Click here for a comprehensive list of concerts for this summer in the Omaha metro area With another string of 90-plus degree days having passed Omaha’s way, it’s time to acknowledge that the summer season is here. Big summer concerts are already rolling into town, well ahead of the official June 21 start of summer. So here’s your Reader -approved rundown of what’s hot on this year’s summer concert schedule: Playing With Fire’s big show In its eighth year, the Playing With Fire concert series hit soulful pay dirt by booking Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings to headline their free concert along the downtown Omaha riverfront. But organizer Jeff Davis hopes the much-ballyhooed booking isn’t the swansong for his roots, blues and R&B event. This year’s event doesn’t have a title sponsor. Without new sponsorship for next year, Davis says it doesn’t bode well for the Playing With Fire series’ existence. “If I could figure out a way to just break even, I’d do it forever,” he says. Davis says he has done about 40 shows, but must now have additional sponsors. Davis is pumped about booking Jones and her band, and for good reason. Jones’ throwback funk-soul sound planted seeds for a growing revival of raw, rough soul music. The label behind her, Daptone Records, has become a predominant force in that movement. Davis tried to secure Jones last year, but her touring schedule didn’t sync with an Omaha date. For this event, he started working with the band in November. The band was eager to get their first-ever Omaha show booked, he says. The event’s usual home on the Lewis & Clark Landing will be moved slightly, to the parking lot immediately to the west. Her act appeals beyond the blues and R&B fans who have become Playing With Fire’s core audience. Davis hopes her appeal will open the eyes of indie music fans to the band’s mission. Davis also hopes to expose the Jones audience to Austin’s the Malford Milligan Band and the Brad Cordle Band, adding a mix of blues to what will be a soul music-centered show. He says maintaining the show as a free event allows him to spice up the variety of the concert’s bill. “It’s probably going to be the hottest show we’ve ever done,” he says. And that could lead to new sponsorship andd new life for one of Omaha’s premier summer music events. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings w/ the Malford Milligan Band, the Brad Cordle Band and the BluesEd Youth Development Band Crimson Dawn play the Playing With Fire concert series Saturday, July 16 at 5 p.m., just west of downtown Omaha’s Lewis & Clark Landing. The concert is free. For more information, visit PlayingWithFireOmaha.net. Outdoor shows go big-time There’s the big multiple-day, multiple-genre music festival, there’s the smaller one-day indie rock festival, there’s the punk tour and there’s the yet-to-be-announced radio station hard rock concert. Omaha’s all-day summer concert calendar has suddenly become busy, with this year’s launch of the six-day Red Sky Music Festival at north downtown’s TD Ameritrade Park running July 18-23. Red Sky is making its pitch to those who have already made the Qwest Center a concert destination, betting on classic rock, hard rock and new country stars to fill their dates. The festival’s best bet might be its reasonably priced day stages, which open at 11 a.m. each day. Though the day stage line-ups have not been released, for as little as $10 per day, the chance to catch acts like Better Than Ezra, Cowboy Mouth, Bruce Hornsby, George Clinton and Buddy Guy seems more than reasonable. Meanwhile, Maha Music Festival, August 13, is staying true to its vision, with a line-up that seeks to cement its reputation as a premier regional indie music festival. This year, the surprise get is Guided By Voices, playing with a line-up responsible for their two most acclaimed albums, 1994’s Bee Thousand and 1995’s Alien Lanes . Pollard and crew are a lovably irascible bunch, famous for short songs and boozy, energetic live shows. Matisyahu, the Hasidic reggae-influenced rapper, also is a feather in Maha’s cap, as the Epic Records artist has critical laurels and commercial appeal. Cursive serves as the local standard bearer, rocking for one night only with former drummer Clint Schnase. The Vans Warped Tour rolls into the Westfair Amphitheater in Council Bluffs August 4, with a mix of acts across punk and alternative genres. This year, Warped brings some surprises hidden in its youthful selection of pop-punk and skinny jeans emo. Against Me! and the Menzingers bring up some classic, anthemic street punk energy, while Americana rockers Lucero stand out as this year’s oddball Warped Tour participant. For those three alone, I will brave the Hot Topic-clad kids this year. The last gasp of big summer concerts will come courtesy of 89.7 The River and their yearly River Riot, set for September 23. The modern rock station keeps this event varied, stocking up on Stone Temple Pilots and Weezer last year. Event details should be around the corner, as tickets are already on sale. Stir Cove keeps growing Stir Cove kicked off its eighth season by announcing two big shows that would sell out lightning quick. Tickets for shows by Mumford and Sons, June 14, and the Black Keys, July 5, were immediately snatched up. Harrah’s Council Bluffs marketing entertainment manager Missy Hardersen says the sellouts help show just how popular the Stir Cove summer concert series has become, and how good Stir’s concert schedulers have become at booking talent. “We got them while they were hot,” she says. It also shows how