The best NYC concerts and music festivals in August

Arcade Fire, St. Vincent, Eminem and Rihanna highlight our recommended NYC concerts this month

Photograph: Krista Schlueter
St. Vincent

Nine Inch Nails + Soundgarden | Nikon at Jones Beach Theater; Aug 1. PNC Bank Arts Center; Aug 2.

’Scuse us, what year is it, again? Though both Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden have comeback albums to promote—the impressive Hesitation Marks and the disappointing King Animal, respectively—you know you're going to hear plenty from these alt-rock icons' signature discs, NIN's The Downward Spiral and Chris Cornell & Co.'s Superunknown, which dropped on the very same day in March of ’94. Replacing recently disbanded hip-hop provocateurs Death Grips in the opening slot are esteemed local dronesmith Daniel Lopatin, a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never (Aug 1 at Jones Beach) and mathcore visionaries the Dillinger Escape Plan (Aug 2 at PNC Bank Arts Center).

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John Legend | Barclays Center; Aug 6

John Legend—who will forever have a place in our hearts for his performance in a bat mitzvah scene on Curb Your Enthusiasm—gives vintage soul a respectful tweak. We're tearing up just thinking about the inevitable encore performance of the gorgeousness that is "All of Me."

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Barclays Center

Farmers by Nature + Darius Jones and Matthew Shipp | ShapeShifter Lab; Aug 9

Aum Fidelity, the homegrown label that helped put ’90s-era NYC free jazz on the map, has continued that mission right up to the present day, and it shows no signs of flagging. At tonight’s gig, Aum old-schoolers William Parker and Matthew Shipp—who appeared together on the imprint’s first release, the 1997 David S. Ware set Wisdom of Uncertainty—each celebrate a new disc by a current project. Shipp opens the evening in duo with saxist Darius Jones (heard on Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid Recital), while Parker headlines with Farmers by Nature, a collective trio with pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver (heard on Love and Ghosts). A night of searching, impassioned improv is pretty much guaranteed.

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ShapeShifter Lab

Mad Decent Block Party | MCU Park; Aug 9

Wesley Pentz, the 35-year-old, Mississippi-born producer known to the world as Diplo, is everywhere, working with mega-huge pop stars (Beyoncé, Usher), while promoting various dance music strains—kuduro, dubstep, the Internet-crushing Harlem Shake—through his Mad Decent label. This week, the imprint’s Block Party tour comes to town, bringing with it a lineup of young zeitgeist-tapping talent, including bass-heavy Chicago twosome Flosstradamus and sax-meets-electronica outfit Big Gigantic.

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MCU Park

St. Vincent | Celebrate Brooklyn! (at the Prospect Park Bandshell); Aug 9

The year isn’t half over, but it already looks like 2014 belongs to St. Vincent, née Annie Clark: Fresh off a tour with David Byrne, she immediately churned out her new, self-titled record. The album contains the kind of self-confident musings that have made St. Vincent the reigning queen of indie rock, including the gem “Oh what an ordinary day / Take out the garbage, masturbate” on the single “Birth in Reverse.”

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Celebrate Brooklyn! (at the Prospect Park Bandshell) Free

The Rock*A*Teens | Glasslands Gallery; Aug 9. Le Poisson Rouge; Aug 10.

The Atlanta band revels in the kind of AM-radio stardust that defined the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. Equally relevant, though, are the frayed-nerve delivery and woozy demeanor of frontman Chris Lopez. His quaking yowl, along with Justin Hughes’s reverb-drenched guitars, ingeniously pervert the hot rave-ups and deliciously shimmering ballads of a bygone era. No stylized tribute, the end product—on display at both Glasslands and Le Poisson Rouge this week—amounts to a punk-schooled reinvention of murky swamp boogie, feral garage stomp and slow-dance–ready melodrama. On Aug 9, the Teens play with Bird of Youth; Aug 10 the group performs with Will Sheff and Ricer.

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Blood Orange | SummerStage Mainstage; Aug 16

Cupid Deluxe, Devonté Hynes’s second record as Blood Orange, is a complex, swirling affair—packed with R&B, pop, blues and even jazz, it’s an upbeat ode to dance one moment and a soul-searching dirge the next. Formerly the man behind Lightspeed Champion, Hynes knows his way around a switchboard, producing unexpected, robust combinations of sounds. At SummerStage, he’s sure to lean on the more sexual numbers, sending the masses into the humid August night soaked in sweat.

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SummerStage Mainstage Free

The Monster Tour: Eminem x Rihanna | MetLife Stadium; Aug 16, 17

Rihanna guested last year on Eminem’s tune, “The Monster,” the duo’s fourth blockbuster collaboration. This tour was the next logical step. The two headliners strike a nice balance—Em’s crass, harsh hip-hop countered by Rihanna’s stylish, poppy R&B. And no doubt about it: Both of these self-proclaimed Monsters possess an indisputably wicked edge.

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MetLife Stadium

Ryan Leslie | Bowery Ballroom; Aug 20

Ryan Leslie, a triple-threat singer-rapper-songwriter in the Drake vein who famously graduated from Harvard at age 19, trades in what you might call retro-future soul. His songs are sleek, forward-looking, synth-driven productions; vocally, however, Leslie’s presentation evokes the dignified showmanship of the Motown era.

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Bowery Ballroom
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