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barenaked ladies Kevin Hearn, left, and Ed Robertson of the band Barenaked Ladies perform last year at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Kevin Hearn, left, and Ed Robertson of the band Barenaked Ladies perform last year at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif. Enlarge
Published: Sunday, 7/1/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

Toledo's 'Last Summer' features 4 bands at Zoo concert


Three of the best things about the '90s are being packaged in one big concert Friday at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheater:

Music festivals.

Jam bands (sort of).

And irony.

Dubbed the "Last Summer on Earth Tour," a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Mayan calendar and the fact that an ancient civilization suggested that the world will come crashing to an end this year, Barenaked Ladies, Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and Cracker will provide hours of entertainment when the show hits town.

With 31 dates scheduled, the tour will wind its way all over the country and Toledo is the first date, which means there might be a few kinks in the format still to be worked out. It's an intriguing lineup of artists with the potential for lots of fun.

Here's a rundown of all the bands, where they've been, and what they're up to now:

Barenaked Ladies are at the top of the bill, perhaps because of a stronger track record of catchy signature tunes (Editor's note: If this writer was putting this show together, Cracker would be the headliner, but an argument could be made for Blues Traveler. Cracker is far edgier than the other bands on the bill and rocks a lot harder. Discuss.) such as "If I Had $1,000,000," "Be My Yoko Ono," "Brian Wilson," and "One Week."

The Canadian band lost founding member Steven Page a few years ago when he left following a series of legal problems stemming from a cocaine bust. The result was a less jokey, cutesy vibe on 2010's "All in Good Time."

But the band still has a powerful feel-good vibe, thanks to a children's album in 2008 called "Snacktime!" and penning the theme song for the TV show The Big Bang Theory. Barenaked Ladies' most recent release is this year's "Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before," a collection of outtakes and B-sides.

Blues Traveler cemented its place in the '90s-rock firmament on the strength of the band's catchy classic summer pop song "Run-Around." If there was a top 40 radio on in 1994 and 1995, it was playing "Run-Around," which featured John Popper's signature harmonica sound and the group's tight ensemble playing.

The band out of New York has plugged away ever since relentlessly releasing and selling millions of albums and touring on the jam band circuit. A few years ago the group befriended the Toledo area's Crystal Bowersox, who duets with them on a song from their brand new disc, "Suzie Cracks the Whip."

Big Head Todd and the Monsters out of Colorado bring a laid-back groove to their jam band aesthetic. Unlike Barenaked Ladies and Blues Traveler, they never scored any signature hits that elevated them to mainstream status.

Perhaps its best-known song is the loping "Bittersweet" from 1993's "Sister Sweetly," but the band has been churning out albums since 1989. They're melodic, jammy, and for various reasons have not managed to achieve widespread recognition. Big Head Todd and the Monsters did, however, play "Blue Sky" live from NASA's mission control as a wake-up call to the Discovery space shuttle astronauts in 2011, which is pretty cool.

The band's most recent disc is last year's cover of Robert Johnson blues classics, "100 Years of Robert Johnson."

Cracker has a harder edge than the rest of the "Last Summer On Earth" bands and is also probably the most stylistically diverse, veering from straight-ahead alternative rock to power pop, Americana, country, and singer/songwriter fare.

The creative core of the band is frontman David Lowery and guitarist Johnny Hickman and they scored alt-rock hits in the '90s and '00s with songs such as "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)," "Low," and "I Hate My Generation."

Cracker's most recent disc is 2009's "Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey," but the various members work constantly. Lowery also fronts Camper Van Beethoven, teaches college classes in Richmond, Va., and released a solo album last year.

Tickets are $35, $48.50, and $58.50. They are available at all TicketMaster locations, livenation.com, by phone at 800-745-3000 or 419-385-5721, or visit the Toledo Zoo main box office Monday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The box office is in the Visitor Service/Guest Information Building. Enter from the Anthony Wayne Trail side of the Toledo Zoo. All concerts are at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheater, near the box office.

Contact Rod Lockwood at rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.

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