Summer is the time to kick back at the pool, work on that tan and blast your favorite sprinkler jams, but it's also the season to pack into your Nissan Cube and tromp down to the local amphitheater or arena to check out shows by the likes of [artist id="3274550"]Katy Perry[/artist], [artist id="510062"]Lil Wayne[/artist], [artist id="986"]Foo Fighters[/artist], [artist id="1940303"]Rihanna[/artist], [artist id="2389485"]Taylor Swift[/artist], [artist id="501686"]Britney Spears[/artist] and [artist id="1191443"]My Morning Jacket[/artist].
Just like movie studios roll out the big guns around the holidays in time to take a shot at Oscar gold, music stars know that summer is the best time to separate fans from their hard-earned babysitting and lifeguarding money. That's why local venues are stuffed up with a bumper crop of big shows packing enough pyro and lasers to take out an invading alien army in an effort to get the most butts in seats.
We asked a panel of experts to make their picks for the summer's hottest ticket, and like Oscar voters, they all had their favorites, but there was one thing they could all agree on: Taylor Swift and veteran rockers U2 are going to clean house this summer.
"I think in terms of demand and crossing over from theaters to arenas, Katy Perry is doing it right," said Dave Brooks, senior writer for live-entertainment trade magazine Venues Today. Between her many TV appearances, magazine covers and record-setting string of hit singles from Teenage Dream, Brooks said Perry is doing everything right and creating great demand for an eye-popping extravaganza that is "pulling out all the stops."
Us Weekly senior music editor Ian Drew agreed, saying Perry's tour is sure to entertain. "[It's a] colorful, all-out spectacle," he said of the cotton-candy-smelling outing. "Remember that Lady Gaga is not out on the road this summer, so there's going to be no competition. ... The tour is an all-out spectacle. It's basically like going to a massive Broadway show."
Another artist who seems to have solved the live-headliner puzzle fairly quickly is Swift, who Brooks said has endeared herself to the industry and to fans through her professionalism, dedication and prodigious talent. "She moves tickets really quickly, and her two L.A. shows sold out right away and they added two more," he said, noting that Swift does so well because she appeals to a wide audience that ranges from tween girls to adult women.
Blogger Perez Hilton's pick to click was Swift, whom he predicted would have the most buzzed-about tour by summer's end. "Just because she is performing so many shows, [playing] sold-out arenas, and to her credit, no one else that is a female artist is doing this right now ... playing stadiums in America ... that is major."
It remains to be seen how some early cancellations due to illness will affect the rest of Swift's outing.
With such heavy-hitting rap stars as Jay-Z, Kanye West and an incarcerated T.I. absent from the touring scene (outside of spot festival dates), Brooks said hard-touring Lil Wayne once again has the lane to himself and should keep packing them in for his never-ending I Am Still Music Tour.
Brooks wasn't sure how the Britney Spears/ Nicki Minaj tour was going to pan out, noting that advance ticket numbers didn't look that impressive and that good seats could still be found on Groupon just days before a number of the dates for the two divas. Drew said that despite the lack of buzz, Britney loyalists will still come out because of their love for everything Brit and the allure of Minaj. "It's just gonna be two very big divas on the charts now coming together in one awesome show," he said.
When it comes to the summer swing by reunited punk-poppers Blink-182, who will be playing a string of dates with goth-pop icons My Chemical Romance, Brooks said the early signs are good. He suspected the pairing could introduce a new generation to the spiky Blink sound, was willing to bet that rock icons Foo Fighters would continue to do solid business and had a good feeling about rising softer rockers Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver.
His pick to keep an eye on was the Avett Brothers, the North Carolina sibling honky-tonkin' bluegrass band, who have developed a really solid, devoted road following and are about to play a sold-out show at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado on Saturday.
Pollstar editor in chief Gary Bongiovanni said there was no doubt that U2's massive 360 Tour — already expected to be the highest-grossing of all time when it wraps — will be the summer's biggest hit, despite the fact that it will end in the middle of beach season on July 23.
He said early numbers also indicate that Wiz Khalifa's theater and small outdoor venue tour is looking very strong and he expects solid, but not blockbuster, numbers for the NKOTBSB boy-band package.
Though it has only 12 dates remaining, Bongiovanni said Dave Matthews Band's Caravan — what he called a "portable festival" — promises to do solid business with three-night stands in New York, Chicago and Washington state, featuring an eclectic lineup that includes the Flaming Lips, Ray LaMontagne, Amos Lee, Moe, Kid Cudi, De La Soul, Soja, the Roots, Dispatch, O.A.R., the Head and the Heart and Gogol Bordello.
When it comes to new-breed rock bands like Kings of Leon and My Morning Jacket, Bongiovanni said it all depends on pricing the tickets right. "I think pricing will be more in tune with the economic times this year," he said. "Everyone played it conservative in 2009 and then they pushed the envelope in 2010 and they saw serious pushback."
As for his pick to watch, Bongiovanni said not to underestimate the pull of dance-music stars like Tiësto and the first-ever touring electronic festival IDentity, which features such stars as Kaskade, Steve Aoki, Skrillex, DJ Shadow, Afrojack, Booka Shade and Nervo. "Music is just one part of it," he said of the resurgence of live dance-music stars. "They're creating an entertainment environment and you can't underestimate the teenage appeal of partying with your peers."
What do you think will be the summer's biggest tour? Let us know in comments below!