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MUSIC: Pitching a tent 

A tour of Upstate New York's summer music festivals

Looking to catch some concerts this summer outside your own back yard? Want to make that concert a road trip? No matter what your musical tastes may be — or your budget — tons of shows are happening down the road that will get you grooving in the great outdoors. Get your motor running, head out on the highway, and get ready to enjoy this summer's regional music festivals and concerts. Just don't forget the sunscreen. And maybe some earplugs.

click to enlarge Rock trio ZZ Top will be bringing the beards, and the rock, to Artpark on August 27. - PHOTO BY ROSS HALFIN
  • Rock trio ZZ Top will be bringing the beards, and the rock, to Artpark on August 27.

Point your vehicle in a westerly direction and drive toward Niagara Falls to check out the shows at Artpark (450 S. Fourth St., in Lewiston, NY. The Niagara River gorge provides a scenic backdrop for the venue's stellar line-up of affordable concerts ($5-$10 if purchased in advance, $10-$15 week of show). The series runs from June through August on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Tuesday evening concerts scheduled include Chicago (June 25), The Doobie Brothers (July 9), Bad Company with Paul Rodgers (July 16), .38 Special and Blue Oyster Cult (August 6), Lynyrd Skynyrd (August 13), Gladys Knight and The O'Jays (August 20), and ZZ Top (August 27). Wednesday evening concerts scheduled include MGMT (June 19), Dispatch (June 26), O.A.R. and Friends (July 10), and The Flaming Lips (July 17). Artpark hosts several jazz and blues shows, too (June 24-August 2), and those ticket prices vary ($35-$65).

Shuffle off to downtown Buffalo for Counting Crows and The Wallflowers (June 28), Kem (June 29), Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo (August 30). The Buffalo Place Rocks Canalside concert series (1 Naval Park Cove, also includes free performances by The Wailers (July 26) and Bell Biv DeVoe (July 27).

Speaking of the Queen City, the Thursday at Canalside series (1 Naval Park Cove, offers an upscale line-up of free shows anchored by Teddy Riley and Blackstreet (June 27), Todd Rundgren (August 15), and Adam Ant (August 27), among other groups.

click to enlarge The Finger Lakes Chamber Music Festival has performances at various locations in the Finger Lakes June through August. - PHOTO BY HOWARD LEVANT
  • The Finger Lakes Chamber Music Festival has performances at various locations in the Finger Lakes June through August.

If classical music is your bag, the Finger Lakes Chamber Music Festival ( runs shows June through August at various locations in the Finger Lakes region. Michael Reisman, composer and musical director of the Philip Glass Ensemble, will perform his arrangements of music from the films "Dracula" and "The Hours" for piano and strings, along with the world-premiere performance of Richard Auldon Clark's "Finger Lakes Suite" (July 20) in Penn Yan (305 Court St.). Hunt Country Vineyards (4021 County Road 32, in Branchport hosts "Winds Blow Suite-ly" (July 27) featuring selections by Mozart and American-composer Randall Thompson's "Suite for Oboe, Clarinet, and Viola."

Do you like it smooth and on the cheap? Head east to Salt City — or rather, Jamesville Beach Park — and finish what the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival (June 21-29, started. The M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest ( is the largest entirely free jazz festival in the Northeast and includes shows by Preservation Hall Jazz Band (July 4), The GrandMothers of Invention (July 5), and Taylor Dayne (July 6).

If you are looking for something a bit more folksy, take off to the great white north for the Toronto Urban Roots Festival (100 Garrison Road, at historic Fort York. The four-day Fourth of July weekend event offers more than 30 bands including She & Him, Camera Obscura (July 4), Arkells (July 5), Flogging Molly, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls (July 6), and Belle and Sebastian, Neko Case (July 7).

Closer to home is the Vans Warped Tour 2013 ( at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien Center, on July 6. The all-day event is a crowded pilgrimage for the youngsters and never ceases to amaze with its line-up of up-and-comers. A multitude of acts are on the bill, including Hawthorne Heights, Architects (UK), and MC Lars. Darien Lake is also home to one of the summer's hottest tickets with Bob Dylan, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket (July 18).

click to enlarge Bassnectar will be dropping the...well, bass, at Camps Bisco (July 11-13). - PHOTO BY MEL D. COLE
  • Bassnectar will be dropping the...well, bass, at Camps Bisco (July 11-13).

Do you remember that one time at band camp? No? Don't worry, there's still time to get your freak on at Camp Bisco (1142 Batter St., located outside Albany in Mariaville Lake. The 12th annual dance-centric festival runs July 11-13 and you can even pitch a tent for some free camping with a ticket purchase. Camp Bisco features a plethora of electronica and jam bands including The Disco Biscuits, Bassnectar, Passion Pit, STS9, Animal Collective, Umphrey's McGee and Rochester's own Manhattan Project.

If Nashville twang if more your thang, the New York State Fairgrounds outside of Syracuse hosts the NY Country Jam ( July 12-14. Billy "People Are Crazy" Currington, Uncle Kracker, Lauren Alaina, and Chris Young are just a few of the scheduled performers.

click to enlarge New York's own Rubblebucket will be joining more than 60 other bands at the GrassRoots Festival July 18-21. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • New York's own Rubblebucket will be joining more than 60 other bands at the GrassRoots Festival July 18-21.

More than 60 groups on four stages makes the GrassRoots Festival (2150 Trumansburg Road, in Trumansburg (July 18-21) one of the largest musical festivals in the Finger Lakes region. The mix of bands leans toward roots and world music with featured performances by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Donna the Buffalo, and Rubblebucket.

Whether you're a picker or a grinner, the Brantling Bluegrass Festival (4015 Fish Farm Road, — August 1-3 in Sodus — will help channel your inner Appalachian. Bluegrass bands including Rebecca Colleen and the Chore Lads and the Claire Lynch Band are scheduled to perform. This event also offers camping and music workshops.

Explore the future of music with The Big Up 2013 (Hemlock Hollow Farm, in Claverack, running August 8-10. The three-day festival features more than 50 visionary groups including experimental world-fusion performers Beats Antique, electro-dance bands The Egg, Holy Fuck, and more.

The 34th Annual Skaneateles Festival ( in Skaneateles is a popular destination for fans of chamber music in New York State. The month-long 2013 season of world-class classical music by the lake opens August 8 with weeknight concerts held in various locations in the village of Skaneateles and Saturday shows held at a nearby outdoor venue, Brook Farm (2870 West Lake Road).

Among the music festivals rounding out the summer season is The Ontario Barn Festival (513 Whitney Road, on August 31. The family-friendly event in Ontario, Wayne County, offers bluegrass, roots, and alternative bands, barbeque, apple picking, and wine sampling (for adults only, of course).

Not enough for you? If you want to let the music play all summer, check out this article's side bar for a list of even more festivals and concerts.

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