Get out your calendars: Your guide to the best summer concerts of 2016 has arrived. Here, our picks for the best warm-weather gigs, including summer concert series, free shows, summer music festivals and more. Make sure to check out our monthly concert calendars, too, for shows in outdoor venues, clubs and theaters.
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Free summer concert series in LA
KCRW Summer Nights
This all-ages concert series from KCRW sets up shop across the city every week from June through August, and is definitely among the liveliest of LA's summer concerts. Participate in cultural workshops before busting a move on the dance floor to DJ sets and live bands. Sample food-truck grub or cuisine from surrounding restaurants as you party ‘til midnight in the heart of Chinatown and Pasadena as well as at the Hammer Museum. A photo booth, craft beer garden and variety of fine art classes round out the fun to be had at this music-centric event.
Every Thursday, head to the Santa Monica Pier for free bands on the beach during their Twilight Concert series. Pack a picnic (and arrive early to get a spot on the sand near the speakers) to enjoy as the local talent plays sunset sets with crashing waves in the distance; past performers include Tune-Yards, Ariel Pink and Cults.
Sound in Focus
It wouldn't be summer in Los Angeles without free concerts in cool, outdoor places from KCRW. Sound in Focus, their latest collaboration with the Annenberg Space for Photography, is a month of free, all ages outdoor concerts. Headliners include Nas and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The concerts will be on the lawn at Century Park, right next to the Annenberg Space for Photography. In addition to music and photography, visitors can take a tour of Skylight Studios, picnic on the lawn (bring your own or indulge in food truck fare) and grab a drink in the beer garden. The concerts are free, but you must RSVP beforehand, and entry is granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Made in L.A. Music
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 "disappear here." 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 8:15pm.
Saturdays Off the 405
Enjoy free outdoor music and evening views of the city on select Saturdays at the Getty throughout summer. Performances by your soon-to-be favorite bands (the past few years saw shows by Cold Cave, Dum Dum Girls, Lord Huron, Avi Buffalo and Best Coast, just to name a few) are sandwiched between DJ sets to open and close the night. Tip: Avoid the traffic and the crowds and arrive early. You'll get to visit the exhibits, watch the sunset and snag a seat at the restaurant before the dinner rush.
Jazz at LACMA
One of LA's best free live music offerings, Jazz at LACMA has featured such legends as Wayne Shorter, Kenny Burrell and Arturo Sandoval. Celebrating over twenty years at the museum, the program continues to be one of the museum’s most recognizable programs. It's a celebration of LA’s finest jazz musicians, and more than 42,000 visitors attend the LACMA program annually from April through November, making it a true LA rite of passage.
Skirball Cultural Center Sunset Concerts
The Skirball puts on its annual run 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 courtyard. Attendees are encouraged to sing along, dance in the aisles and gather at the foot of the stage to celebrate with the performers.