Free Summer Concerts 2014
Arts & Entertainment
by nycgo.com staff, 05/05/2014
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The best things in life are free, especially when it comes to NYC's summer concerts. This May through August, you can hear live music of all kinds across the City without spending a dime. Whether it's punk on Staten Island, indie rock on the Manhattan waterfront, a classy night outdoors with the Metropolitan Opera or a diverse lineup of jazz or world music at SummerStage and Celebrate Brooklyn!, New York City's gratis alfresco performances are sure to please music lovers of all tastes. Read on below for a breakdown of some of our favorite shows, as well as a full list of summer concert series and festivals. Enjoy, and rock on!
Don't mind paying for your live music? Click the image below for a full list of NYC concerts, both free and ticketed.
June 5–August 7
R&B Festival at MetroTech
Thursday lunchtimes just got a whole lot funkier. BAM's annual free summertime concert series, held at MetroTech Commons in Downtown Brooklyn, features well-known soul, funk and blues artists giving outdoor performances that will lift you from your sandwich rut. A few notables: Darlene Love (June 5), the Ohio Players (June 19), Bobby Rush (July 24) and Snarky Puppy (July 31). For more info, visit bam.org.
SummerStage. Photo: Will Steacy
June 23, 25 and July 1, 3, 8, 10
The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series
The Metropolitan Opera continues its summertime tradition of performing in the picturesque outdoor settings of various City parks. This year's artists include soprano Amber Wagner, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, tenor Russell Thomas and pianist Dan Saunders. The performance dates and locations are as follows: June 23 in Central Park, June 25 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, July 1 at Crotona Park, July 3 at Clove Lakes Park, July 8 at Jackie Robinson Park and July 10 at Socrates Sculpture Park. For more info, visit metopera.org.
The Beatnuts at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park
The Queens-based hip-hop and production troupe celebrates fun in the sun, doubtless performing songs off their new LP, Planet of the Crates. This show is part of the Latin Alternative Music Conference, and also features Ana Tijoux, Bodega Bamz and DJ Tony Touch. For more info, visit summerstage.com.
Ballet Hispanico's BHdos at St. Mary's Park
Catch this interactive performance by Ballet Hispanico's second company, BHdos. Before they take the stage, the company's members will offer an open master class in dance. For more info, visit summerstage.com.
July 11–August 29
Seaport Music Festival at South Street Seaport
This year's lineup of free shows at the Seaport includes Joanna Gruesome, Torres and the Casket Girls (along with many others). For more info, visit seaportmusicfestival.com.
Titus Andronicus at Brooklyn Night Bazaar
This Jersey punk band's first three acclaimed albums were spirited slices of raw rock 'n' roll; their fourth, scheduled for a fall release, will be a 30-plus-song rock opera about depression. We’re holding out hope. (Zen Arcade, anyone?) They headline a full slate of bands at this free event. For more info, visit bkbazaar.com.
4Knots Music Festival at South Street Seaport
The Village Voice presents this indie bonanza, held for the fourth year on Manhattan’s downtown waterfront. The show will take place across two stages from 1–8pm and include sets by Speedy Ortiz, Nashville’s Those Darlins and indie-rock legends Dinosaur Jr. For more info, visit villagevoice.com.
Alloy Orchestra at Prospect Park Bandshell
Alloy Orchestra, which specializes in composing and performing original scores to silent films, works its magic on He Who Gets Slapped (1924). For more info, visit bricartsmedia.org.
Bonobo and Cibo Matto at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park
British electronic artist Bonobo and food-obsessed hip-hop duo Cibo Matto combine for what's sure to be a highly danceable bill. For more info, visit summerstage.com.
Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival at Arts Brookfield
The first night features Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, known for their funky, soulful live performances and for the label, Daptone Records, that two of its musicians formed. The next night, Robert Cray and John Hiatt, who each paid their dues prior to hit-making moments in the 1980s ("Smoking Gun" and "Right Next Door" for the former, Bonnie Raitt's cover of "Thing Called Love" and Jeff Healey's of "Angel Eyes" for the latter), top the bill. For more info, visit brookfieldplaceny.com.
