Winter is finally dead (we hope) and it’s time to shed some layers. As 100-degree temperatures approach, here’s a look at some notable upcoming summer entertainment in the area to help Lawrencians have fun in the sun or beat the heat inside.
If there’s a theme for the eclectic roster of high-profile concerts happening in Lawrence this summer, it is this: nostalgia (perhaps just mine).
Three eye-popping acts in particular bring back pangs of an awkward youth spent gunning down soda and absorbing obnoxious noise. Insane Clown Posse will perform its brand of psychedelic horror rap on May 20 at The Granada. The group has grown from a shocking outfit practically designed to terrify parents and teachers, to self-parody, with a tongue-in-check sense of humor about themselves and their captivated fan base.
More summer arts coverage
• Which upcoming movies will be blockbusters and which will be bombs? Eric Melin previews the best and the worst of this summer's film releases, from A to "World War Z."
• Lucas Wetzel looks at the best of what Kansas City has to offer this summer. Can anything top New Kids on the Block?
• Area bands are excited to be among the power-packed lineup of the Kanrocksas Music and Arts Festival
Nu-metal rockers Limp Bizkit may have seemed dead-in-the-water after its cultural wane and a hiatus, but the ’90s group has released new material since 2011 and is set to release their seventh album, Stampede of the Disco Elephants this year (The Granada, June 2). One of the two versions of reunited hardcore legends Black Flag (the one with founder Greg Ginn) will play June 6 (also at the Granada). That should stir a lot of memories.
The concerts I’m most looking forward to, though, reflect an altogether different sensibility. The two-day camping/music event Festy Fest, May 17-18, includes local and regional folk punk acts like Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy and Calamity Cubes.
The Replay Lounge will hold its Spring Into Summer event, featuring 10 local acts, including Farmer’s Ball runner-up Y(our) Fri(end) and Up the Academy (May 18).
Then there is the one-two assault of Japandroids and tourmates A Place to Bury Strangers, who both utilize monstrous levels of noise (May 29, The Granada). Poignant folk singer Father John Misty (aka Joshua Tillman, formerly of Fleet Foxes) will return to Lawrence on June 16 at the Granada. Alternative rock icon Bob Mould (Husker Du, Sugar) will perform selections from his legendary career Aug. 16 at The Bottleneck.
All tallied, this looks like to be a fantastic season for music.
— Chance Dibben
Theatre Lawrence presents ‘Ragtime’
After 28 years on a tiny stage in a converted church, Theatre Lawrence finally gets a purpose-built stage of its own this summer. The group will unveil the new facility to the public with the elaborate musical “Ragtime.”
Set at the turn of the 20th century, “Ragtime” is the story of the American experience represented by three very different characters. It follows the lives of Coalhouse Walker, Jr., a Harlem musician; Mother, matriarch of an upper-class family in New Rochelle, N.Y.; and Tateh, a Jewish immigrant from Latvia.
Based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, “Ragtime” weaves the three stories together to compare and contrast the experiences of African-Americans, upper-class whites and Eastern European immigrants in New York at the height of the Great American Melting Pot.
Significant historical figures of the period — Harry Houdini, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Evelyn Nesbit, Admiral Peary, Booker T. Washington and others — make cameos to help tell the story. Stephen Flaherty’s music infuses the show with gospel, marches, cakewalks and, of course Ragtime.
The new facility enabled Theatre Lawrence to feature its largest cast since staging “Gypsy” in 2004. At 44 members, it may be the largest cast in the company’s 36-year history.
“Ragtime” opens June 21 and continues June 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30, and July 5, 6 and 7. A grand opening ceremony to dedicate the new building at 4660 Bauer Farm Drive will be June 7, 8 and 9.
— John R. Phythyon Jr.
Summer Youth Theater
Young actors take on the classics and explore history in a diverse group plays in the Lawrence Arts Center’s annual Summer Youth Theater program.
Four shows take the main stage in June and July beginning with a new adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic operetta “The Pirates of Penzance.” Third- through eighth-graders dive into the comic hijinks of Frederic, torn between his love for Mabel and his duty as apprentice to a band of misfit pirates, of a Pirate King who knows what it is to be an orphan often, and, of course, of the very model of a modern major general. Adapted for younger performers, the show stages June 13, 14 and 15.
The classics continue the following weekend when students in eighth through 12th grade present Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth.” Set in Scotland, The Bard’s darkest play features witches, ghost, betrayal, murder, sword duels, and unforgettable villains. It runs June 20, 21, 22 and 23.
After classical theater, the theme turns to history. As part of the sesquicentennial celebration of Quantrill’s Raid, third- through eighth-graders will present “The Complete History of Kansas in 60 Minutes.” This original play by Lawrence playwrights Will Averill and Larry Mitchell takes a comic look at 153 years of the Sunflower State. Running July 18, 19 and 20, the play aims to both educate and entertain.
