The biggest event by far on the Philadelphia pop music calendar this season is the opening of the Met Philadelphia, the North Broad Street landmark that will come back to life in December after decades in the dark.
The Met's initial schedule kicks off with a legend: Bob Dylan will open the 3,500-capacity room operated by Live Nation on Dec. 3. Rivers Cuomo-led rockers Weezer will play Dec. 12, and eclectic New Hope troublemakers Ween will perform on Dec. 14. A run of shows with other locally connected acts follows, such as PnB Rock on Dec. 28 and Kurt Vile on Dec. 29 in what's being hashtagged as a #hoMETownShow series.
But while it gets up and running, the Met will likely supply the wow factor by itself. The venue built by impresario Oscar Hammerstein I in 1908 with a stage so large it hosted full-court basketball games and acoustics so highly regarded that Eugene Ormandy's Philadelphia Orchestra recorded there has undergone a $56 million renovation. If it lives up to expectations, it should significantly class up the pop music concertgoing scene.
Other developments to look forward to include the opening of the considerably small Locks at Sona, a new intimate acoustic space in Manayunk, and plenty of shows of note beyond those highlighted below.
Among them: Ed Sheeran plays Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 27. The Wells Fargo Center has Bruno Mars with Boyz II Men on Sept. 19 and 20; J. Cole on Oct. 6; Gorillaz on Oct. 11; and Florence & the Machine on Oct. 14.
David Byrne plays the Mann Center on Sept. 20. Janet Jackson is at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City on Oct. 2.
On a smaller scale, Sting and Shaggy are playing the Fillmore Sept. 20, and Courtney Barnett plays the Fishtown venue with Waxahatchee on Oct. 23. Chvrches plays the former Electric Factory (now temporarily called North Seventh) Oct. 19, and there are two choice shows there the following month: Kamasi Washington on Nov. 9 and Thom Yorke on Nov. 23.
Angel Olsen plays an acoustic show upstairs in the First Unitarian Church Sanctuary on Sept. 27. The Theater of Living Arts brings in a double shot from New Orleans with Tank and the Bangas and Big Freedia on Oct. 20. Union Transfer has Lykke Li on Oct. 8 and Lily Allen on Oct. 23
The Sellersville Theater presents Mandy Barnett on Oct. 21 and Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore on Nov. 4. The Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville hosts Nils Lofgren on Sept. 20 and Los Lobos on Oct. 12.
Johnny Brenda's has Molly Burch on Oct. 15 and the Sun Ra Arkestra on Halloween. The Suffers are at World Cafe Live on Nov. 18. Patterson Hood plays the Ardmore Music Hall on Dec. 8.
Drake / Migos (Sept. 15 and 16, Wells Fargo Center). Cutely marketed as Aubrey & the Three Amigos, this tour pairs the Canadian superstar born Aubrey Drake Graham with the familial Atlanta rappers who exploded in popularity with 2017's Culture and its "Bad and Boujee" single with Philly's Lil Uzi Vert. Drake is fresh off another chart-dominating summer, having scored the hit "God's Plan," "Nice for What,m and "In My Feelings" from his album Scorpion. (215-336-3600, wellsfargocenterphilly.com)
Childish Gambino (Sept. 18, Wells Fargo Center). Multitalented singer-rapper Donald Glover, who records as Childish Gambino, stars in the award-winning FX series Atlanta and recently followed his provocative "This Is America" single with an animated video for "Feels Like Summer" that features a crying Kanye West in a Make America Great Again hat being comforted by Michelle Obama. (215-336-3600, wellsfargocenterphilly.com)
Jim Boggia (Sept. 21, the Locks at Sona). Manayunk's new listening room above Irish pub Sona on Main Street is a collaborative venture between two well-remembered venues: Old City's Tin Angel and Bryn Mawr's the Point. Opening weekend features always engaging local songwriter Jim Boggia and Pittsburgh native William Fitzsimmons. Shows of note include Erin McKeown on Oct. 25, Fred Eaglesmith on Oct. 27, Jim Lauderdale on Nov. 3, Dawn Landes on Nov. 7, Ben Vaughn on Nov. 16 and 17, and Wesley Stace on Nov. 8. (484-273-0481, sonapub.com)
Joan Baez (Sept. 26, Kimmel Center). Along with Elton John and Paul Simon, Joan Baez made headlines this year as one of a trio of baby boomer acts announcing their retirement from touring. Baez is going out on a strong note: Her Joe Henry-produced album Whistle Down the Wind benefits from the added gravitas in her septuagenarian voice, which has lost its former excessive prettiness. (215-731-3333, kimmelcenter.org.)
