August 2018 is a month of leviathans. While the barnacled giants of the sea roll in clouds of krill for the whale watchers off Stellwagen Bank, the fame-pocked heavyweights of country, rock and pop churn up their hits for legions of fans at the region’s major venues. Chicago, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley are booked at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield; Billy Joel, Journey and Def Leppard will be rattling the stands at Fenway Park; Jay-Z & Beyonce and Kenny Chesney are filling the football void until Brady returns for another season at Gillette Stadium.
Many people tend to go big or stay home when it comes to live summer sounds, but beyond the supermassive headliners is a cluster of artists, across all genres of music, who should not be missed at any cost. We’ve picked out a selection of the best among them. Some of these artists you may already know, others will become your favorite summer discovery since North Shore fried clams.
EMERSON STRING QUARTET
If asked to pick the Led Zeppelin of string quartets—based not on their excessive rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, which we presume to be minimal, but on their quality and standing among peers—many experts would choose the Emerson Quartet. If you think classical music isn’t really your thing, wait until you hear the EQ nail Beethoven’s String Quartets Op. 130 and 131. Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, The Simon Center for the Arts at Falmouth Academy, Aug. 2, 2018
Practically a deity in Brazil, Seu Jorge found global fame after covering a selection of Bowie classics in Wes Anderson’s movie, “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” each tune wrapped in a blanket of folky, world-weary, samba-dusted soul. His apprenticeship in music was served, while homeless, on the favela streets of Rio, before 2001’s solo debut “Samba Esporte Fino” aka “Carolina.” Mark this gig under “must-see.” City Winery, Aug. 20, 2018
This killer four-piece rock outfit from Vancouver is fronted by the Finn Wolfhard, best known so far as Mike, the kid beset by Demogorgon hassles in “Stranger Things.” Don’t be fooled by the band’s tender years—Calpurnia rock like they’ve been 'round the block more than once, whether cranking out originals like “City Boy” or covering The Velvet Underground and The Pixies. Paradise Rock Club Aug. 18, 2018
Embraced as one of their own by Boston alt rock aficionados, Belly was the product of a thriving and inventive music culture in Newport, Rhode Island, during the early 1990s. Fronted by Tanya Donelly, the band offered a brace of excellent albums before calling it quits for more than two decades. Reunited in 2016, Belly picked right up where they had left a solid core of devotees and delivered third album “Dove” this year. Get your ears around towering cuts like “Mine” and “Shiny One.” The Royale, Aug. 23, 2018
Anyone familiar with cult TV comedy “Toast of London” may know that its star, Matt Berry, a connoisseur of music’s most interesting niches, rates Beach House among his all-time favorite bands. Which is quite a compliment, because the Baltimore dream-pop outfit made their debut fairly recently, in the mid-‘00s. Their third album, 2010s “Teen Dream” was greeted with almost universal critical acclaim, as was their most recent offering, 2018’s “7.” Immerse yourself in a sound that’s lush, blissful and a little disorienting. House of Blues, Aug. 24, 2018
He’s worked with Madonna and Zac Brown, opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, provided voiceovers for “The Peanuts Movie,” played five gigs at the White House and released an eponymous children’s book about his life—welcome to the incredible, eclectic universe of New Orleans phenom, Trombone Shorty, who takes the instrument that named him into insanely groovy pockets of jazz, funk and soul. Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, Aug. 4, 2018
THE SLOCAN RAMBLERS
Steeped in bluegrass tradition, but not shackled to it, The Slocan Ramblers (known to their fans as The Slocans) have a talent for reinvention and a solid reputation for hi-octane live shows—and hi-octane is a phrase not often used to describe acoustic music played on mandolin, guitar, bass and banjo. This is Appalachian moonshine filtered through a Canadian sensibility— they’re from Toronto—which means just the right balance of grit and finesse. These fellas will have you jigging around like a hooch-crazed mountain hermit in no time. Club Passim, Aug. 30, 2018
When Jazzmeia Horn performed “Moanin” at the 2018 GRAMMYs, she soulfully scatsang her way into hearts outside of the purely jazzhead community. She now looks poised to make a lasting mark in mainstream music. The winner of multiple awards, including the 2015 Thelonius Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition, Horn has more range than a Montana ranch, and more sass than a Louisiana gumbo. Born and raised in Dallas, she attended the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York. Martha’s Vineyard Jazz and Blues Summerfest, Aug. 30, 2018