Now is the time to start planning for the biggest waterfront weekends of the upcoming boating season. Concert dates are being announced for late spring straight through the end of the summer, bands are tuning up, and waypoints must be plotted in order to snag a slip or a mooring within prime listening distance. Here’s a look at 10 waterfront concerts from Maine to Alabama, with nearby marinas or anchorages. All promise to leave boaters rockin’ on the hook.
Def Leppard with REO Speedwagon and Tesla
Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor, Maine, will welcome the 1980s hair-band trifecta of Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, and Tesla on June 24. “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Keep On Lovin’ You” and “Love Song” are likely to be in the greatest-hits mix, and boaters are invited to tie up at the Bangor Landing municipal docks for a waterfront “ear” on the show. (You’ll have to buy a ticket and go inside the gates for a full view of the stage.) Restaurants are also within walking distance if you want a pre-show bite, and Bangor International Airport is a 10-minute cab ride away, if some of your groupie friends want to fly up to Maine join you aboard for the night.
Newport Jazz Festival
The granddaddy of all waterfront music events will take place July 29-31 at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island. About 60 acts are scheduled to perform during the three days of back-to-back concerts, and promoters say even more are expected to be announced. Some of the biggest names already on the roster are Norah Jones, the Chick Corea Trilogy and the University of Rhode Island Festival Big Band. You never know what legendary riff sessions will come out of this event; back in the 1950s, Miles Davis performed a solo on “Round Midnight” that is still revered today, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra did a version of “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” that featured Paul Gonsalves—a legendary tenor sax player—jamming for 27 straight choruses.
Sea Music Festival
Mystic Seaport in Connecticut will host the 37th annual Sea Music Festival from June 9-12. The event is a celebration of traditional sea music, with adult and children’s concerts during daytime and nighttime hours alike.
The on-site museum’s chantey staff performs along with national and international singers. In conjunction with the music event, the seaport also hosts the Music of the Sea Symposium. Its presentations explore “the interaction between sea, music and song.” Expect a bit of history, a little folklore and some ethnomusicology—which is the study of music in different cultures.
- Tickets and Anchorage Details: www.mysticseaport.org
Barenaked Ladies with OMD and Howard Jones
You probably know them best as the guys who sing the theme song of “The Big Bang Theory,” but remember that Barenaked Ladies had some infectious full-length hits back in the late 1980s and 1990s too. Admit it: You sang along to the lyric “How can I help it if I think you’re funny when you’re mad?” on the fast-paced “One Week,” and you loved shouting “I’d buy you a monkey—haven’t you always wanted a monkey?” on the live recording of “If I had $1,000,000.” Heck, just learning all the tongue-twister lyrics to those songs was like having a key to the cool-kids club.
They’ll be playing the Pier 6 Pavilion in Baltimore on June 26 with OMD, which you may remember as Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark. That band is perhaps best remembered for “If You Leave” in the Molly Ringwald teen flick “Pretty in Pink.” And Howard Jones will be on stage too. He, of course, had everyone crooning “You can look at the menu but you just can’t eat” while singing along to “No One is to Blame” in 1985.
27th Annual Bayou Boogaloo Music and Cajun Food Festival
No, you don’t have to cruise all the way to Louisiana to get a serious taste of the Bayou this summer. Norfolk, Virginia, will play host to this food and music festival at Town Point Park from June 24-26.
While we recommend taking the tender ashore to indulge in some crawfish, jambalaya, gumbo and po’boy sandwiches, you can also anchor out in the Elizabeth River and listen to the hip-swinging sounds of bands like the Royal Southern Brotherhood. Their lead singer is Cyril Neville (yes, he’s one of those Neville brothers). Additional acts will be announced soon; last year’s lineup included everyone from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to Big Sam’s Funky Nation.
- Tickets: www.festevents.org
- Anchorage Details: First-come, first-served at the Hospital Point Anchorage across from Town Point Park
Beaufort Water Festival
Country stars LoCash and Canaan Smith (yes, the same Canaan Smith who was once on “Amazing Race”) are signed on to headline the 2016 Beaufort Water Festival in North Carolina. They’ll both play on July 16 as part of the 10-day event, which runs July 15-24. If you prefer a little more Detroit than Lowcountry in your tunes, then book your slip through July 18, when the night’s music theme will be “Motown Monday.”
The festival takes place at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, which is adjacent to Downtown Marina. Transient boats are welcome by the hour, day, or week, and downtown restaurants are within walking distance if, for some inexplicable reason, you want a break from the festival’s Lowcountry cuisine. Charleston red rice, anyone?
Station to Station: A Tribute to David Bowie
What better way to honor the passing of legendary performer David Bowie than by singing along with a performance by tribute band Station to Station at Sunday on the Waterfront in West Palm Beach, Florida? All of Bowie’s greatest hits are on the play list for the August 21 show, including “Let’s Dance,” “China Girl,” “Rebel Rebel” and “Suffragette City.”
Sunday on the Waterfront is held at Meyer Amphitheatre, a 10,000-square-foot band shell just across Flagler Drive from the Evernia Street and Clematis Street docks. Tying up is free—but there’s only room for 48 boats, so be sure to arrive early.
Rock the Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival
Dozens of boats anchor right off 1100 Seabreeze Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale for Rock the Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival, a three-day celebration of country, roots, and rock ’n roll. Fans pack the beach not only for the tunes, but also to raise money that goes toward ocean conservation and scientific research—kind of a “rock the reefs” vibe, South Florida style.
This year’s headliners, scheduled to perform April 15-17, are Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley, with additional performances by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Currington and Kelsea Ballerini. Bobby Bones & the Raging Idiots (best band name ever) will bring their comedy/folk/country act to the stage, straight from Nashville.
- Tickets and Anchorage Details: www.tortugamusicfestival.com
Tampa Bay Blues Festival
Platinum-album R&B great Aaron Neville, guitar virtuoso Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and favorite Florida son JJ Grey with Mofro are the headliners for this year’s Tampa Bay Blues Festival, scheduled April 8-10 at Vinoy Waterfront Park in St. Petersburg. Stages go live at 12:30 or 1 p.m. each day with several acts opening before the main events around sundown. If you want to cruise into town a day early to grab a mooring, you can also hear Victor Wainwright and the WildRoots on April 7. (Wainwright tickles the ivories in a way that makes you think Dr. John and Elton John got together and had a prodigy love child.)
Vinoy Waterfront Park is adjacent to North Yacht Basin, which is sometimes called Vinoy Yacht Mooring Field on maps and charts. The tucked-in, protected spot had a new mooring field put in a few years ago, and it’s now operated by the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. Restaurants are within walking distance, as are the St. Petersburg Museum of History and the Museum of Fine Arts.
“It’s summer,” for boaters, is synonymous with “it’s Jimmy time!” Get the margaritas and cheeseburgers fired up on the top deck for this May 31 show at The Amphitheatre at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama. It’s within walking distance of The Wharf Marina, where Parrotheads can dock and listen to the music from a distance. Residents of the adjacent luxury condo building have been known to sit on their decks and do the same.
If the kids need something else to do while you’re changing your latitude and attitude, you can send them over to nearby Sharky’s Family Adventure Park, which has rides, arcade games and more. A 15-screen Carmike Cinemas movie theater is also on-site, as is a nosebleed-inducing, 112-foot Ferris wheel.