Shen Wei Dance at Prospect Park Bandshell
Chinese choreographer Shen Wei, who plied his trade for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, presents his dance interpretation of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring for Celebrate Brooklyn! For more info, visit bricartsmedia.org.
Deltron 3030 at Prospect Park Bandshell
The aughts' signature sci-fi hip-hop supergroup returns, featuring the manic skills of Kid Koala, Dan the Automator and Del the Funky Homosapien. They'll be playing spacey songs from last year's Event II, backed by a live orchestra. For more info, visit bricartsmedia.org.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at Queensbridge Park
Under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, the JALC orchestra will give a free concert geared toward all ages—it's part of SummerStage's Queens Family Day. For more info, visit summerstage.com.
Mishima, Txarango and Headbirds at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park
Performing under a "Catalan Sounds on Tour" umbrella, these acts (two Barcelona bands and a DJ) help shine a light on the modern music of Spain. For more info, visit summerstage.com.
New Songs of Justice: An Evening Honoring Pete Seeger at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park
Musician and activist Pete Seeger will be honored by a plethora of indie, rock and folk musicians including Anti-Flag, Amanda Palmer and Steve Earle. The show's organizers, who will also recognize singer and activist Harry Belafonte, hope to use music as a means of inspiring young people to become involved in politics and their communities. For more info, visit summerstage.com.
Teenage Fanclub at Pier 84
The biggest name taking part in the free River Rocks series, Teenage Fanclub will bring its underappreciated power pop to the Midtown West waterfront. For more info, visit riverrocksnyc.com.
Kings of Leon at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park
These Tennessee-born rockers, who are quickly rising to rock-royalty status, play a free and sure-to-be-packed early morning set for Good Morning America. For more info, visit gma.yahoo.com.
Rock Steady Crew at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park
Begun in the Bronx in 1977, the Rock Steady Crew established the gold standard for B-boying (breakdancing, that is). Get your fill of popping and locking at this SummerStage staple. For more info, visit summerstage.com.
Dance Theatre of Harlem at Prospect Park Bandshell
Last year saw the return of this ballyhooed dance institution, established in 1969, after a nine-year hiatus. Fresh off its spring season at Lincoln Center and a subsequent East Coast tour, the company arrives for a free Celebrate Brooklyn! performance. For more info, visit bricartsmedia.org.
José González at Damrosch Park
Swedish singer-songwriter José González (whose music recently appeared on the soundtrack of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) plays a free set as part of Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors festival. This show marks the world premiere of new arrangements of González's songs; he’ll be performing them with chamber orchestra yMusic. For more info, visit lcoutofdoors.org.
Aloe Blacc at Rockefeller Center
You're going to have to get up early to see the soulful pop stylings of Aloe Blacc—NBC recommends fans arrive by 6am for optimal viewing. See the performance outside the Today show's studio at 49th Street and Rockefeller Center Plaza. For more info, visit today.com.
Jimmy Bosch y Su Estrellas and Pedrito Martinez Group Featuring Ariacne Trujillo at Prospect Park Bandshell
It's a night of Latin music: salsa from Jimmy Bosch y Su Estrellas and eclectic, percussion-heavy tunes from the Pedrito Martinez Group. Get ready to dance. For more info, visit bricartsmedia.org.
Kes the Band at Prospect Park Bandshell
Spend the night dancing to island tunes with soca band Kes, Afro-Caribbean act Kuenta i Tambu and DJ Dr Wax—who will spin soca and calypso tracks. For more info, visit bricartsmedia.org.
Altan at Prospect Park Bandshell
Fans of NPR's long-running Thistle and Shamrock show, take heed: popular Irish folk band Altan is bringing its twin-fiddle attack to Celebrate Brooklyn! For more info, visit bricartsmedia.org.
Asian Dub Foundation at Prospect Park Bandshell
British punk-influenced electronica outfit Asian Dub Foundation performs a live score to THX 1138 (1971), George Lucas' first feature film. What's not to like? For more info, visit bricartsmedia.org.
