2012 Summer Guide: It's a Scorcher

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The temperature will not be the only hot thing going in Houston this summer as the concert season is shaping up to be a scorcher for your wallet and your ear holes. It's a classic-rock wonderland with the Beach Boys, Van Halen and Aerosmith coming through. And if those old dudes don't do it for you, LMFAO, Jason Mraz and One Direction are heading to the Bayou City, too.

Toyota Center (1510 Polk)

Bayou Music Center (formerly known as Verizon Wireless Theater) (520 Texas)

House of Blues (1204 Caroline)

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion (2005 Lake Robbins Dr.)

Eleanor Tinsley Park (500 Allen Pkwy.)

Arena Theatre (7326 Southwest Fwy.)

Nutty Jerry's (18291 Englin Rd.) (Winnie)

Rammstein, May 25, Toyota Center

Most people only know Germany's industrial outfit Rammstein for their late '90s fluke MTV hit "Du Hast," but they are much more than that monstrously catchy, secretly emo anthem. Rammstein have sold more than 15 million albums worldwide and are one of the biggest gateway bands for budding goth and industrial kids.

Free Press Summer Fest, June 2-3, Eleanor Tinsley Park

Now in its fourth year, Free Press Houston's Summer Fest is already a festival on par with other must-do Texas events like Austin City Limits Music Festival and SXSW. This year the organizers doubled down hardcore, loading the two-day weekend with Willie Nelson, Primus, Best Coast, Flaming Lips and dozens of other national and local acts.

Jimmy Buffett, June 2, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Break out the loud floral prints and the brown sandals: Uncle Jimmy is coming back to Houston and the shed in The Woodlands for his annual parrots-and-tequila throwdown. Expect plenty of tipsy grandmas and cougar-hunting young professionals on the lawn. Buffett's shows aren't all gimmicks, though. He still has a treasure trove of classics under each arm.

Nickelback, Bush, June 2, Toyota Center

Say what you will about Nickelback, those polarizing Canadians know how to write an infectious radio anthem. The multi-platinum-selling group may be one of the most maligned in recent memory for a loud minority, but they have an even louder majority that hangs on their every word. Come on, "Rock Star" was pretty catchy.

Beach Boys, June 8, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

With a nightly set list numbering almost 42 songs from their storied 50-year career, the Beach Boys are pulling out all the stops this summer on their reunion tour. Now that Brian Wilson is back in the fold and a new album is caressing the ears of listeners young and old, don't expect this to be the last of these tours.

LMFAO, June 12, Toyota Center

It's 2012, you guys, and if the ship sinks this year, at least LMFAO will die knowing that they tried to rock each and every one of our parties, even if we resisted them. The party group is now a viable arena act after years of opening slots, making them dangerous to music snobs and fun for the rest of us. Shots!

The Cult, Against Me!, June 19, House of Blues

The Cult were one of the most beloved hard rock groups of the '80s. Led by singer Ian Astbury, they were the dark-horse favorites of the hair-metal age with their Doors-like sound and image. The group just released their ninth studio album, Choice of Weapon, a few weeks back. As for Against Me!, no one else has been doing great, punk-inflected roots-rock quite they like have for the past decade.

Buddy Guy & Jonny Lang, June 22, Arena Theatre

The master and the student, Guy and Lang, have been touring together for a few years now, spreading the gospel of blues guitar. Even if you're not a convert to expert blues guitar, the legendary Guy will have you walking out of the venue with a new swagger in your step. In the business of bending notes since 1953, he is an institution.

ZZ Top, 3 Doors Down, Gretchen Wilson, June 23, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Houston, you have the rare opportunity to see ZZ Top twice in the same year, so there is no excuse to miss this show in The Woodlands. Following their packed RodeoHouston show in March, that little ol' band from right here in Houston announced a tour with 3 Doors Down and Gretchen Wilson. Since this isn't a supporting slot or an abbreviated set, we're stoked to hear some rarities live for the first time, given their longer playing time. Also, it's ZZ Top — did we mention that?

Van Halen, Kool & The Gang, June 24, Toyota Center

Few things will thrill us more this year than seeing David Lee Roth back out in front of Van Halen. With a kick-ass new album still making our ears ring and a renewed vigor, the band will put on a show that promises not to be a tired exercise in wankery. Yes, Kool & The Gang is opening, but don't laugh, just check out their list of hits. You bet your ass it will be shaking.

One Direction, June 24, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Sorry, Jonas Brothers, but we like our boy bands dancing and sans instruments. Thankfully, the UK is leading the charge on yet another new wave of clean-cut, smiley and dreamboat groups like One Direction. This show sold so well, they already have another 2013 date planned for Houston.

Coldplay, Robyn, Wolf Gang, June 25-26, Toyota Center

Few groups can necessitate not one but two consecutive dates in Houston, and one of them is Coldplay. Anglophiles, sickeningly affectionate couples, and fans of indie bluster have made them one of the most profitable touring acts of the last decade, a sort of U2 lite, without the dirty and decadent electronic period. Opener Robyn is on the cusp of something big, scoring this supporting slot after a successful solo jaunt last year and touring with Katy Perry.

Merle Haggard, Noel Haggard, Folk Family Revival, June 28, Nutty Jerry's

If you are anything like me, you try to collect as many live experiences by legendary artists as you can before they go to the big backstage party in the sky. Enter the 75-year-old Merle Haggard, who's still making country and rock crowds giddy with cuts like "The Fightin' Side of Me" and "Mama Tried" when most men his age can barely open a car door. Young local openers Folk Family Revival aren't too shabby themselves, melding Dylan-style stomp with Red Dirt Country twang.

