This being the last weekend of July, summertime — as defined by anyone whose vacation schedule is ruled by the school calendar — is in the home stretch.
Luckily, the weekend at hand offers an especially rich selection of concert fun that should help you take advantage of the last few laps of the season.
Here's the best of a busy lineup.
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The pride of Metcalfe County, the Kentucky HeadHunters, returns to the scene of the crime, so to speak.
The Grammy Award-winning country-fortified rock troupe spent quite a bit of time down the street from Renfro Valley Entertainment Center last spring when it was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. On Friday, though, the current quartet version of the HeadHunters — vocalist/bassist Doug Phelps, guitarists Greg Martin and Richard Young, and drummer Fred Young, all of whom are founding members — settles purely into performance mode with a concert at Renfro Valley's New Barn Theatre, 2380 Richmond Street, Mount Vernon.
The HeadHunters has long been embraced by the country music contingency, but its music has strayed regularly onto assorted roots-conscious sideroads. Expect everything from Dumas Walker to Spirit in the Sky and more as the Hall of Famers get cranking. (8 p.m. $25-$35. 1-800-765-7464. Renfrovalley.com.)
Here at home
Most of these picks were chosen with the idea of a midsummer road trip in mind. But there is nothing wrong with enjoying a seasonal weekend at home.
On Friday at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue, we have the first local outing in three years by the Kentucky-bred raunch 'n' rollers Nine Pound Hammer. Still with co-founding members Blaine Cartwright and Scott Luallen on board, Nine Pound Hammer has long sported a mix of cowpunk drive, metal-esque guitar crunch and punkish attitude. It teams with The Loaded Nuns and Frank Rocket. (10 p.m. $10. (859) 309-9499. Cosmic-charlies.com.)
Then Saturday at Willie's Locally Known, 805 North Broadway, we have what has become a monthly ritual: a sit-down evening of honky tonk and soul, courtesy of Coralee and the Townies. From stellar originals to occasional Dylan covers and more, this is the sweetest Americana sound in town. You can add barbecue to the festivities, too. (8 p.m. $10. (859) 281-1116. Willieslex.com.)
The Dan plan
One week on from last weekend's Forecastle, Louisville offers the aural equivalent of a cool exhale Friday by way of a return appearance by Steely Dan.
The veteran pop team of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker hasn't issued a new record under the band's name in a decade, although Fagen released a fine solo effort, Sunken Condos, in October that effectively replicated Steely Dan's sleek but yet slightly warped jazz-pop sound.
For the band's current Mood Swings Tour, Fagen and Becker are returning to the concept of rotating complete performances of their three biggest studio albums (1976's The Royal Scam, 1977's Aja and 1980's Gaucho) as part of their set lists. But Fagen told Rolling Stone before the tour's launch that they also have worked up all of the tunes from 1973's Countdown to Ecstasy.
There is no telling what kind of time-tripping you're in for at the Louisville Palace, 625 South Fourth Street in Louisville. (8 p.m. $39.50-$135. Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.)
At roughly the same time Becker and Fagen hit their '70s heyday with Steely Dan, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson topped the charts with Heart and the albums Dreamboat Annie and Little Queen. But that was just the first wave of the band's lasting popularity.
A decade later, Heart was embraced by the MTV generation with such '80s arena-ready hits as What About Love and Never. The past eight months have constituted yet another Heart renaissance.
In December, the sisters Wilson served up a show-stopping version of Stairway to Heaven with help from guest drummer Jason Bonham during the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Led Zeppelin. Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame followed in April.
Heart teams again with Bonham, son of original Zep drummer John Bonham, on Saturday for a full evening of loud and proud rock 'n' roll at Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Avenue, Cincinnati. (7:30 p.m. $11.50-$97. (513) 232-6220. Riverbend.org.)
Finally, we offer a brief but important mention of a road trip show by Stick Men on Tuesday at 20th Century Theatre, 3021 Madison Road, Cincinnati.
The trio is led by bassist/Chapman stick ace Tony Levin — a three-plus decade member of King Crimson and Peter Gabriel's band with studio credits that include recordings by John Lennon and Paul Simon. Completing the lineup are Levin's Crimson bandmate, electric/acoustic drummer Pat Mastelotto, and touch guitarist Markus Reuter.
Promoting a splendid new album called Deep, Stick Men offers a prog-heavy exploration of primarily instrumental grooves, sounds and textures. It's a prime pick for those with open and hungry ears. (8 p.m. $20, $25. (513) 731-8000. The20thcenturytheatre.com.)