Black Bananas at South Street Seaport
Singer-songwriter and record producer Jennifer Herrema's band Black Bananas, known for noisy, distortion-filled indie rock with electronic dance sounds, performs a free show as part of the Seaport Music Festival. Shockwave Riderz open the show. For more info, visit seaportmusicfestival.com.
Motown Gospel Revue at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park
SummerStage presents this evening of gospel, pop and R&B, featuring artists Tasha Cobbs, Smokie Norful, Pastor Charles Jenkins, VaShawn Mitchell and others. For more info, visit summerstage.com.
Rosanne Cash at Damrosch Park
As part of Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Cash brings her rock, country and blues sensibility to the City. For more info, visit lcoutofdoors.org.
St. Vincent at Prospect Park Bandshell
Singer-songwriter Annie "St. Vincent" Clark plays this hometown show, showcasing her self-titled album released earlier this year, which features songs like "Birth in Reverse" and "Digital Witness." (Sidebar: her performance of "Lithium" at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was fairly stellar.) For more info, visit bricartsmedia.org.
Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind at East River Park
The New York Neo-Futurists present their famed collection of very short plays, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, at East River Park. With 30 plays in 60 minutes, even the slimmest attention span should find something to appreciate. For more info, visit summerstage.com.
Neon Trees at Rockefeller Center
These Utah-based dance-rockers play for a morning-TV audience and the dedicated throngs who will wake up early to see them in person. For more info, visit today.com.
Blood Orange. Photo: Daniel Shea
Blood Orange at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park
Hipster lodestone of the moment Blood Orange (aka Dev Hynes, aka Lightspeed Champion) plays this free show, highlighting songs from his latest release, Cupid Deluxe. For more info, visit summerstage.com.
The Nuyorican Poets Cafe's 40th Anniversary Celebration / Screening: Our Latin Thing at East River Park
Multicultural fixture Nuyorican Poets Café nears the end of its yearlong 40th anniversary celebration with a screening of the 1971 music documentary Our Latin Thing. For more info, visit summerstage.com.
Charlie Parker Jazz Festival. Photo: Jack Vartogian
Blues BBQ at Pier 84
Things will get smoking in the pits and on the stage as local 'cue mavens Mighty Quinn’s, Delaney Barbecue and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que join musicians Big Sam's Funky Nation and Samantha Fish for brisket with a heavy dose of blues. For more info, visit hudsonriverpark.org.
Charlie Parker Jazz Festival at various locations
The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival is a City institution, just like the musical legend it memorializes; the event has been taking place for more than 20 years. Last year's lineup included Jimmy Heath, Kenny Garrett and Lee Konitz. For more info on this year's concerts (to be held at Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park and Tompkins Square Park in Alphabet City), visit cityparksfoundation.org.
Afropunk Fest at Commodore Barry Park
A whole host of artists, including Fishbone, D'Angelo and Body Count, descend on Brooklyn's oldest park for a spirited weekend of funky rhythms, food trucks and fashionable wares (an assemblage of local vendors conducts a thrift market as part of the proceedings). For more info, visit afropunkfest.com.
Ariana Grande at Rockefeller Center
This pint-size singer, who’s already sold more than 425,000 downloads of her track “Problem” (featuring Iggy Azalea), is well on her way to becoming pop’s newest princess. See her at the Today show’s summer concert series. For more info, visit today.com.
Maroon 5 at Rockefeller Center
Very handsome Voice judge Adam Levine performs some songs with his friends. For more info, visit today.com.
Usher at Rockefeller Center
The R&B mastermind who brags about his kissing conquests in his latest single, "Good Kisser," will perform (possibly shirtless) for the Today show crowd. For more info, visit today.com.
Fridays and Saturdays
Brooklyn Night Bazaar
This Greenpoint space hosts a parade of hip artists who play free shows. While you're there, you can buy food, clothes, accessories and records from local vendors, take a gander at art and play table tennis. All in all, it's a fun night out. For more info, visit bkbazaar.com.