Night two: Ride the Lightning. Guests include Cage the Elephant, Modest Mouse, and Arctic Monkeys.
Tickets: $90 per day or $150 for a two-day pass.

Fiona Apple

June 27th at the Tower
I saw her at the Borgata’s Music Box earlier this year, and she was breathtaking in the weird way that she always is. Expect chills.
Tickets: $62 to $80.

The Philadelphia Orchestra

June 29th at the Mann Center
The orchestra, a starry sky, Tchaikovsky and fireworks. If you don’t have the urge to make out, then I can’t help you.
Tickets: $12.50 to $49.50.

Mary J. Blige

June 29th and 30th, July 3rd and 4th at Caesars

Now that the whole Mary J. Blige racist Burger King chicken commercial controversy is officially behind her, the nine-time Grammy winner comes to the Boardwalk for four nights on the heels of the June 15th theatrical release of Rock of Ages, in which Blige sings Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” in a strip club, as seen above.
Tickets: $112 to $150.

Welcome America

July 4th on the Ben Franklin Parkway
Because you can’t get enough of The Roots, they’re back, along with Common, Daryl Hall, Queen Latifah and Joe Jonas.
Tickets: Just show up. It’s free.


July 5th and 6th at Wells Fargo Center
Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow and his bandmates have a new album, Mylo Xyloto, which sounds like this.
Tickets: $46 to $96.

Guided By Voices

July 6th
The reunited indie rock band from the early days of indie rock releases Class Clown Spots a UFO just weeks before their Chinatown appearance.
Tickets: $31 to $33.

James Taylor

July 6th and 7th at The Borgata
Sing it with me: I’ve seen fire, and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend. But I always thought that I’d see you again.
Tickets: Both shows are sold out. Tickets on StubHub start at $105.

Van Halen

July 11th at Wells Fargo Center
I can’t say that I was that enthused by Van Halen’s last show at Wells Fargo Center, although their small club show in New York earlier this year definitely rocked. But anything would be better than the Scorpions/Tesla pairing that’s happening at the Mann Center this same night. [UPDATE: Naturally, 30 seconds after publishing this, we found out that the Van Halen show has been postponed, although no new date is on the schedule. So I guess you’re stuck with the Scorpions. Better yet, just stay home.]
Tickets: $49.50 to $149.50.

Roger Waters

July 14th at Citizens Bank Park
The Pink Floyd co-founder, bassist and vocalist brought his elaborate staging of The Wall to the Wells Fargo Center for three sold out shows in 2010. Apparently, that wasn’t big enough, so he’s doing a stadium tour. If you’re a fan of massive productions, particularly those with lasers, a ton of fog, and flying pigs, you’ll want to be at the ballpark for this one.
Tickets: $39 to $253.

Def Leppard

July 14th at Revel
Hey, some people just can’t shake the 80s. If you’re one of them, this show—which also features Poison and, um, Lita Ford—might be a good fit.
Tickets: $75 to $200.


July 20th at Revel
I guess he still has a following.
Tickets: $65 to $85.

The XPoNential Music Festival

July 20th to 22nd at Wiggins Park and Susquehanna Bank Center
Wilco, Dr. Dog, the Counting Crows, the Hold Steady and some ridiculous number of other bands are playing this year’s WXPN-produced, open-air festival in Camden. If you’re not at the Shore or in the Poconos that weekend, it’s not a bad way to spend three days, even if it does mean crossing the bridge.
Tickets: $36 per day or $90 for a three-day pass. Kids are only $5. Note that WXPN members get a 50 percent discount on tickets, which seems worth it.

Rufus Wainwright

July 25th at Festival Pier Penn’s Landing

The new dad’s latest album, Out of the Game, is one of the poppiest of his career. Here he is performing “Montauk” from that release in London recently.
Tickets: $52.

Sigur Ros

July 29th and 30th at the Mann Center
One of Iceland’s more ethereal musical exports takes to the Mann’s new Skyline Stage.
Tickets: The 30th is sold out. The 29th is available for $47.50.

Jane’s Addiction

August 15th at the Mann Center
Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro and the other guys are still flying the alt-rock flag 22 years after “Been Caught Stealing.” Feeling old yet? Should be interesting with South Africa’s controversial Die Antwoord opening.
Tickets: $39.50 to $55.

Marina and the Diamonds

August 17th at the TLA

Unsure if she’ll be covered in body paint and glitter as in this video for “I Am Not a Robot.”
Tickets: $25.

Brian Jonestown Massacre

August 23rd at Union Transfer
If you were a fan of ’60s psychedelia but are unfamiliar with this decidedly 21st-century outfit from California, you should really give them a chance.
Tickets: $20.


August 28th at Wells Fargo Center
She’s come a long way since Live Aid in Philadelphia. And strangely, she looks about 20 times better nowadays.
Tickets: Sold out. StubHub from $85. Note that you can still get seats for her September 15th show at Boardwalk Hall.

Made In America Festival

September 1st and 2nd on the Ben Franklin Parkway
Some people are saying that the lineup, which includes Jay-Z, Pearl Jam, Rick Ross, Odd Future and Passion Pit, is lacking. But one thing’s for sure: if you live in the Fairmount/Art Museum area, you may want to leave town for the weekend.
Tickets: $135 to $899.

Bruce Springsteen

September 2nd and 3rd at Citizens Bank Park
Hey, just because I hate Bruce Springsteen doesn’t mean that you have to, right?
Tickets: $68 to $98.