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Really Big Shows: The Best Of The Biggest On Labor Day Weekend

Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

So many shows, so little time ...

The good news, at least, is that they’re free.

One of the highlights of Labor Day Weekend in the Detroit area each year is the plethora of festivals hosting free music throughout the four-day holiday, ranging from Pontiac’s Arts, Beats & Eats to the Detroit International Jazz Festival — celebrating its 29th year — the long-lived Hamtramck Labor Day Festival and, more recently, the Detroit Grand Prix. It’s a bargain with a beat.

But the sheer volume of shows can be daunting — what to see, after all, when there’s so much available, and personal cloning is not yet an option? The choices are hard, but here’s a dozen of the weekend’s performances that you definitely don’t want to miss ...

Philly/Detroit Tribute to Marvin Gaye: The Jazz Fest starts with a Motown-flavored bang as Christian McBride, the festival’s 2008 Artist in Residence, leads a tribute to the Hitsville legend with help from Lalah Hathaway, Rahsaan Patterson, Jose James and an exemplary big band. Former Detroit Lions star Lem Barney, who appeared on Gaye’s landmark “What’s Going On,” will introduce the set. 8:45 Friday (Aug. 29)on the Chase Main Stage at the Jazz Fest.

Encore: Arts, Beats & Eats’ official afterparty takes over the Crofoot complex at 1 S. Saginaw St. in Pontiac Friday (Aug. 29) with music by the Hard Lessons, Millions of Brazilians, Zoos of Berlin, DJ Mark-E, DJ Marquee and more, plus a Rock ’n’ Roll Fashion Show. The party starts at 8:30 tonight and it’s free, but you have to a) be 21 or older and b) RSVP at www.metromix.com or send an e.mail to DetroitRSVP@metromix.com. If you don’t, it’s a $5 cover, which goes to Lighthouse of Oakland County. Call (248) 858-9333 or visit www.thecrofoot.com.

Philly/Detroit Summit: The Jazz Fest’s sister cities face off again, with Christian McBride and the Philadelphia crew (Randy Brecker, Robert “Bootsie” Barnes) working out with Motor City mainstays Geri Allen, Karriem Riggins and Perry Hughes. It promises to be much more entertaining than, oh, a Lions-Eagles game. 3:45 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 30) on the Absopure Waterfront Stage.

Esperanza Spalding: The female upright bassist from Portland is stirring up the jazz world with her U.S. debut album, “Esperanza,” and a growing reputation for hot live performances with her quartet, which will accompany her at the Jazz Fest. 4:30 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 30) on the Here & Now Stage.

Everclear: Belle Isle might not be “Santa Monica,” but that won’t stop the West Coast rockers from tearing up the open-to-the-public Midway area at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix with hits as well as covers featured on the group’s latest album, “The Vegas Years.” 1:35 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 31) at the XM Stage.

Ravi Coltrane’s Tribute to Alice: It’s an all-in-the-family affair as the son of saxophone legend John Coltrane tips the hat to his late mother Alice Coltrane, a Detroit native and jazz luminary in her own right. The hot rhythm section of former Alice Coltrane collaborators Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette and Detroit-born pianist Geri Allen promises to make this a Jazz Fest highlight. 4:30 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 31)at the Carhartt Amphitheatre.

The Marcy Levy Band: Marcy Levy, a former backup singer for Bob Seger and Eric Clapton and half of the short-lived Shakespears Sister comes home to shake Arts, Beats & Eats with her current course of Motownbred blues rock. 8 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 31) on the Dodge Americana Stage.

Chaka Khan: The former Rufus frontwoman and solo star will sing you something good when she closes the third night of Arts, Beats & Eats. 10 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 31) on the Million Dollar Madness Stage

The Derek Trucks Band: Jazz is just one of the many styles the Allman Brothers Band guitarist weaves into his music when he steps out with his own group, a facile sextet that will play five studio albums’ worth of Derek Trucks material at Jazz Fest. 6 p.m. Monday (Sept. 1), Chase Main Stage.

James Carter Septet: Any homecoming show by saxophonist James Carter is a delight, and he has a new album, “Present Tense,” to showcase at this year’s visit to Jazz Fest. 6:30 p.m. Monday (Sept. 1), Carhartt Amphitheatre.

Rev Theory: Once known as Revelation Theory, the hard rock quintet from New York will provide a jolt of fresh energy into Arts, Beats & Eats’ largely gray main stage with its latest hit “Hell Yeah” and other material from its sophomore album, “Light It Up.” 4:30 p.m. Monday (Sept. 1) on the Million Dollar Madness Stage.

Speedball: The high-octane Detroit rock outfit will close out the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival in headbanging fashion. Just don’t eat too many pierogi before diving into the mosh pit. 8:30 p.m. Monday on the South Stage.

Chrysler Arts, Beats & Eats, today through Monday in downtown Pontiac. Call (248) 975-8850 or visit www.artsbeatseats.com.

Detroit International Jazz Festival, today through Monday in downtown Detroit. Call (313) 447-1248 or visit www.detroitjazzfest.com.

Hamtramck Labor Day Festival, today through Monday on Jos Campau Street between Caniff and Carpenter streets. Call (313) 204-8474 or visit www.hamtramckfestival.org.

Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, today through Sunday on Belle Isle. Call (313) 262-1800 or visit www.detroitgp.com.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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