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Best summer live-music venues

Photograph: John Klemm
SummerStage crowd

Celebrate Brooklyn (at the Prospect Park Bandshell)

Critics' pick

Thanks to Celebrate Brooklyn, the Prospect Park Bandshell is to Brooklynites what Central Park SummerStage is to Manhattan residents—the place to hear great music in the great outdoors. The programming for this summer festival mirrors the borough’s diversity: The music runs the gamut from folk (Toshi Reagon) to indie rock (Sonic Youth) and much more; an annual African-music festival is always a highlight.

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Prospect Park

SummerStage Mainstage

For more than 25 years, the City Parks Foundation has filled summers in the park with just about every sound under the sun. This New York institution has an ear for music of every type—M.I.A., Television and Amadou & Mariam have all played in recent years, as have Zap Mama, Nortec Collective and Neko Case. Many of the shows are free, with a handful of benefits covering for them.

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Central Park

The Williamsburg Waterfront

Critics' pick

Taking up the slack from the late, lamented Pool Parties at McCarren Park, the Williamsburg Waterfront is bringing some of indie rock's biggest acts—from the reunited Faith No More to the suddenly ubiquitous Pavement—to the strategically located hipster nexus of East River State Park.

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Central Park, Rumsey Playfield

Each summer, Central Park SummerStage fills Rumsey Playfield with every type of music under the sun. After the SummerStage concerts (free) and their benefit shows (not free) conclude for the year, the space hosts other paying gigs, minus the SummerStage name.

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Nikon at Jones Beach Theater

This Long Island theater is where classic-rock buffs from the burbs meet their NYC counterparts. The booking alternates between iconic nostalgia acts like Foreigner, soul stars like Jill Scott, and contemporary pop-rock sensations such as Paramore. Whoever's playing, expect a populist, ballpark-style concert experience.

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Long Island

W 21st St and Surf Ave

Marty Markowitz's Seaside Summer Music Series generally offers something to please the whole family—from punk veterans like Joan Jett to power-popsters Cheap Trick. Surf's up at Surf Avenue!

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