Summer concert preview: Let it flow

As the pop scene moves outdoors for the summer, here's a look at the biggest questions -- and coolest shows.

Last summer saw the biggest Twin Cities concert in 33 years. This summer, the biggest thing for area concertgoers might be the questions. There are no shows on the enormous scale of U2's spectacle at TCF Bank Stadium last July, and in fact it's rather disappointing that the 2012 summer concert season brings only one show to our two new stadiums (yet Vikings stadium supporters describe a need for their new place as a concert venue). But there are some rather grand ambitions on the part of promotion companies such as Live Nation and venue operators such as the Somerset Amphitheater team.

Here are some of the unknowns they're throwing at music fans.

Can Live Nation revive Harriet Island?

With a five-year commitment, the new $4 million, four-stage River's Edge Fest June 23-24 is the most ambitious musical undertaking to hit Harriet Island since Riverfest in the 1980s. But the two headliners don't seem highly compatible. Will fans of Saturday's main act, Tool, want to see Dave Matthews Band on Sunday -- or vice versa? Will the lineups, filled out with club attractions such as Scissor Sisters and Mutemath plus cult band Flaming Lips, sell enough tickets to make the fest financially viable? That strategy didn't work for the island's last big tenant, the defunct Taste of Minnesota. Will St. Paul residents complain about the noise and traffic? The event's corporate partner, Live Nation, has deep pockets and is prepared to lose money the first year, but will it gain enough goodwill and momentum?

How will Target Field rate as a concert venue?

Despite a downpour, TCF Bank Stadium passed muster as a concert venue last year, thanks to U2's epic efforts. How will our other new stadium fare when country superstars Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw stage the ballpark's first show July 8? Chesney is the reigning king of U.S. stadium concerts, and his tour partner also knows his way around baseball diamonds. With the stage in deep center field, these two powerhouses will try to hit it out of the park.

Will Somerset float again?

After investing several million dollars to refurbish and expand the former Float-Rite stage and campgrounds on Wisconsin's Apple River, the new owners of Somerset Amphitheater will up the ante on their flagship event. The Soundtown festival returns July 27-28 with Jane's Addiction, Weezer, Florence + the Machine, Girl Talk and dozens more acts of the 89.3 the Current flavor. That same recipe applies to an Aug. 10 triple-bill with My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses and Trampled by Turtles. Then there's the newly unveiled Aug. 24-26 electronic/rap/jam-band fest Summer Set with Umphrey's McGee, Nas and DJs galore. Less than an hour from Minneapolis, Somerset has certainly gotten hipper, but will young fans get hip to a long-dormant site heretofore best known for metal fests?

Will you drive to these smaller amphitheaters?

We like to think of them as Minnesota's little amphitheaters that could. Mystic Lake may not have booze, but it does have Kid Rock (July 15) and Heart with Joan Jett (June 29), among others, for its 6,300-seat temporary venue. Grand Casino Hinckley's 5,400-seat place will offer Santana (July 7), Miranda Lambert (Aug. 11) and ZZ Top with Three Doors Down and Gretchen Wilson (June 29). Duluth's expansive Bayfront Festival Park will present Wilco (July 1), the Bayfront Jam with Sugar Ray and Everclear (Aug. 4), Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers and Pert Near Sandstone (Aug. 5) and the Bayfront Blues Festival with Kenny Wayne Shepherd (Aug. 10-12).

Can any free block party top Pizza Lucé's?

A sign of just how popular free block parties have become in the Twin Cities, the Lucé street fest -- one of the oldest and best of these neighborhood-style bashes -- had to be called off until next year because it outgrew its location. Temporarily, at least, another one can become the biggest. This Sunday's Lyn-Lake Street Fest is a contender with Halloween, Alaska and Communist Daughter, and so is next weekend's punky and rootsy, three-day Memory Lanes Block Party. Other highlights include the Red Stag Block Party in northeast Minneapolis, featuring Rogue Valley, Mayda and the Honeydogs (July 28), the Dakota Street Fest on Nicollet Mall (July 28) and the West Bank Music Festival (Aug. 20).

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  • Tim McGraw, left, and Kenny Chesney will play Target Field on July 8.

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