New York City is a great place to be at any season of the year. But some would argue that summer is when the city really shines. Warm weather makes it easy to enjoy some of the city’s great public spaces. Add a little live music to the equation, and you’ve got the perfect evening planned. Even better, some summer concert series in New York are completely free. Of course, we had to compile a list!
Sponsored by the City Parks Foundation, SummerStage is a free series of concerts in Central Park and in other public parks around the city. Performers run the gamut from veteran superstars like George Clinton, to established indie acts like Sharon Van Etten and Modest Mouse, to emerging talents you’ll enjoy discovering.
The main stage is Rumsey Playfield (East 71st Street and East Drive), but there are events in all five boroughs. As in past years, there are dates throughout July and August. There are restrooms as well as vendors selling snacks and drinks.
All SummerStage events are rain or shine except in the case of dangerous conditions, like severe storms or lightning.
BAM’s R&B Festival at MetroTech Commons
Brooklyn Academy of Music’s R&B Festival at MetroTech Commons is a free lunchtime concert series that BAM has been offering every summer for over twenty years. As the name implies, the focus is fresh talent in the R&B genre. The concerts take place in Brooklyn Commons (now called MetroTech Commons) at 2 MetroTech Center in Brooklyn. The park is a spacious oasis of green in the center of a downtown office enclave, providing the perfect break in the middle of a weekday. Check the BAM website for updated performers and schedules.
Since 1999, the Brooklyn Academy of Music has offered BAMCafé Live, a free concert series in its Adam E. Max Gathering Space, a very cool bar and lounge space in the Peter Jay Sharp Building. BAMCaf concerts take place most Fridays and Saturdays, and the event space opens half an hour before showtime. Call the venue for start times and performers. This ongoing series has scheduled dates into mid-June.
One of the oldest and most popular free concert series in the country, BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! has been around since 1979. The Lena Horne Bandshell in Prospect Park, surrounded by the rolling green lawn, paths, and shady trees of Brooklyn’s Olmstead-designed Prospect Park, provides the perfect venue to watch the top-notch talent the festival attracts each summer. The performers for this summer’s schedule have yet to be announced, but past years have featured greats from the world of jazz, dance, pop, rock, film and avant-garde performance.
Carnegie Hall Citywide
Each summer, Carnegie Hall Citywide offers free picnic concerts in Bryant Park. This summer, the five scheduled performances in July and August will include jazz, orchestral and pop musicians. Acts announced so far include Toshi Reagon, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, The Knights, Adrienne Warren and Friends, Terrence Blanchard & the E-Collective, and Turtle Island Quartet. So grab a picnic blanket, find a spot on the grass, and enjoy the music as the sun goes down.