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A dozen must-see shows during Detroit's festival weekend

of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

So much music — and only a limited amount of time.

It happens like that every Labor Day weekend around here. Even with one of the Metro Detroit area’s major events, the Michigan State Fair, now a not-so-distant memory, its counterparts and competitors — Arts, Beats & Eats, making its inaugural run in Royal Oak, the Detroit International Jazz Festival downtown and the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival — more than fill the void with scores of free or, in the case of the former, extremely low-cost concerts.

The issue, of course, is what to see amidst the myriad choices, a pursuit made harder this year by other big shows such as the second night of Eminem and Jay-Z on Friday, Sept. 3, at Comerica Park, Lady Gaga on Saturday, Sept. 4, at the Palace and Ted Nugent’s homecoming on Sunday, Sept. 5, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. What follows is a dozen festival shows not to miss if at all possible — and if you have some sort of “Star Trek”-style transporter to cut down on travel time, please let us know ...

* Opening night of the Detroit Jazz Fest is always special, and it will be so on Friday when the gospel vocal group Take 6 joins festival Artists in Residence Mulgrew Miller and his Trio at 7 p.m. on the Chase Main Stage. Tower of Power’s brassy brand of rockin’ R&B at 9:15 p.m. only makes a good night even better.

* Some of the hottest sounds at Arts, Beats & Eats will be indoors at the Royal Oak Music Theatre with three shows presented by Kid Rock’s Made In Detroit clothing company. Friday’s lineup includes the Howling Diablos, Silverghost and more, with a midnight performance by Sponge. The Hard Lessons and Ty Stone will headline on Saturday, with Rhythm Corps doing the midnight duty, and Jody Raffoul & Friends and Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas will wrap things up on Sunday. The theater is at 318 W. Fourth St. Admission is free until 10 p.m. and $3 after.

* Born Lillie Mae Jones in Flint, Betty Carter turned the jazz world on its ear from the 1940s on a unique and individual vocal style that earned her the title of Godmother of Jazz. A dozen years after her death, a group of Detroit devotees — led by pianist Cliff Monear and featuring bassist Paul Keller, drummer Sean Dobbins and vocalists Naima Shambourger, Kelly Broadway and Stephanie Monear Shindler — present a Jazz Fest tribute at 1 p.m. Saturday on the Absopure Waterfront Stage.

* Ann Arbor-raised Mayer Hawthorne (né Andrew Mayer Cohen) has made a national impact with the classic but contemporary soul sounds of his 2009 debut album, “A Strange Arrangement,” and its hit “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out.” The former DJ Haircut does it even better on stage, which makes his 8:30 p.m. Saturday show on Arts, Beats & Eats’ Michigan Lottery Stage one to camp out for.

* Sweet soul music will get a jazz touch when saxophonist Kirk Whalum leads a Jazz Fest tribute to the late singer and songwriter Donny Hathaway, with his eldest daughter Lalah Hathaway, a recording artist herself, joining in at 9 p.m. Saturday on the Chase Main Stage.

* Getting to Mass on the Sunday morning of a holiday weekend means getting past the pounding mass that is your head after the Saturday night of a holiday weekend. But Big Daddy Lackowski will make it worth donning the babushka this Sunday when he presides over the annual Polka Mass on the South Stage of the Hamtramck festival.

* Ebbing commercial fortunes have not dulled R&B-styled songstress Macy Gray’s performing chops (see story page [refer to sound check item]), which will be on display as she closes Arts, Beats & Eats’ Michigan Lottery Stage at 10 p.m. Sunday. Get there early to catch the vibe with Larry Lee & the Back in the Day Band at 7 p.m. and War at 8:15 p.m.

* New Orleans songwriter, producer and performer Allen Toussaint is a bona fide American legend who’s cut across genres via his work with Paul McCartney & Wings, LaBelle, the Meters and many others. His performance at 5 p.m. Monday on the Chase Main Stage may be the most mandatory show to catch this weekend.

* Detroit rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Mitch Ryder’s hits seem like a mandatory soundtrack to a holiday weekend in the Metro Detroit area. He’ll be playing them to close out the Hamtramck festival at 8 p.m. Monday on the South Stage.

* Electronic/funk fusionist Amp Fiddler, who’s in the midst of working on a new album, will downsize to a quartet for a special “Labor Day” performance at 8 p.m. Monday on the Ford Fiesta Stage at Arts, Beats & Eats. Expect to hear songs from “Waltz of the Ghetto Fly” and “Afro Strut,” as well as a version of the Leaves’ “Hey Joe” that Fiddler has never performed live.

If you go

* Arts, Beats & Eats runs 11 a.m.-11 p.m. today-Sunday, Sept. 3-5, and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 6, in downtown Royal Oak. Admission is free on Friday until 5 p.m., $3 thereafter. For information and schedules visit www.artsbeatseats.com.

* The 31st annual Detroit International Jazz Festival takes place 4-11 p.m. today; noon-11:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 4-5; and noon-7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 6, between Hart Plaza and Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit. Admission is free. Performances and other content will be available on www.JazzPlanet.tv. Call 313-447-1248 or visit www.detroitjazzfest.com for more information and schedules.

* The Hamtramck Labor Day Festival begins at noon Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 4-5, and 8:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 6, in downtown Hamtrack. Schedules and information are available at www.hamtownfest.com.

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