Summer concerts in Los Angeles: Critics' picks

Check out our critics' picks for must-see Summer concerts in Los Angeles, from big names such as Beyonce and Jay-Z to local favorites like Foxygen

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Photograph: Courtesy KCRW

Grand Performances

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This epic (and free) outdoor concert series features live performances by artists from around the world at the gorgeous water-encompassed California Plaza stage in DTLA. Don’t miss a diverse and highly intriguing mix of musical performances, live scores, films, poetry and theater. This year's eclectic lineup includes everything from vocal performances by Grammy winners to live-scored screenings of French cartoons. Check the full schedule for further details.

  1. California Plaza 350 S Grand Ave
  2. Fri Jun 13 - Sat Sep 13
More info
Aaron Embry

Aaron Embry Photograph: Courtesy Aaron Embry

Aaron Embry

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

We loved him as the pianist for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and now, we're growing downright hypnotized by the new version of Aaron Embry—that is, the solo version with a mouth organ between his lips, an arch top tenor guitar in hand. Inspired by years of nomadic wayfaring, not to mention 2011’s unforgettable Railroad Revival Tour, in addition to a history of recording and touring with the likes of Elliott Smith and Willie Nelson, the multi-instrumentalist finally felt ready to strike out on his own path. The result? Tiny Prayers: a 10-track folk record, laden with simple song structures and dream-like acoustic stylings. Catch Aaron Embry and his smooth tunes at The Echo on July 9, before he becomes the indie music scene's next Bieber.  

  1. Echo 1822 W Sunset Blvd
  2. Wed Jul 9
Buy tickets
Hammer Museum

Hammer Museum Photograph: Courtesy Hammer Museum

Made in L.A. Music

  • Critics choice
  • Free

KCRW and The Hammer Museum present a July full of free tunage on Thursday evenings in the Hammer’s outdoor courtyard. Like any good soirée, each music night has a theme—this year, it's music that's “quintessentially L.A." As in Afro Funke or The Do-Over. Live performances and extended museum hours coupled with KCRW DJ sets, cash bars and a beer garden make this summer concert series one heck of a charge-free party. Tunes start playing at 7:30pm.   

  1. Hammer Museum 10899 Wilshire Blvd
  2. Thu Jul 10
More info
Jazz at LACMA.

Jazz at LACMA. Photo courtesy LACMA

Jazz at LACMA

  • Critics choice
  • Free

One of LA's best free live music offerings, Jazz at LACMA has featured such legends as Wayne Shorter, John Clayton, Kenny Burrell, Les McCann, Billy Childs, Arturo Sandoval, Cannonball-Coltrane Project and Ernie Watts. Celebrating over twenty years at the museum, the program continues to be one of the museum’s most recognizable (and beloved) programs. It's a celebration of LA’s finest jazz musicians, and more than 42,000 visitors attend the program annually from April through November, making it a true LA rite of passage.

  1. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) 5905 Wilshire Blvd
  2. Fri Jul 11 - Fri Sep 26
More info

Photograph: Courtesy Silent Frisco

Silent Frisco

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

LCD Soundsystem vs. Talking Heads

  1. Wokcano 1413 Fifth St
  2. Fri Jul 11
More info
Hammer Museum

Hammer Museum Photograph: Courtesy Hammer Museum

Made in L.A. Music

  • Critics choice
  • Free

KCRW and The Hammer Museum present a July full of free tunage on Thursday evenings in the Hammer’s outdoor courtyard. Like any good soirée, each music night has a theme—this year, it's music that's “quintessentially L.A." As in Afro Funke or The Do-Over. Live performances and extended museum hours coupled with KCRW DJ sets, cash bars and a beer garden make this summer concert series one heck of a charge-free party. Tunes start playing at 7:30pm.   

