Summer concerts in NYC: The best free concerts

Find where to rock out this season without burning through your savings account—plus a handy calendar of every free concert in New York City.

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  1. Top ten
  2. June
  3. July
  4. August

Caveman + NewVillager

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The Brooklyn Museum's Audiophile series, a showcase for the borough’s premier sound pioneers, welcomes jangly, straightforwardly pleasing indie-rockers Caveman. Their stylings are perfect for mellowing out in that sweet, sweet air conditioning.

  1. Brooklyn Museum 200 Eastern Pkwy, at Washington Ave
  2. Thu May 22
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Laura Marling

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Sometimes New York spoils you. And this free show by British folkie Laura Marling represents one of those times: Swoon to the singer’s mesmerizing voice, under the moon, surrounded by trees. Support comes from rising star Michael Kiwanuka. Celebrate Brooklyn! indeed.

  1. Celebrate Brooklyn! (at the Prospect Park Bandshell) Prospect Park West, at 9th St
  2. Thu Jun 19
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Dawes + Kurt Vile

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This top-notch free gig is an ode to the music scene of the early ’70s, with L.A. band Dawes’ cerebral folk-rock complementing Philly guitarist Kurt Vile’s hazy, raw psych-pop.

Enter to win two express entry tickets.

  1. SummerStage Mainstage Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, enter at Fifth Ave and 72nd St
  2. Sat Jun 21
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Fishbone

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Kudos to BAM for understanding that rhythm & blues and punk aren’t mutually exclusive: The institution booked Fishbone as part of its 2012 R&B Festival, a series of gratis outdoor gigs that also includes funkmeister Larry Graham and Graham Central Station and Beninese groove machine Orchestre Poly-Rythmo. Expect fun-loving mayhem from the venerable punk-funk-ska-metal fusionists, recently resurgent in the wake of a 2011 documentary, Everyday Sunshine, and a Jimmy Fallon flap concerning the ’bone’s 1985 chestnut “Lyin’ Ass Bitch.”

  1. BAM at MetroTech Commons Flatbush Ave, at Myrtle St
  2. Thu Jul 3
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Dan Deacon + John Maus

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Hudson River Park’s River Rocks series presents a sharp pairing of avant-pop Clark Kents: two dudes whose nerdy academic backgrounds haven’t stopped them from earning honorary degrees in DIY party-rocking. After spending his spring ensconced in the classical realm—including a Carnegie Hall appearance as part of the American Mavericks series—Deacon’s sure to be up for some of his patented audience-marshaling escapades, egged on by Maus’s frenetic, synth-fueled tantrums.

Enter to win two VIP passes.

  1. Hudson River Park at Pier 84 44th St, at the Hudson River
  2. Thu Jul 17
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Guthrie Family Reunion Celebrating Woody Guthrie’s 100th Birthday

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The Dust Bowl icon would have been blowing out 100 birthday-cake candles this year. To honor his legacy—which seems only to grow stronger with each new political crisis—Woody’s son, Arlo, heads up this family shindig.

Enter to win two express entry tickets.

  1. SummerStage Mainstage Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, enter at Fifth Ave and 72nd St
  2. Sun Jul 20
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Poets House’s Poetic City with Suzanne Vega and Gabriel Kahane

  • Critics choice
  • Free

True to its name, Poetic City celebrates New Yorkers with a gift for turning a potent phrase: City poets laureate Tina Chang and Paolo Javier will read, but music heads will want to be here for Suzanne Vega, one of the city’s most celebrated lyricists, and Gabriel Kahane, one of its fastest-rising polymaths.

Enter to win two VIP passes.

  1. Nelson A. Rockefeller Park Battery Park City, enter at River Terr and Warren St
  2. Tue Jul 1
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The Bad Plus: On Sacred Ground + Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Early on, the Bad Plus turned heads by covering everything from Blondie to Black Sabbath. These days, the alt-jazz trio plays mostly originals onstage, but here pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King take on Stravinsky’s modern-classical watershed The Rite of Spring. Germany’s chamber-music-gone-techno outfit Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble starts things off with its own brand of unpretentious highbrowism.

Enter to win two VIP tickets.

  1. Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center W 62nd St, between Columbus and Amsterdam Aves
  2. Thu Aug 7
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Smokie Norful

  • Critics choice
  • Free

You’ll want to come to this gospel superstar’s latest outdoor revival dressed lightly: Smokie Norful’s soulful testifying can make even a nonbeliever feel washed in the blood of the lamb, and his band’s tight, joyous grooves are just as much guaranteed to make you sweat up a storm. Thine eyes will see the glory.

  1. Marcus Garvey Park Amphitheater Enter the park at Madison Ave at 124th St
  2. Wed Aug 13
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Wild Nothing + Grimes

  • Critics choice
  • Free

If you find Williamsburg empty today, it’s because all the bespectacled L-train riders have gone to Pier 84 to catch the one-two punch of deliciously dreamy ’80s-style one-man band Wild Nothing (the work of Jack Tatum) and Montreal weirdo-pop artiste Grimes. You won’t find a more au courant bill this summer.

  1. Hudson River Park at Pier 84 44th St, at the Hudson River
  2. Thu Aug 14
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  1. Top ten
  2. June
  3. July
  4. August

Users say

2 comments
Me
Me

When I saw "Handy Calendar" I thought there would be something in an actual calendar format, so you can look at dates and click (besides just clicking June/July/August and scrolling), or am I missing something?

Andrea
Andrea

Awesome job! Thanks! I can't wait to see all of these shows!!