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Free concerts this summer: Gratis summer shows to see in 2013

Discover the season’s best free concerts from Kurt Vile, Titus Andronicus, Rakim and many others.

Photograph: Cambria Harkey
Patty Griffin
Photograph: Cody Chestnutt

Cody Chesnutt

Photograph: Courtesy Force Field PR
The Babies
Photograph: Harry Weber
Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble
Photograph: Kyle Dean Reinford
Titus Andronicus
Kenny Garrett
Photograph: Enid Farber
Larry Harlow

One of the (many) reasons we love living in New York is the huge amount of free concerts come summertime. And we’re super jazzed about this year’s offerings, which include free-of-charge sets by top-tier artists in parks and seaside spots throughout the city. 

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of concerts in NYC

Patty Griffin

The flame-tressed alt-country singer, songwriter and guitarist may or may not be married to Robert Plant—the two share the same address in Texas, at least. But one thing’s certain: Griffin can belt her own songs with a fiery conviction to rival any of the superstars for whom she’s penned hits, including Emmylou Harris and the Dixie Chicks. 718-855-7882, bricartsmedia.org/cb. Free.


Although the rapper may still be best known for his 1987 effort with DJ Eric Barrier, Rakim has carved out a storied post–Paid in Full career founded upon deft rhymes. He last released a solo album in 2009, but has said he’s in the studio with Pharrell Williams—fresh from an explosive Daft Punk collaboration—working on a new disc for this year. And that, to quote his ’80s cut, ain’t no joke. summerstage.org. Free.

Mavis Staples + Cody Chesnutt

The 73-year-old grande dame of soul celebrates a forthcoming LP, One True Vine, produced (like her last effort) by fellow Chicagoan Jeff Tweedy. In addition to the new tunes, look forward to Staples’s classic freedom and gospel songs at this outdoor shindig. Atlanta R&B maverick Cody Chesnutt plies slick, symphonic soul in the opening slot. 718-855-7882, bricartsmedia.org/cb. Free.

4Knots Music Festival

The Village Voice’s waterside bash boasts perhaps its most rocking lineup to date, with the guitar-noodling good vibes of Kurt Vile and the Violators and fantastic local outfits (ever-changing rock workaholics the Men, punky rising rockers Parquet Courts, guitar shredder Marnie Stern and catchy indie-rock group the Babies), not to mention pummeling Vancouver punks White Lung and fun garage-rock act Reigning Sound, among others. villagevoice.com/4knots. Free.

Lincoln Center Out of Doors

Now in its 43rd year, this cultural marathon brings an eclectic mix of artists to the alfresco venues on Lincoln Center’s Upper West Side campus. Things kick off with “KRONOS at 40,” a five-day celebration of the group’s career featuring performances by Dan Deacon, My Brightest Diamond and others. The rest of the lineup is similarly impressive: Check out sets by Rubén Blades, Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra, and a special 30th-anniversary edition of the Roots of American Music Festival. Visit lcoutofdoors.org for details. July 24–Aug 11; Free.

Titus Andronicus + Ducktails

Two of Jersey’s finest come together on a bill that’s so oddly matched, it just might work. Glen Rock punks Titus Andronicus put on an epic live show; by the end, the crowd is often bellowing along with lead singer Patrick Stickles, fists raised in unison. Opening is Ducktails, the side project of Real Estate’s Matt Mondanile, whose music is as chill and easygoing as Titus’s is explosive and biting. The venue choice couldn’t be more appropriate: They’ll play in Hudson River Park, with the Garden State looming in the background. 212-627-2121, hudsonriverpark.org. Free.

Charlie Parker Jazz Festival

This year’s ace uptown-downtown affair jumps off in Harlem on August 23 with “Bird Is the Word,” a premiere by saxophone legend Jimmy Heath and his big band. Stellar sax man Kenny Garrett and fascinating vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant top the bill on August 24. And on August 25, down in Tompkins Square Park (near Parker’s old roost on Avenue B), honored vets Lee Konitz and Sheila Jordan share a bill with young hotshots Christian Scott and Warren Wolf. Marcus Garvey Park Amphitheater. Aug 23 at 7pm, Aug 24 at 3pm; free. • Tompkins Square Park. Aug 25 at 3pm; free. • summerstage.org

Larry Harlow and the Latin Legends Band

An indomitable force in Afro-Latin music in New York and around the world, Larry Harlow has made an indelible impression as a pianist, bandleader and record producer for the Fania label...and your dancing shoes will make an equally indelible impression in the aisles when he fires up his band. summerstage.org. Free.