Your Guide to NYC’s Best Free Summer Concerts 2015
Hot time, summer in the city means lots of different things to different people–including those folks who leave town for beaches and/or mountains for long stretches–but for those of us who stick around with the back of our necks getting hot and gritty, one of the great NYC traditions are all the free concert series. Like everything else public and cultural, the NYC free summer concert series have grown to enormous proportions over the past decade or so, with newcomers popping up all over the five boroughs, and old stalwarts continuing to draw big crowds. And while its literally impossible to do everything this amazing city has to offer (especially, it seems, over the summer), here's a quick overview of the best NYC free summer concerts, just in case you want to try.
Central Park’s Summerstage
Now in its 30th year, the SummerStage free performing arts festival in Central Park is one of the most venerable of the city's concert series, especially if you tack on all those years of free shows at Wollman Rink that (old man alert!) I loved as a teenager in the late 1970s. Like most of these things, the free concerts at SummerStage are paid for by a handful of fairly pricey "benefit" performances by, this year, the likes of Phil Lesh (9/16), Ingrid Michaelson (6/29), and Basement Jaxx (7/1), but the lesser-known acts are almost always worth a listen, too, especially considering the generally good vibe in and around Rumsey Playfield, at about 69th Street in the park.
Prospect Park’s Celebrate Brooklyn
Another (and the better) of the NYC summer concert elders is Celebrate Brooklyn, which was launched back in 1979 as a way to bring people back into then-neglected Prospect Park. The park is definitely no longer neglected (on nice days it seems like all of Brooklyn is here), and the concert series has some of the best free shows in town, including opener Chaka Khan (6/3; should be a HUGE dance party); the excellent New Pornographers (7/11, lines will be long, get there early to get in); and always-a-blast Tune-Yards (8/8). Even as it gets bigger, often overflowing its home at the Bandshell, Celebrate Brooklyn always has a neighborly atmosphere to it, as well as great food by the Farm on Adderly and The Good Batch, sold at prices that are shockingly reasonable.
Hudson RiverRocks, Seaport Music Festival & More
Other NYC free summer concert series include Hudson RiverRocks at Pier 84 (just south of the Intrepid), with one of my personally most-eagerly-anticipated free shows of the summer, Waxahatchee and Speedy Ortiz on July 9. The Today Show's Rockefeller Center Concert Series isn't for everyone–you have to like waking up really early and listening to screaming tweens–but they do always get fun acts. For this, the 20th year of the series, pick hits include James Taylor (6/15, maybe not so many tweens at this one), the amazing Janelle Monae (6/23), and Carly Rae Jepson (7/10; talk about tween screaming!). The Seaport Music Festival hasn't announced their lineup yet, but there's usually at least a few interesting acts playing here every year. Finally, both the Red Hook Park and the Herbert Von King Park outposts of SummerStage have some fun free shows in June, including Scarface (6/2), Unlocking the Truth (6/7), and Biz Markie and Masta Ace (6/17).
Posted in manhattan living, NYC Events | Tagged Celebrate Brooklyn • Central Park Summerstage • Concerts • Hudson RiverRocks • may • Rockefeller Center Concert Series • Seaport music festival • Summer Concerts • Summerstage