much the perception of being a band that plays a casino has shifted in just a decade. What was once derided as just a step above the county fair circuit is now a desirable tour stop for any band, thanks to venues like Stir Cove’s natural outdoor, riverfront amphitheater. The series hops genres, including acts like country star Eric Church, classic rocker Meatloaf, the hard-rock Carnival of Madness tour, 60s’ pop-rockers the Monkees and a return visit from the 90s’ weirdo alternative rock/indie legends the Flaming Lips. The old perceptions of what bands play the casino is dead, Hardersen says. “That hasn’t really been an issue over the last five years,” she says. Artists are not afraid to play the Cove; and Harrah’s booker, C3 Presents, isn’t afraid to bring a variety of acts to play in Council Bluffs. Stir Cove plans to book outdoor shows into October, aiming for as many as 25 summer shows this year. And as far as flood concerns go, the Stir Cove is safe. Some parking lots are having water issues, but the casino is encouraging people to park at the Mid-America Center in Lot B and grab a complimentary shuttle to the Stir Cove. Those free shuttles will run from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. each show day. For more information on the Stir Cove shows, visit HarrahsCouncilBluffs.com and click on “Stir Cove Concert Series”. The price is free In addition to the Playing With Fire show, there’s plenty of great concert options this summer for the bargain price of nothing. The first of the big ones is the yearly Bank of the West Celebrates America concert July 1 at Memorial Park. The fireworks-and-freedom-rock spectacular usually taps into a ridiculous strain of dinosaur rock, but this time concert organizers have Cheap Trick lined up. The classic rockers are power-pop gods for good reason. 38 Special bring southern-fried arena rock muscle to open the show. Seriously, Cheap Trick for free is way too good to pass up. Maha Music Festival offers its own bit of free, with three local band-curated showcases leading up to Maha’s own big show. Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship host a free Waiting Room Lounge show June 22. The Machete Archive host a free Duffy’s Tavern show in Lincoln June 30. The So-So Sailors host a free Slowdown show July 28. Those three bands all play Maha’s local stage August 13. The final big free show may be the Toyota Antics Omaha Block Party at the Slowdown August 26. The Hold Steady is headlining the show in the Slowdown’s parking lot and that’s pretty much worth at least $20. The Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis band are the indie rock reinvention of the bar band, with singer Craig Finn running through accounts of massive nights, constructions summers and complicated things, while backed by a wall of guitars and plenty of Springsteen-inspired bombast. The Hold Steady have staked a pretty credible claim to currently being America’s best rock band. That’s all you really need to know about that one. Summer in the clubs Big summer shows are fun, but there’s still action inside venues like the Waiting Room Lounge and the Slowdown. Here’s five worth checking out: 1. Grant Hart, June 30 at the Waiting Room: Dave Leibowitz, host of 89.7’s indie music program “New Day Rising,” says the last time Hart was scheduled to come to Omaha, he was still in Husker Du, but the band broke up before they got to town. 2. The Fresh & Onlys, July 15 at the Slowdown: These San Franciscans play ’60s psychedelic garage-pop through a throbbing post-punk haze. 3. Blitzen Trapper, July 26 at the Slowdown: Sub Pop Records band has increasingly run toward their prog-rock treatment of CSNY-influenced country rock, making them the odd cousins to the more staid folk rock of bands like Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver. 4. Dropkick Murphys, July 7 at the Sokol: Boston punk rockers run with a decidedly Irish streak, pummeling their way into bigger rooms like Sokol after being featured in the movie, The Departed . 5. Nashville Pussy and The Dwarves, August 16 at the Bourbon Theater in Lincoln: Come for the shock-punk mayhem of the Dwarves, stay for Nashville Pussy’s ridiculously fun onslaught of hard rock, rockabilly and punk. Summer means new music, too Summer often sees high profile releases by bigger artists. This summer is a little pulled back, but expect plenty of new product in stores and online. Beyonce, Lil Wayne, Bon Iver, Owl City and Bjork are prepping major releases. Local label Saddle Creek Records is prepping a new Maria Taylor album, Overlook , and the debut release of Big Harp. Other under-the-radar releases worth noting: Black Lips — Arabia Mountain : Atlanta flower-punk band hooked up with English producer Mark Ronson and find ways to subvert studio sheen with oddball garage-pop songwriting. Raw meat percussion and a song about Spider-man, sign me up. F***ed Up — David Comes To Life : Epic rock move from ambitious indie-punk band goes for the rock opera, but with a balding hardcore ranter that goes by the name Pink Eyes at the microphone. Liam Finn — FOMO : New Zealand songwriter is the energetic offspring of Crowded House’s Neil Finn and the melodic gifts don’t fall far from the tree. This time, Liam Finn trades in solo studio tinkering for full band collaboration. Ty Segall — Goodbye Bread : Bay Area power-pop prodigy has stayed in the garage, cranking out fuzzed-up bits of rock ‘n’ roll. This time, Segall promises something a little more sedate, melodic, pastoral. It’s time to see just what ticks behind all the youthful, punk-rock tics.