Philly Music Festival (Sept. 27-30, various venues). This year's all-local, nonprofit Philly Music Fest will keep its Friday and Saturday night core at World Cafe Live while expanding with a Thursday hard rock showcase at Johnny Brenda's with Pissed Jeans and a Sunday jazz closing party with bassist Derrick Hodge and pianist Eric Wortham at MilkBoy on Chestnut. In between at World Cafe Live are worthy Philly bands, including Low Cut Connie, Waxahatchee, the Districts, Palm, and Orion Sun. (phillymusicfest.com)
Leon Bridges (Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, the Fillmore). The Fort Worth, Texas, retro soul man edged himself into more contemporary territory with his 2018 album Good Thing, which makes a dedicated move to the dance floor and shows the influence of Philly soul acts like the Stylistics and Delfonics. Funky Texas instrumental trio Khruangbin open. (215-309-0150, fillmorephilly.com)
Redemption of a Dogg (Oct. 12-13, Tower Theater). Snoop Dogg and Tamar Braxton star in a semiautobiographical touring musical created in partnership with Je'Caryous Johnson that will feature music from the "Gin & Juice" rapper's 2018 gospel-rap album Bible of Life, which is better than you might expect. (610-352-2887, towerphilly.com)
The National / Cat Power / Phoebe Bridgers (Sept. 27, Mann Center). The soulful and distinctive songwriter Chan Marshall, who is known to disappear from view for years at a time, is back in action. She's in the middle of this quality triple bill headlined by brooding Brooklyn band the National and expertly depressing songwriter Phoebe Bridgers. And Marshall has a new album, Wanderer, out Oct. 5. (215-546-7900, manncenter.org.)
Vijay Iyer (Sept. 29, Harold Prince Theater). Multitasking MacArthur Fellow and Harvard professor Vijay Iyer is a restlessly creative jazz pianist. His most recent albums find him collaborating with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith on 2015's Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke and leading a sextet on Far from Over, but at the Annenberg Center, he'll be playing solo. (215-989-3900, annebergcenter.org.)
Swearin' (Oct. 10, First Unitarian Church). Swearin' is the terrific West Philly band cofronted by Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride. The band broke up when Crutchfield released her 2017 solo album, Tourist in This Town, and are now back together with a new lineup that features bassist Amanda Bartley. Crutchfield now lives in Los Angeles, and the bicoastal band's new album, Fall into the Sun, is out Oct. 5. (r5productions.com)
Elvis Costello & the Imposters (Nov. 3, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino). The prolific British songwriter put a scare into his fan base when he canceled shows this summer after underestimating the recovery time necessary after successful cancer surgery. He returns to action with Look Now, a collaboration with his band the Imposters coming out Oct. 12, and they're coming to Atlantic City the following month. (609-449-1000, hardrockhotelatlanticcity.com.)
Liz Phair / Speedy Ortiz (Oct. 5, Union Transfer). It's been a quarter-century since the release of Exile in Guyville, Liz Phair's double album, which got the boxed-set treatment with From Girly-Sound to Guyville this year and which has been profoundly influential on indie rock. That's particularly true of feminist rockers like Philadelphia's Speedy Ortiz frontwoman Sadie Dupuis. Speedy are joining Phair behind their new album Twerp Verse, and have released a cover of Phair's "Blood Keeper." (215-232-1200, utphilly.com)
Mitski (Oct. 19 and Nov. 18, Union Transfer). Guitarist and songwriter Mitski Miyawaki moved to the front of the indie-rock pack with "Your Best American Girl," a breakout song about navigating identity issues from 2016's Puberty 2, and on her new Be the Cowboy, she writes more emotionally gripping songs that retain an air of mystery. (215-232-1200, utphilly.com)
Emmylou Harris (Oct. 26, Scottish Rite Auditorium). The country harmony singing queen leads The Lantern Tour that also includes Jackson Browne, Steve Earle, Shawn Colvin, and Lila Downs. It benefits the Women's Refugee Commission, which works on behalf of migrant and refugee families at the U.S.-Mexican border. (856-858-1000, scottishriteauditorium.com)
Lucinda Williams (Nov. 2, Scottish Rite Auditorium) and Steve Earle (Nov. 30, Colonial Theatre). In 1998, Lucinda Williams released Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, a collection of haunting rock, country, and blues story songs alive with ghosts of the mythic South. Steve Earle, who produced it, had released his landmark guitar army Southern rock album Copperhead Road 10 years earlier. This fall, they're both out on anniversary tours. (856-858-1000, scottishriteauditorium.com; 610-917-1228, colonialtheatre.com)
The Met (opening night Dec. 3). Besides those previously mentioned, the first names on the Met lineup include violinist Lindsey Stirling on Dec. 18 and Charlie Wilson and Stokley of Mint Condition on Dec. 22. Looking ahead to 2019, there's Amos Lee on April 6. The venue will also feature comedy, with John Oliver on Dec. 30 and on New Year's Eve. (themetphilly.com.)
Kurt Vile (Dec. 29, the Met). The Philly rocker recorded and toured with his Australian pal Courtney Barnett last year and has been showing up of late on stage as guest du jour when acts like Yo La Tengo and John Prine roll through town. He hasn't released an album of his own since 2015's b'lieve i'm going down, but that's set to change with the new Bottle It In (Oct. 5), teased this summer, whose single "Loading Zones" features Vile cleverly evading the Philadelphia Parking Authority. (themetphilly.com)
Japanese Breakfast (Dec. 29-31, Johnny Brenda's). The place to be on New Year's Eve. Korean American songwriter Michelle Zauner, who records as Japanese Breakfast, has had an excellent year and a half since the release of her superb 2017 album, Soft Sounds from Another Planet. The Bryn Mawr grad's essay "Crying at H Mart," about eating Asian food in Cheltenham and mourning her late mother, was published in the New Yorker in August. She plays three hometown shows over the holidays. (215-739-9684, johnnybrendas.com)