If you're reading this, you're probably pretty in tune with current music and the latest concerts and festivals. Music fans follow bookings for Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, Spring Awakening, Riot Fest and even Market Days like straight boys with football rankings, but for most folks under 40, Ravinia is the big mysterious outdoor venue up north that their Aunt Joan has season passes to due to her undying love of Lyle Lovett and kd lang. If you haven't gone to Ravinia lately there's a lot to love: cheap, outdoor picnic seating; sexy dads; BYOB; a train that goes right from the city into the park; and a great line up.
Everyone with a pulse is aware of the huge double booking of Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett happening Pride weekend, but there are many great acts coming to Ravinia, which just announced its hot summer schedule.
For many of us we can't swing much of a weekend in NYC, let alone tickets to Alan Cumming's return to Cabaret, where tickets are twice that of your average Broadway show. Good news: the out and proud actor/singer is coming with his "cabaret show" on June 19.
Opening acts ( like last year's Lisa Fischer for Joss Stone ) can often be better than the headliner and you can get back on the early train. This year, check out Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings ( June 21 ) opening for the bluesy Tedeschi Trucks Band. TTB is a powerhouse of blues guitar and southern rock, but Sharon Jones is like what Amy Winehouse could have been if she lived and merged with Angie Stone.
Ravinia is all about the classical, but if you're like me, it's not your thing. I have a compromise. Check out the legendary creator of Oingo Boingo and The Simpsons' theme, Danny Elfman, as he conducts a revue of all his many amazing scores for Tim Burton's films ( June 14 ).
Diana Krall's ( Aug. 9 ) foray into California soft rock might have misfired but the jazz vocalist/pianist will surely rise above the bad album ( just like Madonna ) for an unforgettable jazz vocal set.
And finally, my pick for the best of the year, is to skip Aretha, who's vocals and will gave out years ago and to see her peer, Gladys Knight ( with the O'Jays, Sept. 11 ) who hasn't missed a beat and still belts it out fresh after all these years. The R&B shows at Ravinia are an on-your-feet party, so don't miss that one.
Check out the full line-up at www.ravinia.org