Ashley’s Top five of the Summer

Ashley Winward

Welcome back everyone! With a new school year, I’d like to debut a new segment: My Top five. Every week will bring a new top five; it could be songs, albums, etc. but just know I’ll be bringing you the best!

A family that listens to Kiss together stays together. Ashley had a great time rocking out with die hard fans in Hartford (Photo by Cathy Windward / Charger Bulletin Photo)
A family that listens to Kiss together stays together. Ashley had a great time rocking out with die hard fans in Hartford (Photo by Cathy Windward / Charger Bulletin Photo)

For this first installment I would like to reminisce a little. This past summer was a wonderful time to be a fan of live music. I spent most of the time I wasn’t working sweating in tiny club shows or sweating in the blistering heat of outdoor venues. Summer shows are the best for an unexplainable number of reasons and this summer was no exception. Here were my top five favorite shows that hit the Northeast this season.

5. Skip School, Start Fights Tour (Hit the Lights/Major League/Light Years/Brigades/July)

I think I finally realized I was growing up when all my favorite bands started playing album anniversary tours. Seriously though, look up your favorite album from your childhood and you’re probably due for a 10 year tour coming up.

While not as “notable” an anniversary as Hit the Lights’ iconic Skip School, Start Fights album turned six this past summer and they reminisced by playing the album from start to finish with an encore of tracks from earlier release This is a Stickup, Let’s not Make it a Murder. Being in such an intimate setting with a small crowd at The Space in Hamden, Conn. who knew all the words as well as I did made the experience that much better.

The tour also had some amazing support with bands like July and Brigades that really sparked my interest for their solid melodies and catchy vocals. These boys have come a very long way from the first time I saw them, a week after SSSF came out, and I’m excited to see what their future holds as they head into the studio for a new album under a new label.

4. Summerland Tour (Everclear/Eve 6/Soul Asylum/Space Hog)

Keeping upon the theme of how old I am, the surge of 90’s summer tours in the past few years has been not only incredibly well done, but ridiculously nostalgic. One tour in particular I’ve been following since its inception in 2012 has been Summerland. Founded by Art Alexakis of Everclear, the tour promotes good summer fun and highlighting that 90’s rock is still indeed relevant.

This year’s lineup included UK greats Space Hog, Soul Asylum (famous for “Runaway Train”) and Eve 6 otherwise known as “That band that sang your senior class song ‘Here’s To The Night.’” This tour holds a special place in my heart because it’s a show that my mom and I go to every summer no matter how far we have to travel. We scream at the top of our lungs, cry at the same two songs by Everclear every time and enjoy three hours of great music.

One thing I love about coming to Summerland is the fact that it spans such a generational gap, from the parents who remember these bands making it big when they were our age to the younger kids who have grown up on these bands like I have. It’s one big rock and roll summer camp that I can’t wait to keep attending year after year.

3. Mechanical Bull Tour (Kings of Leon/Young the Giant/Kongos)

A couple times a year the perfect lineup just comes together so seamlessly you wonder how they ever toured with anyone else. The Mechanical Bull Tour was one of those shows for me. I’ve been a fan of all three groups and have seen both Kings of Leon and Young the Giant on separate occasions but putting them together with young guns, Kongos, was just a perfect scenario.

If you enjoy beards, accordions and arena rock, I highly recommend Kongos as they exceeded my expectations of an opening band. With a minimalist set up and small set, they were still able to fill the venue and get people out of their seats.

Young the Giant impressed as always with their stage presence and lead singer Sameer Gadhia’s loose flowing dance moves. Their set covered favorites both new and old, keeping me singing the entire time. Finally Kings of Leon took the stage and honestly transported me to another world. More than just the music, their technical stage show left me mesmerized by the light displays and appropriate visual projections matching each song. While their set heavily focused on their newest album, Mechanical Bull, there was a fair share of old tunes to keep people energized. Also each date of the tour had their own “exclusive song” chosen by fans tailgating in the parking lot. It was a stunning night as always with the Followills and I look forward to their next tour!

2. Vans Warped Tour

For anyone who identifies as a “Pop Punk Kid” or a metalcore fan or just a teen or twenty something who loves music, you’ll probably find them at one or multiple dates of the Vans Warped Tour. For five years and counting I’ve been flocking to Warped to get my fair share of moshing, headbanging and unique fan experiences with some of my favorite bands.

This year I got the special opportunity to see multiple angles of the tour as a fan, a member of the press and working for a vendor in the tent village over the course of two dates, Scranton and Hartford.

This year, tour founder Kevin Lyman celebrated Warped’s twentieth summer on the road with big acts like Falling In Reverse, The Summer Set, Motionless in White and Bowling for Soup, as well as almost 100 other bands spanning nearly every genre of music.

Some of my favorite moments included seeing UK natives Neck Deep, interviewing Four Year Strong and meeting Dan “Soupy” Campbell of The Wonder Years as he performed under his solo project, Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties. I could go into so much more detail but I’ll save that for a future article.

1. Kiss/ Def Leppard North American Tour (Kiss/Def Leppard/The Dead Daisies)

I feel like the reasoning for this as my number one choice needs no explanation. I don’t think I was more content all summer than I was sitting on the lawn of the Xfinity Center in Harford eating food from a gourmet grilled cheese truck and watching two rock legends tear up the stage.

There was everything you could ever imagine from these two: fireworks, confetti, lights, fake blood, zip-lines, moving stages and pure face melting rock. Even if you weren’t familiar with some of their extensive repertoires, the hits were adequately covered throughout the night.

Kiss celebrated four decades of decibels and Def Leppard also has over 30 years out on the road, making this a true generational show. Probably my favorite moment of the entire night was Paul Stanley zip-lining out over the crowd and just his amazing stage presence, as if they were just a bunch of young guns starting out for the first time. As the saying goes, some things just get better with age and these two are shining examples of such.

There you have it folks! My top five summer shows.

Have a suggestion or want to let me know your favorites? Email me, and they could be included in next week’s issue!