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by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & ook, we admit that we spend an inordinate amount of time on this or that emerging local artist and this or that influential underground grime/queercore/artpunk/folktronica outfit. The better part of the year, really, going on and on about those little bands that, while awesome, will never wield the kind of star lust that causes arenas full of women to pepper middle-aged, drug-addled bass players with their undies. And after all, that's what summer's all about. You know I'm right: Summer is arena-sized concert season.


So in a shocking departure from our usual coverage, we're going to showcase the absolute biggest concerts the area has to offer this summer. They're going to be crowded and expensive, but if you're interested, it probably means you've got a healthy pension and a bone-deep desire to relive your youth (though the latter is more than enough reason to pony up $60), so indulge.


A general word on summer concert-going for the kids: classic rock and roots metal are very hot right now. Way hot. And it's cool that you're rocking a bandana to class and you got that Rush shirt for Christmas and you've had Frampton Comes Alive blasting out of your speaker box since March. But know this: Any concert you're considering going to with mom and dad (be it Petty or Slayer), means that daddy's probably going to wear tight cutoffs and mommy's going to try to get someone to autograph her breasts. It's OK -- that's how they had fun back before you were born -- you just need to be aware. It won't be pretty.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he first big show dropping this summer is Los Lobos (on June 30 at Northern Quest Casino). Their rock is influenced by a range of classic sounds, from country to Queen to traditional Latin Boleros. This has led to tremendous longevity and novelty (not to mention a crack at the La Bamba soundtrack).


We'd call this a passing of the torch if we had any reason to think that Slayer is ever going to stop holding yearly summer tours. They roll through town again this year, on July 16, and they're bringing a crop of four ultra-hot young metal crews: Lamb of God, Children of Bodom, Mastodon and Thine Eyes Bleed.


Mastodon has us especially stoked because -- besides the kick-ass name, which takes us straight back to Ice Age day in 8th-grade earth science -- the cover of their sophomore album Leviathan features the dopest-looking Moby Dick painting ever. Besides, their music feels like a return to the kind of angry, dank, uncompromising metal made by greats like, well, Slayer (and elder gods like Sabbath and Iron Maiden). They're playing the Arena, obviously. It's really the only place in town that has the structural integrity to withstand a metal siege of this magnitude.


We know what you're thinking. You're thinking that all the classic, Rat Pack-style Vegas lounge acts are pretty much dead. Every crooner you've swooned for from Bing to Sammy Davis Jr. has gone gently into that good night, and Wayne Newton can't play every tribal casino at once, right? That's against the laws of physics. So you're a bit lost in this cynical, tone-deaf age, with seemingly no place to hear a decent live version of "Mack the Knife." It'd be tragic if it were true, but it isn't. Lucky for you -- lucky for us, that is, all of us -- "Mack the Knife" is British Columbia native Michael Bubl & eacute;'s jam. It's what got him noticed when he was just a lowly Vancouver wedding singer, singing jazz standards for the recently betrothed children of former Canadian prime ministers. It's how he got his break. This boy can belt it out.


Since then, Bubl & eacute; has gone on to big-chart success in every former British colony. He's not quite as big in America as he is in Australia, but you've definitely heard his cuts on a Starbucks compilation or two. (Don't front like you don't own those.) On July 26, he'll bring his gin-and-crony show to the 'Kan, summoning decades-old hits like decades-old bolts of lightning. Bubl & eacute;'s powers of seduction are so strong that they powered his cover of "Let It Snow" into the Australian Top 40, even though it was midsummer down under. With that kind of season-changing power, how can the Arena hope to withstand him?


Granted, he ain't Mr. Vegas yet, but he desperately wants to be. With 10,000,000 record sales under his belt worldwide, Bubl & eacute; just needs to rock the tanning booth the way he rocks the mic and he'll have Newton running scared.


The last time Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers broke our hearts was that magical fall of 1999. It was a more idealistic age, to be sure. Young and in love, we and 20,000 of our best friends packed like sardines into the upper bowl of the Gorge, freezing our asses off through the last concert of the fall. Couldn't see a thing, couldn't feel our fingers, couldn't maintain a relationship. Memories.


He's playing the Arena this time, though (Aug. 1), so he's guaranteed to be closer. And it's indoors, so we're guaranteed to be warmer. All we'll have to worry about is getting our effete little hearts broken. Again.


Over two weekends beginning Aug. 3, the Festival at Sandpoint will feature a genre-hopping assortment of biggish names including Tanya Tucker, David Gray, Nickel Creek and Etta James.


We'd say more about Ani DiFranco coming to the Met on Aug. 16, but everyone who wants tickets already has them. If not, act quickly, because $37 is a small price to pay to keep your friends. We won't mention a word of your unforgivable tardiness to your quasi-politico-beat-feminist reading group. We aren't narcs. You can trust us.


Fitting that the summer's biggest show(s) would come at the end. Dave Matthews will rock the Gorge on three separate nights, Sept 1-3, just like you knew he would.





DON'T MISS & r & The Ramones were huge before you could buy their T-shirts at Urban Outfitters for 30 bucks (and even before you could buy them for $15 at Hot Topic). Chances are, if you're reading this section, the Ramones were huge before you were even born. And now, there's only one left -- MARKY RAMONE. See him June 18 at the Blvd.





A 30-year maker of acoustic guitar virtuosity, LEO KOTTKE isn't merely a show for the finger-pick set. It's also an event for you Phish acolytes. Two of Kottke's last three albums have been collabs with former bassist Mike Gordon. You can drink deep of Gordon's residual influence at Pavillion Park in Liberty Lake on July 22.





Not sure if I was supposed to play this like Built To Spill and keep it like a secret, but Ken Dupre's trying to keep Fat Tuesday's open an extra two weeks so he can host 30 SECONDS TO MARS on July 16. Who's that, you ask? Your girlfriend knows, buster. It's the band of mega-hottie Jared Leto (My So-Called Life, Requiem for a Dream), and it's a super-high-concept space-prog outfit. This is still tentative, but keep your eyes peeled.

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