  1. Hammer Museum 10899 Wilshire Blvd
  2. Thu Jul 17
More info
Fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl.

Fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl. Photograph: Adam Latham, Courtesy Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

DreamWorks Animation in Concert

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra teams up with DreamWorks Animation to celebrate the studio’s 20th anniversary with a night of your favorite animated movie scores, award-winning musical guests and a fireworks show—hosted by Jack Black, no less. Whether you sit up front in the garden boxes or back in the bench seats, get ready to lose yourself in the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra’s performances of pieces by acclaimed composers Hans Zimmer, John Powell, Alan Silvestri and Danny Elfman. To accompany the music, film highlights from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon, among other movies, will be shown on the big screen. Additional guests include composer/conductors Harry Gregson-Williams and Alexandre Desplat, and Judith Hill, who will sing “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt. And, of course, there’s no other way to end a show at the Hollywood Bowl than fireworks.

  1. Hollywood Bowl 2301 N Highland Ave
  2. Fri Jul 18 - Sat Jul 19
Buy tickets
Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff Photograph: Greg Watermann

Jimmy Cliff

  • Critics choice

This legendary '60s Jamaican singer and Hall of Fame inductee returns for Raggae Night, delivering his Ska magic to The Hollywood Bowl. Cracking out his old smooth, reggae/soul hits, such as "You Can Get it if You Really Want" and "I Can See Clearly Now," as well as tracks from his new album, "Sacred Fire," Jimmy Cliff lights up the Bowl for one not-to-miss night only. Single tickets go on sale May 4.

  1. Hollywood Bowl 2301 N Highland Ave
  2. Sun Jul 20
More info

Skirball Cultural Center Sunset Concerts

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The Skirball puts on its eighteenth series of free summer concerts, highlighting indie, folk and world music from LA and beyond. Guests can arrive early and visit the museum's galleries, dine under the stars and grab a seat for the show in the beautiful central courtyard. Attendees are encouraged to sing along, dance in the aisles and gather at the foot of the stage to celebrate with the performers.

  1. Skirball Cultural Center 2701 N Sepulveda Blvd
  2. Thu Jul 24 - Thu Aug 28
More info
Hammer Museum

Hammer Museum Photograph: Courtesy Hammer Museum

Made in L.A. Music

  • Critics choice
  • Free

KCRW and The Hammer Museum present a July full of free tunage on Thursday evenings in the Hammer’s outdoor courtyard. Like any good soirée, each music night has a theme—this year, it's music that's “quintessentially L.A." As in Afro Funke or The Do-Over. Live performances and extended museum hours coupled with KCRW DJ sets, cash bars and a beer garden make this summer concert series one heck of a charge-free party. Tunes start playing at 7:30pm.   

  1. Hammer Museum 10899 Wilshire Blvd
  2. Thu Jul 24
More info

Roaring Nights at the LA Zoo

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

See the zoo in a whole new light at this special after-hours exploration series. Those 18 and up can roam the zoo on their own or learn from pop-up zookeeper talks and live animal encounters. Unleash your own inner animal at live shows from local indie bands plus a dance party at the carousel. Or head to the petting zoo for—what else—some stand-up comedy. Local food truck faves will be on hand, along with a full bar for getting zoo-boozy.

  1. Los Angeles Zoo 5333 Zoo Dr
  2. Fri Jul 25
Buy tickets
Obits

Obits Photograph: Eliot Shepard

Obits

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

This sparse alt-rock four-piece from Brooklyn features LA native Rick Frobert, formerly of well-loved San Diego bands Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes. The group's snotty, soulful brand of art punk is unlikely to disappoint his fans. Catch them at the Bootleg as they play behind their third full-length album, Beds & Bugs. Creative Adult and Toys that Kill will open.

  1. Bootleg Theater 2220 Beverly Blvd
  2. Sat Jul 26
More info
Xiu Xiu

Xiu Xiu Photograph: James Wood

Xiu Xiu

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Jamie Stewart has remained the sole steward of confrontational experimental rock act Xiu Xiu, but various cohorts have come and gone in support of his enigmatic quest. The group's latest record, Angel Guts: Red Classroom, boasts more bummers in line with the type of dude who would title a song "I Luv Abortion," among other horror-show, state-of-the-mind tracks. Chicagans Dead Rider and Circuit des Yeux join Xiu Xiu at the Echo for an evening of eclectic, yet consistently intense, indie tunes.

