Singer-songwriter Patty Larkin never fancied herself a political activist. But in 2000, as she worked on her 10th album, she found herself worrying about the state of the world. Her concerns informed the songs on Red=Luck, which she describes as a "meditation on hope" that we could return to a simpler time.
Then came 9-11. "I was already working on this loss of innocence before it became a global reality," says the 52-year-old Larkin, who headlines Saturday's Not-Your-Father's Folk Festival. "It was a huge wake-up call." (Trout Fishing in America, Vance Gilbert, the Bluehouse, and Eleni Kelakos are also on the bill.)
Almost as dismaying were changes in the music industry; record labels prodded her to reinvent her image. But from her home base in Boston's coffeehouse circles, she was inspired by the new crop of folkies trying to reinvigorate the music. "I think it's alive and kicking," she explains. "We have some players rising to the top. But what has changed, in a way, is that popular music and American radio are more corporate. But there's still a lot of talent out there." The fest happens from 4 to 10 p.m. at Lock 3 Live! on Main Street in downtown Akron. Tickets are $10, available by calling 330-972-7570. -- Cris Glaser
Birds and the Bard
Shakespeare Festival takes it outside.
Shakespeare and outdoors go together like Hamlet and angst, which is why the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival is offering not one but two of the Bard's most popular plays this summer: The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet. "We do this very bare-boned," says general manager Michael Butcheck. "We scale down the sets and scripts, and keep it manageable. Shakespeare isn't caviar or prime rib. It's not out of reach to everybody. Shakespeare's very much like chicken." The fest runs Thursday through Sunday, July 15 through 18, and July 22 through 25 at the Shaker Colonnade (at the corner of Lee Road and Van Aken Boulevard in Cleveland Heights), July 29 through August 1 and August 5 through 8 at Tri-C West (11000 Pleasant Valley Road in Parma), and August 12 through 15 at the Kulas Community Stage at Wade Oval in Wade Park. All shows are free and start at 7 p.m. Call 877-280-1646 for more info. -- Michael Gallucci
Umphrey's McGee plays the musical field.
Chicago's Umphrey's McGee is many things. On the one hand, it's a jam band, noodling away till the breakadawn. On the other hand, it's a jazz outfit, exploring riffs and sounds with time signatures too complex to comprehend. On still another hand (we borrowed it, OK? Just play along), the sextet's members are prog-rockers, searching for meaning in long, winding, classically influenced solos. Umphrey's new album, Anchor Drops, fills in the spaces all that genre-jumping leaves vacant. Like many jam bands (and jazz outfits and prog-rockers), the McGee guys are reserved on record. Onstage, however, they unleash a barrage of beautiful, spacey sounds. They're at the Odeon (1295 Old River Road) at 9:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $10.50 and $13; call 216-241-5555. -- Michael Gallucci
Jazz on a Summer Night
Oberlin's Summer Concert Series kicks off Friday with a performance by the New Orleans Jazz Ensemble. The two-hour outdoor shows feature music by local folk, jazz, and rock acts in the upcoming weeks. And don't forget Peppy the Clown's weekly appearances. Because nothing says summer like a baggy-pants jester making balloon animals. The free concerts start at 7 p.m. every Friday through August 13 at Tappan Square in downtown Oberlin. Call 440-774-6262 for more info. -- Michael Gallucci