The return of Bill Cosby, a first-ever visit by Kris Kristofferson and a date with "We Are Young" hit-makers Fun headline the Britt Festivals' 2012 summer concert season.

The return of Bill Cosby, a first-ever visit by Kris Kristofferson and a date with "We Are Young" hit-makers Fun headline the Britt Festivals' 2012 summer concert season.

The season gets under way June 11 with alt-rockers Primus and closes on the hillside Sept. 14 with San Francisco's Huey Lewis and the News. Two "on the stage" performances are slated for October.

Ticket sales for Britt members start April 12 and for the public May 17.

Britt Executive Director Donna Briggs promises a summer of musical diversity. And if that leads you to suspect a more youthful note along with the usual gray-hairs, you're right on the money.

"We have a commitment to presenting some new genres," Briggs says. "It's an intentional and focused effort."

In addition to Fun (Aug. 23), she points to acts such as Primus, the San Francisco band that will be touring in support of its new album, "Green Naugahyde;" English rockers Bush (June 22); roots rockers The Avett Brothers (Aug. 24); and San Diego eclecticists Slightly Stoopid (Sept. 6), although the Avetts and Slightly Stoopid have performed at Britt before.

In an average year, slightly more than half Britt's headliners have previously performed on the county-owned hillside in Jacksonville. Not this year.

"Normally 48 percent are new to us," Briggs says. "This year it's 62 percent."

It's not that Britt hasn't tried to land certain artists before.

"Ben Harper (July 3) we've been trying to get for a decade," she says.

Melissa Etheridge (June 15) is in the long-time-wanted category, too.

Other shows you wouldn't have expected at Britt in past years are electronica duo The Crystal Method (June 29) and world fusionists Beats Antique (July 28).

There are familiar faces as well. Cosby will return July 21, and Earth, Wind and Fire will visit two nights later. Country singer Trace Adkins will play June 30, and Steven Martin (July 27) and Ziggy Marley (July 26) are among the repeat performers in July. Martin will perform with his bluegrass band, the Steep Canyon Rangers, and Marley will be on his Wild and Free Tour. Songstress Diana Krall will return Aug. 29.

Still other artists coming back for an encore are coming with fresh, new shows. Natalie Merchant will stop at Britt on June 24 to perform with the Rogue Valley Symphony in between shows in San Francisco and Seattle with symphony orchestras in those towns. The Dukes of September (July 5) tour brings together Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs.

Others haven't been here before, it only seems like they have. Kristofferson will try his luck at Britt for the first time on Friday the 13th (of July).

The Bob and Tom radio show will provide the season's R-rated night on Sept. 8, a show Briggs says may not be suitable for the younger set.

"This is grown-ups night," she says.

Briggs says there are signs the concert industry, after several down years, is coming back.

"There is an energy you can feel," she says.

As a result, expect ticket prices to resume their upward trajectory after being flat for a couple of years. Britt's are up an average of $2. There are 13 shows with reserved seats above $50 and just seven with reserved seats for less than $40. The Dukes of September are the summer's priciest ticket at $94 (reserved) and $49 (lawn). Diana Krall ($87, $42) and Melissa Etheridge ($84 and $44) are close behind.

It's a challenge for Britt to present hot acts at prices people will pay because the festival has only 2,200 seats to sell, and performers have turned to live shows as a way to make money with the decline of the recording industry.

Britt has made a strong financial comeback after a couple of very bad years. Britt officials last year projected a deficit of $173,000. Instead, the festival very nearly broke even for the first time in years, finishing only $23,000 in the red.

There are a couple of wrinkles that figure to take some getting used to. Britt will designate the area in front of the stage a "pit" for some shows (typically younger acts and danceable shows such as Primus). General admission pit tickets will cost the same as reserved seats, and access will be controlled.

In addition, you know those concerts where you get searched going in? Well now bags will be subject to search when you're going out. Briggs says the policy is a result of feedback from the OLCC and others, and she expects questions.

"Concert-goers will not be allowed to take beer or wine, opened or unopened, away from the grounds after the show," she says. "They need to bring the amount they know they can consume safely on the hill."

Britt's classical season, Aug. 3-19, was previously announced.

Bill Varble is a freelance writer living in Medford. Reach him at