Marvelous music, some free

Lady Gaga plays Boardwalk Hall on June 28.
Lady Gaga plays Boardwalk Hall on June 28. (THEO WARGO / Getty Images)
Posted: May 17, 2014

Blake Shelton and Lady Antebellum on the beach. Lady Gaga and Kiss at Boardwalk Hall. A jazz fest in Cape May - and a Beardfest in the woods.

All this and more awaits the Jersey Shore music fan this summer.

That's on top of a wide range of Atlantic City casino headliners, including superstar DJs (Paul Oakenfold, June 6 at Revel), young country stars (The Band Perry, May 31 at Caesars), Motown legends (Smokey Robinson May 24 at Harrah's, Diana Ross June 20 at Caesars) and classic rockers (John Fogerty July 19 at Borgata, Rod Stewart Aug. 23 at Taj Mahal).

The South Jersey action starts to warm up this weekend. Rising Mormon rock band Neon Trees plays the House of Blues Friday night. And all weekend long, the Camp Jam in the Pines Music Festival will be going on in Buena, with the Bernie Worrell Orchestra led by the Funkadelic keyboard player and Midwestern groove master Paul Cebar. And there's also big-name comedy (and magic) in Bill Cosby, at Revel's Ovation Hall, and Penn & Teller at Harrah's, both on Saturday.

Options abound next weekend. Hey hey: The Monkees are playing the Borgata on May 23; Debbie Harry and Blondie is at the Tropicana, and the Wailers are at Revel nightclub the Social on Saturday. Soul man John Legend plays the intimate Music Box at Borgata on Sunday, while Ovation Hall at Revel competes with the indie- and punk-rock bill of Death Cab for Cutie and Titus Andronicus. As the weekend dies down, electro DJ Steve Aoki revs it up at mur.mur at Borgata.

One of the highlights of the season arrives in the form of the inaugural Exit 0 International Jazz Festival in Cape May from May 30 to June 2. Dee Dee Bridgewater and Roy Hargrove headline along with New Orleans tandem the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers. Compelling acts on the undercard: blues harpist Phil Wiggins and bhangra funk brass band Red Baraat.

Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City is bringing in a quintet of big names. Gaga is June 28, Canadian smoothie Michael Buble sings July 12, bombastic American Idol star Adam Lambert fronts Queen on July 26, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Kiss are joined by Def Leppard on Aug. 2. Aerosmith is the Labor Day weekend attraction on Aug. 31.

But never mind those high-priced affairs: There's free music at Boardwalk Hall every day at noon starting Monday, when organist Dr. Steven Ball will resume a series of gratis concerts on the 150-ton Midmer-Losh Pipe Organ that was discontinued in 1944. He'll give you a free tour to boot!

There are two big free country shows on the beach in Atlantic City in front of Bally's: Voice star Shelton on July 31 and Lady Antebellum on Aug. 3.

Other noteworthy Atlantic City shows include Smiths miserabilist Morrissey on June 6 at Ovation Hall, and roots sibling act Avett Brothers in the same room the next night. At the Borgata's Event Center, it's Latin guitar god Carlos Santana on June 13 and 14, blues guitar ace Gary Clark Jr. on July 12, Aussie country hunk Keith Urban on July 17, and country star Darius Rucker on July 25.

All the action on the beaches isn't in A.C. Minds will be blown on the Ocean City Music Pier with Zappa Plays Zappa on July 7. The Bacon Brothers (7/21), G. Love & Special Sauce (8/4), and Indigo Girls (8/11) are also playing the family-friendly resort.

On a much smaller scale will be Beardfest, the "celebration of music, art, and sustainability" happening in Hammonton from June 13 to 15. The manifesto declares that "entertainment is too often reduced to a passive, spectator/performer relationship." Beardfest means to rectify that situation with yoga, camping, and a healthy dose of bands such as Moon Hooch, Consider the Source, and Flux Capacitor.

Farther afield

For those headed to Central Jersey, Sleigh Bells plays the Stone Pony in Asbury Park on June 12. Mary Gauthier is at the Saint on June 15, and Drive By Truckers and the Hold Steady team up for a divine bar-band double bill at the Stone Pony Summer Stage on June 27.

In Delaware, roots rockers Lucero and Old 97's play the Bottle & Cork in Dewey Beach, on July 20 and 23, respectively. Sacred steel guitar master Robert Randolph is at the club on July 25. At the Dogfish Head Brew Pub in Rehoboth, Drivin' N Cryin' plays May 24 and the Baseball Project on July 18. And of course, the near-the-beaches massive event in Delaware is the Firefly Music Festival, which takes place in Dover from June 19 to 22. OutKast, Foo Fighters, and Beck top a list of over a hundred bands.

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