23 Great Free Concerts to See in NYC This Summer

nycgo.com staff

Free concerts are as much a New York City summer tradition as hot-dog-eating contests and cooling off in movie theaters. Longstanding series SummerStage and Celebrate Brooklyn lead the way, but there are plenty of others that put on worthy shows in outdoor venues across the boroughs. Read on for a rundown of 2019 highlights.

Parquet Courts and Sachiko Kanenobu
June 8
Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, Manhattan
Brooklyn garage rockers Parquet Courts headline an eclectic lineup that includes Sachiko Kanenobu, a Japanese singer-songwriter whose 1972 album, Misora, is ethereal and positively Joni Mitchell-esque.

Big Freedia
June 13
Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, Manhattan
Bounce-music icon Big Freedia doesn’t mean to be rude, but nevertheless plans to take the mic and do what she does at this show. You’re most likely to know the Queen of Bounce for “Formation,” her collaboration with Beyoncé.

Iron & Wine. Photo: Piper Ferguson

Iron & Wine and Calexico
June 21
Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn
These two indie-rock favorites just released an album collaboration; they’ll share the stage at this show.

Punk Island
June 22
Randall’s Island Park, Manhattan
Fat Randy. Teenage Bigfoot. Top Nachos. Infinite Pizza. If those band names appeal to you, you’re not the only one—we like the sound of them too (as well as the idea of very good nachos and unlimited pizza.) Join them and dozens of others at this punk showcase. It’s all day and all ages.

Tortoise. Photo: Andrew Paynter

Tortoise
June 22
Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn
Instrumental post-rock outfit Tortoise has gained a devoted following over the years. The Brooklyn chapter of that fan base (and the NYC visitor chapter, too!) will be glad to know that the band is slated to play 1998 album TNT in full at this Celebrate Brooklyn concert.

Sheila E.
June 23
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
If you want to live the glamorous life—and you probably do, as it has many benefits—consider attending this performance by pop-and-R&B dynamo (and Prince collaborator) Sheila E.

Japanese Breakfast
June 24
Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, Manhattan
Michelle Zauner makes thoughtful synth-pop under the name Japanese Breakfast. She’ll headline this free Central Park show.

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Liz Phair. Courtesy, YMU Group

Liz Phair and Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
June 29
Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn
Feminist indie rocker Liz Phair, best known for her influential 1993 debut album Exile in Guyville, plays Celebrate Brooklyn. Get to the show early for literate, catchy punk from Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, who continue their long tradition of free summer shows in the City.

Salif Keita
July 13
Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn
Keita, one of Mali’s greatest vocalists and guitarists, just released what he says is his last album. Catch him for this rare appearance, as he plays Celebrate Brooklyn.

Kacey Musgraves
July 19
Today
Plaza at Rockefeller Center, Manhattan
Country star Kacey Musgraves comes to the Today set for a morning show; arrive (very) early if you want to be able to see anything.

Blink-182
July 19
Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, Manhattan
How much do you like pop punk? Enough to drink a big ol’ cup of coffee and get down to Central Park early in the morning for this Good Morning America performance by the band that brought you “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things”?

Love and Rockers
July 21
Union Pool, Brooklyn
Jaleel Bunton (TV on the Radio) and Chauncey Yearwood (High and Mighty) lead this reggae collective as they perform a Summer Thunder series show.

Broken Social Scene and Nilüfer Yanya
July 25
Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn
Broken Social Scene, art rockers from the Great White North, headline a Thursday night show in Prospect Park. The bill also includes up-and-coming British artist Nilüfer Yanya—whose debut album, Miss Universe, has received more or less universal critical acclaim.

Jeff Tweedy
July 26
Damrosch Park Bandshell, Manhattan
Even when he’s not trying to break your heart as Wilco's frontman or writing memoirs, Jeff Tweedy is usually doing something that’s affecting and cool. He steps out as a solo artist in this Lincoln Center Out of Doors show.

Courtesy, Slick Rick Management

Slick Rick
July 27
Soundview Park, Bronx
Come hear British-American rapper Slick Rick, widely regarded as one of the genre’s great lyricists, perform for free in the Bronx.

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EPMD: 30th Anniversary of Unfinished Business
August 3
Crotona Park, Bronx
Hip-hop duo EPMD have some unfinished business to attend to: celebrating the 30th birthday of their sophomore album.

Condo !@#$&
August 4
Union Pool, Brooklyn
The (unprintable) all-covers version of Yo La Tengo shows up for this Summer Thunder show, likely to play songs by Booker T. and the MGs, the Dave Clark Five and whatever else they’ve got in their encyclopedic grab bag of musical knowledge.

Patty Griffin
August 10
Damrosch Park Bandshell, Manhattan
For the Americanafest phase of Lincoln Center Out of Doors, singer-songwriter Griffin showcases her folk music chops. Yola (not to be confused with another Yo La Tengo iteration) opens the show.

Courtesy, Merge Records

The Mountain Goats
August 10
East River State Park, Manhattan
John Darnielle’s indie-folk outfit grazes, in a manner of speaking, by the Manhattan side of a great New York City tidal estuary.

Chance the Rapper
August 16
Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, Manhattan
Socially conscious Chicago artist Chance the Rapper plays a free morning show on Good Morning America.

Black Woodstock 50th Anniversary
August 17
Marcus Garvey Park, Manhattan
Sure, everyone knows of—and many claim to have been at—1969’s Woodstock Festival in upstate New York. That same summer, concerts took place in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park, featuring some of the top African-American artists of the day. Talib Kweli and Keyon Harrold are among those who will be on hand to celebrate the event’s half-century anniversary.

The Wailers. Courtesy, Universal Attractions Agency

The Wailers’ Julian Junior Marvin
August 18
Marcus Garvey Park, Manhattan
Bob Marley’s former bandmate plays a show uptown; expect the setlist to lean heavily on hits from the reggae icon’s heyday.

Charlie Parker Jazz Festival
August 23–25
Marcus Garvey Park and Tompkins Square Park, Manhattan
This weekend-long music jam, held yearly to honor Parker, features Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ravi Coltrane and a tribute to celebrated jazz drummer Art Blakey.

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