THE MUSIC THAW is upon us, as tour buses dig out and get back on the road. Honestly, there's so much to see and hear that these picks are just icing on the cake - but at least not on the roads.
We're excited about the intimate next coming of Lauryn Hill, the passionate and most unpredictable of neo-soul chanteuses. At another extreme, we're left to ponder whether Taylor Swift has the stage moves to reach and captivate a stadium full of fans (let alone two stadiums full). Pink and Katy Perry she hasn't been, but, come on, girl, surprise us.
Ben Folds' three-day/three-venue residency is a clever idea. The smart money has already decided that his piano concerto will sound best at World Cafe Live (already sold out). But who knows? He might connect better at TLA, or throw on more production at Temple.
And note how the definition of "festivals" is changing, as spring brings concertgoers four consecutive nights of nu-folk at the Academy of Music - and the most hip-hop/electronica-focused Roots Picnic to date. Philly music seems underrepresented at this eighth annual picnic, but maybe more homegrown acts will emerge in the "newly added attractions" column.
Lauryn Hill, March 28. You knew her from the Fugees first, then as a neo-soul innovator - integrating elements of rap, soul, reggae and R&B. Always an intimate, sharing artist, Hill vows on this visit to wield an extra "Small Axe" (the name for the acoustic tour that brings her here). Also part of the evening: an abridged screening of "Concerning Violence," based on the writings of Afro-French psychiatrist/revolutionary Frantz Fanon.
Keswick Theatre, Easton Road and Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 9 p.m. $65-$125, 215-572-7650, keswicktheatre.com.
Decemberists/Damien Rice/Sufjan Stevens, April 7-10. Shows by three folk acts back-to-back on four consecutive nights could be a historic first for the Academy of Music - a virtual festival! The Decemberists kick off the series on a Tuesday with dark and stormy originals that hearken to old English balladry. The next night, sensitive Irish soul Rice does his show. Then comes esoteric hipster Stevens - so popular he's playing two nights.
Academy of Music, Broad and Locust streets, Decemberists, April 7 ($43.50); Damien Rice, April 8 $37.50-$45; Sufjan Stevens, April 9-10 ($35-$45); all shows 8 p.m., 215-893-1999, kimmelcenter.org.
Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, April 11. Dueling titans of the jazz keyboard play alongside and off each other, sharpening their focus to achieve a collective voice.
Academy of Music, Broad and Locust streets, 8 p.m., $55-129, 215-893-1999, kimmelcenter.org.
Zappa Plays Zappa, April 11. Hey, "Po-jama People"! Dweezil Zappa celebrates the 40th anniversary of daddy Frank's comedy-spiced jazz/fusion masterpiece "One Size Fits All." Devotees also can partake in an afternoon master class and preshow soundcheck party, for added fees.
Keswick Theatre, Easton Road and Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 8 p.m., $39.50-$89.50 (premium tickets include the party), 215-572-7650, keswicktheatre.com.
Lee Ann Womack, April 19. Country singer-songwriter juggles the two roles well, melding provocative ideas with music that's appealing to traditionalists and accessible to the Swift-set, too. Young turk Amanda Shires, opening, should also please the general populace.
World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., 8 p.m., $25, 215-222-1400, worldcafelive.com.
Pokey LaFarge, May 1. Old-timey hepcat swings acoustic jazzbo ditties that are true to the Cab Calloway/Leon Redbone/Bob Dylan continuum. Feets don't fail us now from havin' lotsa fun with the Pokester. Caroline Rose opens.
World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., 8 p.m., $18-$20, 215-222-1400, worldcafelive.com.
Ben Folds & yMusic, May 11-13. After last summer's tantalizing tease of his piano concerto (guesting with the Philadelphia Orchestra), Ben serves the work fully baked with the small but willing yMusic ensemble. For added compare/contrast interest, they're performing at three local venues, with a second set likely to vary.
TLA, 334 South St., 8 p.m. May 11, $35, 800-745-3000, livenation.com; World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., 8 p.m. May 12, sold out; Temple Performing Arts Center, 1836 N. Broad St., 8 p.m. May 13, $49.50, 800-298-4200, templeperformingartscenter.org.
JJ Grey & Mofro, May 15. Greasy, gutsy Southern rockers pull juicy stuff out of the deep fryer. A tough job, but somebody's gotta do it - well.
Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., 8 p.m., $25-$28, 215-232-2100, utphilly.com.
The Who and Joan Jett, May 17. The headliners are turning 50 as a group. Worth attending just to hear Daltrey and Townshend laugh their way through the punch line, "Hope I die before I get old." Local runaway Joan Jett takes off first.
Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St., 7:30 p.m., $36.50-$142, 800-298-4200, comcasttix.com.
Roots Picnic, May 30. Spread over three stages, with 18 artists, this eighth annual feast of hipness boasts performances by the Weeknd, Phantogram, Erykah Badu (backed by the Roots), A$AP Rocky, Hiatus Kaiyote, Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Windows 98 (Win Butler of Arcade Fire), Philly DJ legend King Britt and more.
Festival Pier, Columbus Boulevard at the foot of Spring Garden Street, 11 a.m., $81.75, 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com.
Taylor Swift, June 12-13. America's sweetheart (at least, biggest album seller) brings the concert version of her "1989" album to the Linc, with opening acts Vance Joy and Shawn Mendes (one of 'em the next Ed Sheeran, perhaps?).
Lincoln Financial Field, 1 Lincoln Financial Way, 7 p.m., $75-$200, 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com.
Bette Midler, June 16. After Hollyweird-ness and a long run in Vegas, Miss M returns to a town that loved her early and well. The tour's being shepherded by localite Larry Magid, guaranteeing best behavior from the Divine One.
Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St., 8 p.m., $45-$260, 800-298-4200, comcasttix.com.