Don’t sweat the concerts, just dig these hits.

Summer of Ham 

Don’t sweat the concerts, just dig these hits.

It's the summer concert season, which only makes it painfully clear that we live in the dead-ass middle of the country. Madonna, Pearl Jam, Radiohead — all of those hot-ticket tours are flying right over our heads while local marquees display only throwback bands.

In contemplating the idea of hot-weather communion with pop dinosaurs, we logged on to iTunes and cooked up an iMix of the most jammin' hits by many of the bands coming through Kansas City this summer.

What we realized is that just about all of these songs, even the ones by sucky bands, are actually really damn good. Who knew? Here are the liner notes to some of our favorite tunes from the mix. (If you want a copy to remind you of the great summer concert season of '06, go to the Music Store at iTunes, click on iMix, and look for the mix titled "Summertime in KC. " It'll set you back about $40.) TimesDave Matthews Band with G. Love & Special Sauce "What Would You Say" (Dave), "Cold Beverage" (G. Love) Dave Matthews has become a punch line, but when the cuddly, nasal-voiced, South African palooka came on the scene in '96 with this bullshit ditty about being there when the bear ate its head, thinking it was a candy, you know you ate it up. Meanwhile, Philly homeboy G. Love's best album remains his band's self-titled debut, a slopping stew of hip-hoppy blues that features "Cold Beverage," the finest ode to the quenching of summer thirst since the Sons of the Pioneers' warbly "Cool Water." Bet those old cowboys never rapped Go, girl, work the cold one. And they probably didn't get as much pussy as G. Love, either.

Dave Matthews Band with G. Love & Special Sauce. Wednesday, May 31, at Starlight Theatre.

The Gin Blossoms TimesTimes"Hey Jealousy" When, in 1992, the Gin Blossoms asked, Do you think it'll be all right/If I can just crash here tonight? who knew they'd be staying around so damn long? What most people don't know is that the writer of that song (and all the good ones on the band's full-length debut, The New Miserable Experience) was the band's original guitarist, Doug Hopkins. Around the time of the album's release, he left the band (or was fired) because of his alcoholism and depression. He committed suicide soon after that. More hits followed, but it's Hopkins' tale of driving around town, leading the cops on a merry chase, that really takes us home.

The Gin Blossoms. Thursday, June 8, at Harrah's VooDoo Lounge.

Al Green TimesTimes"Let's Stay Together" The whole of Al Green's Greatest Hits (the one boasting a slim, shirtless Rev. Al on the cover), with its slow-burning grooves, would make the perfect soundtrack to any mid-July barbecue. But in the context of a summer fling, "Let's Stay Together" takes on a new twist of irony. Summer romances never last, but when it's midnight and you're making out on the slide at a secluded playground under the stars, it seems impossible that the relationship will ever end.

Al Green. Friday, June 16, at Rhythm and Ribs at the American Jazz Museum.

Sonic Youth TimesTimes"Sugar Kane" Who says Glenn Branca's experimental noise disciples ain't got a few sweet jams up their sleeves? "Sugar Kane," from Sonic Youth's '92 album, Dirty, is as fine a feel-good hit as any produced in the last decade, with the added benefit of guitar hooks that come on like that moment the weed smoke gently lifts you up by the edges of your face and drops you in the land of fuzzed-out groovage and spontaneous dry humping.

Sonic Youth. Monday, June 26, at Liberty Hall.

Lynyrd Skynyrd and 3 Doors Down TimesTimes"Gimme Three Steps" (Skynyrd) and "Be Like That" (3 Doors) Because Led Zeppelin and Creed can't tour together, the fates have sent us the pairing Lynyrd Skynyrd and 3 Doors Down. It's puzzling how Skynyrd manages to go on, considering that half the band, including original singer Ronnie Van Zant, the one you still hear on the radio, died in 1977. Well, if they can still sing about cuttin' a rug in a place called the Jug with a girl named Linda Lou, why stop 'em? As for 3 Dorks Down, if they drink enough whiskey, die in enough plane crashes and become the most beloved band of an entire U.S. region (the Corn Belt loves you, 3DD!), maybe they'll be sorta "like that" someday.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, with 3 Doors Down and Shooter Jennings. Wednesday, June 28, at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. Lynyrd Skynyrd, with Trace Adkins and others. Friday, August 11, at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Missouri.