Mayhem Tour featuring Slipknot, Motörhead, Slayer and Anthrax, July 11, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Yes, it's in the middle of the week, but with a lineup featuring Slipknot, Motörhead, Slayer and Anthrax plus a host of other evil young acolytes, you can afford to at least miss one day of the life-draining work week. You can let those important reports and projects wait so you can hear "Raining Blood." Come on, man, just come out. You used to be cool...

The Jacksons, July 14, Bayou Music Center

Since their brother Michael passed away in June 2009, there has been persistent talk of a full-scale Jacksons tour, with the surviving Jackson brothers on board performing their collective hits and the hits of brother Jermaine. Now it is finally a reality. Armed with their bedrock Jackson 5 hits, Jacksons work and Jermaine Jackson's hit solo cuts, the group's "Unity Tour" marks their first in nearly three decades. That last tour, in support of 1984's Victory album, was a highly successful outing, with the group playing in front of more than 2.5 million screaming fans.

311, Slightly Stoopid, July 15, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Even if you haven't been keeping up with 311, you probably still know all the words to their breakthrough self-titled album. If you have been hanging around, then you know that the past decade and a half have been nice to the group's signature sound. These guys have been a regular summer touring act, becoming almost an institution, with their relaxed vibe fitting the sweaty months like a glove. Expect plenty of dreadlocked heads and funky herbal smells, as per the norm.

Dukes of September, featuring Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, July 17, Cynthia Woods Mitchell PavilionCan you get any more smooth and dashing than this show? We submit you cannot. Featuring Steely Dan's Fagen, the falsetto king McDonald and the suave Scaggs, this one will captivate those of us who long ago had our guilty pleasure chips upgraded to enjoy full-tilt corn. What we mean to say is, we will have as much fun at this show as your mother, if not more.

Last Summer on Earth, featuring Barenaked Ladies, Blues Traveler, Cracker, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, July 20, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Why not celebrate the supposed last summer on Earth with some of the best bands, who put out some of the first CDs and cassettes some of you ever bought? There's no word yet if, in the event that the world doesn't in fact end by December, concertgoers will be eligible for refunds due to false advertising. A summer full of ten-minute harmonica solos in the middle of Blues Traveler's "But Anyway" may hasten the end quicker for our precious mudball.

Joe Cocker, Huey Lewis & The News, July 21, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Between this and the Dukes of September gig this summer, you have no reason to complain that Houston never gets any great shows. Joe Cocker is still slugging away, with latest album Hard Knocks, featuring production from Matt Serletic, just released in January. As for Huey Lewis and his News, they're still as rousing and party-rocking as ever.

Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, July 30, Toyota Center

This show isn't for a few months, so there is still time for the volatile Aerosmith to implode in a hail of fists and mental meltdowns. Hopefully, though, that won't be the case and by late July we will be hearing the sweet sounds of new Aero tunes at Toyota Center. A new album is in the offing, and here's hoping it's not a dud like their last disc of original tunes, 2001's Just Push Play.

Kiss, Mötley Crüe, August 3, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

A match made in heaven for fans, this pairing of two of hard rock's most influential and makeup-friendly acts is sure to be a multi-generational affair. Kids who were born around the time of Kiss's last big reunion in 1996 are rabid for the group, and the Crüe doesn't cease to thrill those of us who like our rock and roll a bit bloody and muddy.

Identity Festival, featuring Wolfgang Gartner, Excision, Paul Van Dyk, August 11, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Now in its second year, this traveling festival is capitalizing on the hot and heavy resurgence of electronic music and its kid brother dubstep. IdFest is a very well put together roadshow, and worth checking out if you haven't been into the blips and beeps since you sold your Fatboy Slim and Chemical Brothers discs for beer money.

Jason Mraz, August 12, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Dig your feet into the sand, er, lawn of the pavilion up in The Woodlands for a night of cutesy rock jams from one of the dearest singer-songwriters to hit the industry since at least Tiny Tim. Jason Mraz is like catnip for girls, and usually makes boys shrug in confusion. Even still, we turn up the volume when his "I'm Yours" comes on the radio. Shut it.

Crosby, Stills & Nash, August 15, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

When David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash combine their voices onstage and on record, they make an almost angelic chorus of harmony. They now have almost six decades in the music industry under their collective belts, and any appearance by the group is a must-see event. Recent CS&N sets have included solo and Buffalo Springfield work from all three members, so it's also a history lesson.

Iron Maiden, Coheed & Cambria, August 18, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

New-school meets the old-school for this double bill, and there's a healthy love between the two. Both Maiden and Coheed put on arguably the most masterful live shows in metal today, making for a great value. Okay, that sounds a tad boring. Just come prepared to have your face melted off and bring money for merch.

Linkin Park, Incubus, MuteMath, August 28, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Linkin Park and Incubus, two of the titans of modern-rock radio in the early '00s, join forces for this Honda-sponsored tour, coming around these parts just as the long, hot summer begins to wind down and school starts up again. Incubus released one of the best albums of their career in If Not Now, When? last summer.

Kelly Clarkson, The Fray, Carolina Liar, September 7, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Miss Clarkson has another hit on her hands with last year's Stronger, yielding three hit singles and counting. She's managed to strike a chord with fans male and female with her catalog of work, including the stupidly catchy "Since U Been Gone."

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