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The must-sees at Detroit's Labor Day Weekend music festivals

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Call it the Labor Day Weekend conundrum -- so much music, so many acts, so many choices to make...

The metro area's four main festivals will host more than 300 musical performances between them, in every genre imaginable from polka to pop to avant garde jazz. It's all free, or very low dough, too which leaves few viable excuses for not shaking a tail feather at least one of the days -- and preferably more.

There are plenty of hard decisions to make, but when you're plotting your strategy here are 15 must-sees moments during the weekend...

* The Bad Plus & Joshua Redman, Detroit Jazz Festival (DJF): This festival-opening set may be the most interesting of the many opportunities to see this year's Detroit Jazz Festival Artist in Residence, saxophonist Joshua Redman, pairing him with the experimental, genre-defying trio from Minneapolis. 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29, JP Morgan Chase Main Stage.

* Movement Detroit Showcases, Arts, Beats & Eats (AB&E): Detroit's Memorial Day weekend electronic music festival brings the beats to Royal Oak for Labor Day weekend, showcasing DJs Emo the Inferno, Cash 4 Gold, Thornstryker and Ryan Richards at 9 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Aug. 29-31, at the Rockstar Performance Pit

Looking for the next Jena Irene, Jeff Gutt, Malaya Watson or Olivia Millerschin? The Fifth Third Michigan State Fair's Superstar competition vows to "launch a music career" during the weekend. Hopefuls will compete Friday and Saturday (Aug. 29-30) for more than $20,00 in cash and prizes, including studio time, vocal performance coaching and a chance to play a headline set on Sunday, Aug. 31.

Howling Dialbos and the Infatuations, AB&E: The party center of the weekend comes with this hot back-to-back pairing at the Budweiser Rock Stage starting at 7:45 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30. Check it out and you'll really know what dancing in the street is all about.

* Louis Armstrong's Musical Legacy, DJF: Detroit's Jazz Master Laureate Marcus Belgrave leads an all-star salute to Satchmo with fellow trumpeters Nicholas Payton and Wendell Burnious, vocalists Barbara Morrison and Joan Belgrave, and other notables. 3:45 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31, Mack Avenue Waterfront Stage.

* John King, AB&E: If you want to catch a rising star this weekend, this buzzed-about country singer might just be your man. King is currently working on his debut album; when it's out, you may just be seeing him at bigger places -- and paying a lot more money to do so. 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31, Michigan Lottery National Stage.

* Regina Carter's Southern Comfort, DJF: The Detroit violinist, Oakland University grad and Straight Ahead alumnus always has something interesting to say, and play, and her "Southern Comfort" roots project hasn't worn out its welcome since its early March release. 6:45 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31, JP Morgan Main Stage.

* Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli, DJF: Lewis and Pizzarelli are generally worth seeing, together or separately, no matter what they're playing. Their Nat King Cole tribute "Straighten Up and Fly Right" just makes it that much better. 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31, JP Morgan Chase Main Stage.

* The Volebeats, Hamtramck: The worldwide acclaimed Detroit Americana troupe, currently working "slowly" on a new album according to the group's Matthew Smith, plays its first show in more than a year at 5:30 p.m. Sunday on the McClure's Stage.

* Cadillac Kidz, AB&E: The much-loved Detroit 80s glam rockers reunite for their first Detroit show in 28 years, with the group's four original members promising to "Cadillac it" like they did back in the day -- with Bugs Beddow and the former David Ruffin horn section sitting in. 9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31, Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort Americana Stage.

* Dennis Coffey and Melvin Davis, Hamtramck: You won't find a better one-two punch of Detroit soul, rock and a little bit of jazz than these two veterans, who play back to back at 7 and 9 p.m., respectively, Sunday, Aug. 31, on the Sterling/Franklin Stage.

* "To Miles, From Wayne," DJF: Trumpeter Wallace Roney studied with both Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter, making him the perfect bandleader to bring to life "Legend" and "Universe," two late 60s pieces Shorter composed for Miles Davis. He'll do so at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31, on the Carhartt Amphitheater Stage.

* Diane Schuur, DJF: The blind vocalist and pianist celebrates her latest album, "I Remember You (With Love to Stan and Frank)" with several of the all-stars who played on the set. 3:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 1, JP Morgan Chase Main Stage.

* Theory of a Deadman, AB&E: The Canadian hard rockers had to cancel shows earlier this year due to frontman Tyler Connolly's health. Now it's back with a vengeance, pushing songs from its fifth album, "Savages. 8:45 p.m. Monday, Sept. 1, Michigan Lottery National Stage.

* Stanley Clarke, DJF: One of the world's finest bassist, and not just in jazz, leads a quartet in his continuing celebration of his 1976 hit album "School Days." 6:15 p.m. Monday, Sept. 1, Carhartt Amphitheater Stage.

Arts, Beats and Eats: Friday-Monday, Aug. 29-Sept. 1, downtown Royal Oak. Admission is $3 before 3 p.m., $5 after and free on Friday before 5 p.m. Visit www.artsbeatseats.com.

35th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival. Friday-Monday, Aug. 29-Sept. 1, Hart Plaza and Campus Martius Park area in downtown Detroit. Admission is free. Visit www.detroitjazzfest.com.

Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair: Friday-Monday, Aug. 29-Sept. 1, Suburban Collection Showplace, 46100 Grand River Ave., Novi. Tickets range from $5-$30. Visit www.michiganstatefairllc.com.

Hamtramck Labor Day Festival: Saturday-Monday, Aug. 30-Sept. 1, Jos Campau between Caniff and Commor. Admission is free. Visit www.hamtownfest.com.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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