Finally, eighth- through 12th-graders examine prejudice and segregation in 1960s Baltimore through the lens of the Broadway musical adaptation of the 1988 John Waters film “Hairspray.”
Set on an afternoon teen dance show and taking aim at the politics of race and image, “Hairspray” is both funny and serious as it captures the spirit of the times. It stages July 25, 26, 27 and 28.
— John R. Phythyon Jr.
Lawrence Busker Festival
Freaks, geeks, artists, musicians — they’ll fill the streets of downtown Lawrence this summer for the area’s largest gathering of street performers.
The fifth annual Lawrence Busker Festival is planned for Aug. 23-25. This family friendly event features a schedule that in past years has featured performers — national and local — including sword swallowers, a strongwoman, Hula-Hoop artists, a high-flying pogo stick team, balloon artists and burlesque dancers.
On Aug. 24, there are balloon making, Hula Hoop, juggling and magic workshops for kids at the Lawrence Arts Center. The Busker Ball, set for Aug. 22, is a ticketed event at the Granada featuring all the weekend’s performers with a meet and greet afterward. Street shows are free, but remember: these buskers work for tips.
Says the Busker Fest website, if you’re anywhere near downtown during this festival, “You never know when you will be suddenly entertained!”
— Sara Shepherd
Lawrence City Band concerts
Around here, summertime means Lawrence City Band concert time — a tradition that, according to history from the band, has been going on in this town in some form since the 1850s.
Now more organized than its earliest days, the band gives free, plein air concerts Wednesday nights in the William Kelly Bandstand in South Park, 11th and Massachusetts streets.
This summer’s concert dates and titles: 8 p.m. May 29, “It’s a New Season Opener!”; June 5, “How the West was Won”; June 12, “Shall We Dance”; June 19, “Annual Children’s Concert”; June 26, “In the Good Ole Summertime”; July 3, “Our Own 4th of July Concert”; July 10, “An Old Fashioned Park Concert”; and July 17, “The Grand Finale!” (includes the “1812 Overture” and “Stars and Stripes Forever”).
A special “Commemoration of Quantrill’s Raid Concert” is planned for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18.
— Sara Shepherd
Douglas County Fair
Junk-cars-turned-battering-rams? Homemade quilts? Deep-fried Snickers? Goats and sheep? Pie contests? Live music? Llama shows?
All this and more can be had at the Douglas County Fair, “where everyone comes for good old-fashioned fun.” This year’s fair is planned for July 26 through Aug. 3 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, 2110 Harper St.
Some competitions are reserved for 4-H members, but many are open to the public, too.
— Sara Shepherd
For the past year, ceramics artist Monika Laskowska and printmaker Patrick Vincent have settled into the Lawrence Arts Center, teaching classes in their respective crafts to Lawrencians.
Later this month and this summer, they’ll open shows of their own work.
Vincent’s exhibition — an installation featuring print blocks he created of people’s faces on bugs’ bodies — runs Friday through June 22, with an opening reception from 7 to 9 p.m. this Friday, May 17. Vincent is scheduled to give a related talk at 7 p.m. May 23.
Laskowska’s exhibition runs June 28 through July 27, with an opening reception from 5 to 9 p.m. June 28.
— Sara Shepherd
Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale
It may be 100 degrees or pouring rain, but shoppers traditionally turn out in droves for the annual Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale.
This year’s sale will last from sunup — possibly even earlier outside some shops — to sundown July 18.
Almost every vendor on Massachusetts Street has some kind of deal, whether they mark down merchandise inside their shops or fill bins and racks on the sidewalk with items selling for next to nothing. Lots of this merchandise is useful or stylish, but some of it’s just weird. Shop at your own risk.
Another tip: Go early, as it’s more likely to be steaming hot than pouring rain — and the best stuff sells fast. Unless you’re in to buying weird things.
— Sara Shepherd
Civil War on the Western Frontier
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence, and the Watkins Community Museum of History is focusing this year’s Civil War on the Western Frontier on the city-shaping event.
There are kids activities Aug. 12 and 13 and a gala to open the museum’s new permanent exhibition Aug. 16. The museum has planned these free events on Aug. 17: Public opening of the new exhibition; Quantrill’s Raid Walking Tours; “The Quantrill Men Reunions,” a talk by Jeremy Neely of Missouri State University; “Fire and Fall Back: Quantrill’s Leave-taking from Kansas,” a talk by John R. Nichols and Deborah Barker; and “Music of the Civil War Era,” a performance by the Kaw Valley Concert Band.
Other commemorative activities are scheduled to take place from Aug. 10 through Aug. 21 throughout the city. Keep an eye out for specific events to be announced later.
— Sara Shepherd