Creedence Clearwater Revisted, John Fogerty "Lodi" (Creedence Clearwater Revival), "Centerfield" (Fogerty) No members of a broken-up band have spent more of their lives in legal drama than John Fogerty and his Creedence Clearwater Revival bandmates. Now that more than 20 years of smoke has cleared, Fogerty has gone his way and Stu Cook and Doug "Cosmo" Clifford, the only original members in the subtly renamed Creedence Clearwater Revisited, have gone theirs. Both play CCR hits, and of those, the original "Lodi" is our choice summer jam. It's a song about an everyman-nobody musician stuck in a small California town, playing for a bunch of unappreciative drunks. But the tune is so good and the lyrics so succinct in capturing that feeling of I-may-get-out-of-here-and-I-may-not that the song resonates universally — from the girl stuck behind a counter at Walgreens in Olathe to the U.S. infantryman on his third deployment in Iraq. It's not a happy song, but it's hopeful. (We also included Fogerty's "Centerfield" just so you can practice that tricky clapping rhythm at home before hitting the ballpark and looking like a retarded seal.)

Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Thursday, June 29, at Harrah's VooDoo Lounge. John Fogerty, with Willie Nelson. Wednesday, August 23, at Starlight Theatre.

John Waite TimesTimes "Missing You" We learned two things about John Waite in researching this song: (1) He's a guy, even though he doesn't sound like it on this song; and (2) he's the dude we always come across when looking for Tom Waits albums at used record stores. But the important thing about a summer jam (however androgynous or undervalued) is whether it gets us singing our guts out in the car. "Missing You," with its tragically self-deluding chorus — I ain't missin' you at all! (missin' you ...missin' you) — rates pretty damn high, making it one of the best '80s — and therefore best, period — breakup songs ever.

John Waite. Tuesday, July 4, at Villagefest in Prairie Village.

Billy Ocean TimesTimes "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" and "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car" Billy Ocean sure knew how to name a song — not. But he definitely did know how to sink himself into the memory of every nondeaf person who lived in the '80s, even the unhappy few who never saw The Jewel of the Nile. The man's hit songs lurk in the collective unconscious like a nuclear submarine equipped with a stereo, ready at any time to surface and blast out the most ridiculously catchy choruses in pop. Get out of our heads, Billy!

Billy Ocean. Friday, July 7, at Ameristar Casino.

Poison and Cinderella TimesTimes"Nothin' but a Good Time" and "Unskinny Bop" (Poison), "Hot and Bothered" (Cinderella) For a while there, hair rock seemed sorta normal (as in, not the most grotesque trend in all of rock), and Poison reaped the benefits. Unfortunately, unskinny still hasn't made it into the dictionary, and — despite our best summertime beer-and-bratwurst-consuming efforts — it probably never will. Fortunately, the meanings of the other two songs, "Nothin' but a Good Time" and Cinderella's shrieking contribution to the Wayne's World soundtrack, "Hot and Bothered," are universally understood.

Poison, with Cinderella. Saturday, July 22, at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

Foreigner TimesTimes "Double Vision" The problem with choosing a Foreigner summer jam is that all the songs are so damn urgent sounding (e-MERR-gency!). Even in "Hot Blooded," singer Lou Gramm sounds like he's about to spooj all over the curtains if he doesn't get some action, fast. The key, therefore, is to pick the rockingest song that is the least nerve-rattling. "Double Vision," with its tight, crunchy guitar and lyrics that ask nothing of the listener other than that he or she lend a sympathetic ear to Lou's optical dilemma, is the ideal choice. You don't even have to show him what love is.

Foreigner. Thursday, July 27, at Harrah's VooDoo Lounge.

REO Speedwagon TimesTimes"Roll With the Changes" And finally, the best song by a band that found out that the best way to roll with the changes is to play anywhere they'll have you. Bethany, Missouri, it's time for you to fly.

REO Speedwagon. Saturday, September 2, at the Northwest Missouri State Fair in Bethany, Missouri.

TimesPoison TimesTimesForeigner TimesTimesSonic Youth Times

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