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Photograph: Courtesy Lincoln Center

The best acts to see at Lincoln Center Out of Doors

We’ve narrowed down the best concerts and parties on the all-free schedule of Lincoln Center Out of Doors 2016

Written by
Bryan Kerwin

There’s still plenty of great summer music festivals left in 2016: Central Park SummerStage and BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! are both in full swing. And don’t count out Lincoln Center Out of Doors, the three-week music-and-dance fest in its 45th season. From Wednesday, July 20 to Sunday, August 13, Lincoln Center Out of Doors brings a packed schedule of totally free, all outdoor summer concerts in NYC. Check out our highlights for what to see.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Lincoln Center Out of Doors

Lincoln Center Out of Doors 2016

A Night of Words and Music with Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye and Tony Shanahan + Mariachi Flor de Toloache
Photograph: Courtesy Lincoln Center

1. A Night of Words and Music with Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye and Tony Shanahan + Mariachi Flor de Toloache

The festival's first event promises to be an enchanting time as music-and-lit legend Patti Smith brings spoken word poetry and stripped-down versions of her iconic songs to Damrosch Park. Joined by her longtime guitarist and collaborator Lenny Kaye and supported by all-female contemporary Latin group Mariachi Flor de Toloache, the varied bill should provide both exuberance and introspection from two shining examples of NYC's enduring and vibrant arts scene.Wednesday July 20 at 7:30pm

The Hallelujah Train + Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Photograph: Courtesy Lincoln Center

2. The Hallelujah Train + Ladysmith Black Mambazo

It's a family affair when the Hallelujah Train comes to town. Led by golden-voiced pastor Brady Blade Sr. and boasting the talents of his two sons, Brian and Brady Jr., the collection of Southern singers and musicians explores gospel, blues and roots music with celebratory panache. On hand will also be illustrious producer Daniel Lanois (known for his work with U2 and Bob Dylan, among others), as well as the rich and uplifting harmonies of South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who came to prominence on Paul Simon's Graceland, and count more than 50 years of worldwide success together. Thursday July 21 at 7:30pm

Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra
Photograph: Kevin Yatarola

3. Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra

The Mostly Mozart mini festival gets its 50th anniversary season underway with two highlights from the renowned composer, his Violin Concerto No. 3 and the “Jupiter” Symphony No. 41, the latter of which has been referred to as "the greatest orchestral work of the world which preceded the French Revolution." For the first piece, the orchestra will be joined by violinist Simone Porter, who at 19 years old has already captured the imagination and respect of the classical world, and both pieces will be conducted by Louis Langrée, Mostly Mozart’s music director since 2003. Friday July 22 at 7:30pm

Family Day: Lincoln Center Block Party with Illstyle & Peace Productions
Photograph: Courtesy Lincoln Center

4. Family Day: Lincoln Center Block Party with Illstyle & Peace Productions

There will be a wealth of fun activities for all ages during Disney-sponsored Family Day, including a showcase and Q & A by the Dance Theater of Harlem and a set from the Girl Group Project featuring NYC vocal students led by former child-star singers. But make sure to get there early for the kickoff: A round-the-fountain block party hosted by Philadelphia dance ensemble Illstyle & Peace Productions. The multicultural troupe promises a masterclass in a wide range of styles from traditional West African dance to ballet with the option for everyone to join in or just sit back and enjoy. Saturday July 23 at 11:00am

An Evening with Darlene Love

5. An Evening with Darlene Love

Darlene Love's life story would hardly be believable if it wasn't true. After firmly establishing herself as a vocal force in the ‘60s as one of Phil Spector's artists, her career had largely fallen off by the ‘80s: She even tells a heartbreaking story about hearing her own classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on the radio while working as a maid in Los Angeles. It wasn't until she was reinvigorated by the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom that Love attained her rightful place in American popular culture. Don't miss this chance to hear her legendary voice in person. Saturday July 23 at 7:30pm

Afropunk's Girrrrl Riot at Lincoln Center: Alice Smith +  SATE + The VeeVees
Photograph: Courtesy Lincoln Center

6. Afropunk's Girrrrl Riot at Lincoln Center: Alice Smith + SATE + The VeeVees

The annual Afropunk Festival has established itself as one of the foremost celebrations of black and alternative culture in the US and throughout the world, expanding this year with shows in Paris and London. The fest joins forces with Lincoln Center to present an unmissable lineup of dynamic female artists, from Alice Smith's laid-back power to the gritty intensity of Toronto's SATE and retro-rock thrash of the VeeVees. Be ready to party for this one. Wednesday July 27 at 7pm

Eli “Paperboy” Reed
Photgraph: Courtesy Lincoln Center

7. Eli “Paperboy” Reed

Eli Reed brings his ecstatic live show to Hearst Plaza for a night of good vibes. Anchored by his impassioned, soul-infused voice and frenetic guitar playing, his band continually brings fresh energy to classic soul sounds. In a year where younger artists (see: Chance the Rapper) are frequently drawing on traditional gospel music for inspiration, Reed's songs may be the most reverent and some of the most lively. Friday July 29 at 7:30pm

NPR Music Live in Concert with Lucinda Williams + Thao & the Get Down Stay Down + iLe
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

8. NPR Music Live in Concert with Lucinda Williams + Thao & the Get Down Stay Down + iLe

All Songs Considered's Bob Boilen and others conduct in-depth interviews with three artists at different stages of three very exciting careers during this evening show. Ileana Cabra Joglar, a.k.a. iLe, just released iLevitable, her first solo album after performing with her older brothers in the rap duo Calle 13. Indie mainstays Thao & The Get Down Stay Down also released a record in March of this year, A Man Alive. It's their fourth album in a more than ten-year run of successfully blending alt-rock, folk and psychedelic influences. Closing the show will be the First Lady of rebel country, Lucinda Williams, who's been turning out critically lauded, fiery Americana since 1978 including this year’s The Ghosts of Highway 20. Thursday August 5 at 7pm

The Last Waltz 40th Anniversary Celebration
Photograph: Kevin Yatarola

9. The Last Waltz 40th Anniversary Celebration

How many times have you watched YouTubes of those now-mythological rock shows—Hendrix at Monterey Pop, Dylan at Newport, the Beatles at Shea Stadium—and wished you could have been there? You can get as close to The Last Waltz as you'll ever be at this tribute show spearheaded by the Midnight Ramble Band (the late Levon Helm's former cohorts), along with a litany of announced and unannounced costars. They'll be going through the entire set list from 1976, so you can certainly expect some surprises in the lineup, as well as a thoroughly satisfying show for completists. Cocaine will not be provided, as far as we know. Saturday August 6 at 7pm

The Public Domain
Photograph: Kevin Yatarola

10. The Public Domain

A volunteer chorus of more than 1,000 participants will perform this world premiere by composer David Lang, winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for The Little Match Girl Passion. (Depending on when you read this, there might still be time to sign yourself up!) Lang describes the piece's theme as “the collective knowledge shared amongst us all,” making the public's dual roles as spectators and artists all the more resonant. Lang's modernist, minimalist aesthetic, paired with direction from Simon Halsey of the London Symphony Orchestra, is sure to make for an enthralling final night for the Out of Doors Festival. Saturday August 13 at 5pm

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