  1. Echo 1822 W Sunset Blvd
  2. Tue Jul 29
Buy tickets
Hamilton Leithauser

Hamilton Leithauser Photograph: Lauren Dukoff

Hamilton Leithauser

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The beloved yet publically underappreciated Walkmen seemingly broke up this past winter. Or, actually, what they've done is pulli a Kiss in 1978—frontman Leithauser, bassist-organist Walter Martin and organist-bassist Peter Bauer all released solo albums within weeks of each other this spring. Naturally, as he is the voice, Leithauser has always carried a large portion of the East Coast band's DNA. His raspy garage-soul howl and bespoke crooner image is in full evidence on "Alexandra," the first single from his new record, Black Hours. Members of Vampire Weekend, the Shins, Fleet Foxes, Dirty Projectors, and, indeed, the Walkmen all chipped in on Leithauser's solo venture. We're looking forward to seeing what he brings to the Echo.

  1. Echo 1822 W Sunset Blvd
  2. Thu Jul 31
More info
Hammer Museum

Hammer Museum Photograph: Courtesy Hammer Museum

Made in L.A. Music

  • Critics choice
  • Free

KCRW and The Hammer Museum present a July full of free tunage on Thursday evenings in the Hammer’s outdoor courtyard. Like any good soirée, each music night has a theme—this year, it's music that's “quintessentially L.A." As in Afro Funke or The Do-Over. Live performances and extended museum hours coupled with KCRW DJ sets, cash bars and a beer garden make this summer concert series one heck of a charge-free party. Tunes start playing at 7:30pm.   

  1. Hammer Museum 10899 Wilshire Blvd
  2. Thu Jul 31
More info
Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire Photograph: Guy Aroch

Arcade Fire

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

The Canadians bring a carnival to the Forum in Inglewood with their newfound disco groove, cover songs and costumes. Fourth studio album Reflektor found the indie rockers finally sounding like they were enjoying themselves—even if the listener's pleasure was a little harder to come by. Still, there are enough curveballs, mirrored surfaces and glitter particles to make this show the party of the month. Lately, the band's been requesting their attendees to come dressed up, so get thee to a craft store. Might we suggest dressing up like Talking Heads? Seems appropriate.

  1. The Forum 3900 W Manchester Blvd
  2. Fri Aug 1 - Sat Aug 2
Buy tickets

Photograph: Brian Rasic/REX USA

Beyonce + Jay Z

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

After smashing it in 2013 during The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, the one and only Beyoncé Knowles is back in LA with Mr. Carter in tow. After the world-shattering surprise-release of her self-titled new album, Bey’ll have plenty of brand new songs to bust out at this Rose Bowl extravaganza, not to mention some of the definitive pop and R&B tracks of the last 20 years. All in all, it should be a typically Yoncéan hurricane of full-throttle tuneage, combined with stuff-strutting moves to leave the audience breathless, let alone her backing dancers. Would anyone argue that Jay Z isn't the undercard here? In recent years, he's been graciously sharing the spotlight with Kanye, JT, his wife... the latter of which is particularly fine by us.

  1. Rose Bowl Stadium 1001 Rose Bowl Dr
  2. Sat Aug 2
Buy tickets

Photograph: Courtesy Hard Summer

Hard Summer

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

This year, locally born EDM juggernaut Hard Summer makes its way to Whittier Narrows Recreation Area (750 S Santa Anita Avenue) for its eponymous annual summer music fest. For two days, dance music and hip-hop acts will traverse four outdoor stages for the raving pleasure of Southern California's danciest. 2014 festival headliners include Tiesto, Disclosure, Jack U, Axwell, Flosstradamus and plenty others. General admission to the fest is 18 and over, and VIP access is 21+.

  1. Various locations in L.A.
  2. Sat Aug 2 - Sun Aug 3
Buy tickets

© Andy Willsher

Drenge

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Drenge play post grunge rock 'n' roll—expect barrelling blues-rock from a guitar-drum duo, à la the White Stripes and Black Keys. The punk-loving teenage Loveless brothers will take a jump across the pond to bathe our ears with distortion at the Bootleg, in support of their critically acclaimed eponymous debut.  

  1. Bootleg Theater 2220 Beverly Blvd
  2. Fri Aug 8
More info
Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis Photograph: Courtesy Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

The indie rock scene's darlingest red head, Jenny Lewis, left her low-key pop band Rilo Kiley in 2007 (save last year's compilation album Rkives), but as a solo act, she's still at it. This August, the Vegas-born singer-songwriter plays The Wiltern in support of her album, The Voyager, set for a July 29 release. Snag your tickets here to witness Lewis's undoubtedly hypnotic (and muy hummable) new tunes.

  1. The Wiltern 3790 Wilshire Blvd
  2. Sat Aug 9
Buy tickets
Crocodiles

Crocodiles Photograph: Alex Kacha, Courtesy Crocodiles

Crocodiles

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Charles Rodwell and Brandon Welchez front this group of San Diego tearaways, who rock out with a fuzzed-up noise-pop that ranges from psychedelic to raging punk. They hit Silver Lake's Los Globos this summer to play from their latest album Crimes of Passion, in addition to older hits. Getting the show started are Cincinnati trash pop outfit Tweens and synthy shoegazers SISU from LA and Heaven from NYC; so, expect a heavy-hitting show with all the hard riffs you could ask for.

  1. Los Globos 3040 West Sunset Blvd
  2. Sat Aug 9
Buy tickets
Glen Hansard

Glen Hansard Photograph: Courtesy Glen Hansard

Glen Hansard + Iron & Wine

  • Critics choice

Raw, emotive folk rock from this former street performer, who appeared in the hit indie movie Once, which earned him an Academy Award for best song, "Falling Slowly." It's in his solo work, though, that he truly bares his soul, here showcasing songs from his 2012 album "Rhythm and Repose," as well as his 2013 EP "Drive All Night." He's joined at The Hollywood Bowl by Iron & Wine, the melancholy and utterly lovely indie project of Sam Beam. Following his poppier and more electronic 2011 album Kiss Each Other Clean, Beam returns with a new (fifth) LP, Ghost On Ghost. Thankfully for fans of the beloved Iron & Wine of yore, the trademark hushed and haunting, beauteous alt-folkish fare is back. Tickets to see the modest rock gods go on sale May 4.

  1. Hollywood Bowl 2301 N Highland Ave
  2. Sun Aug 10
More info

Photograph: Courtesy 2013 MSG Holdings, L.P.

Justin Timberlake

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Justin Timberlake isn't the smoothest when it comes to between-song banter, but that's the only thing you might find lacking in his ongoing big-box tour behind double platinum album The 20/20 Experience. A consummate pro, J.T. mixes a young Sinatra's swagger and charisma with the airtight funk of Michael Jackson at his peak, making magic night after night with an accompanying big band. Catch his return to LA this August at The Staples Center, along the extended run of his 20/20 tour.

  1. Staples Center 1111 S Figueroa St
  2. Tue Aug 12
Buy tickets
Foxygen

Foxygen Photograph: Cara Robbins, Courtesy Foxygen

Foxygen

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Our very own Cali-born psych-pop duo Foxygen is comprised of twenty-somethings Sam France on vocals and Jonathan Rado on guitar and keybaords. The now-bicoastal songwriting twosome strikes us as a gentler, cuddlier version of MGMT. Catch them play one LA gig at the Fonda in support of they're hot third LP, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic.

  1. The Fonda Theatre 6126 Hollywood Blvd, between N El Centro Ave & N Gower St
  2. Thu Aug 14
Buy tickets

Photograph: Courtesy Silent Frisco

Silent Frisco

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

East Coast vs. West Coast

  1. Wokcano 1413 Fifth St
  2. Fri Aug 15
More info

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