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Charlie Parker Jazz Festival-279
Photograph: Courtesy Jack Vartoogian

The best concerts to see before summer ends

Check out our top picks for this year’s summer concerts in NYC, including info on free and outdoor shows

By Ro S and Andrew Frisicano

Start hoarding sunscreen and pull your sunglasses out of storage: Here are the top summer concerts (in chronological order) NYC music lovers should not miss! Plan out your summer in New York with our picks for the best warm-weather gigs and summer music festivals, including plenty of indie-rock bands, world-class DJs, hip-hop artists and more.

RECOMMENDED: See all concerts in NYC

Best summer concerts in NYC

Governors Ball
Photograph: Alyssa Greenberg

1. Governors Ball

As a bona fide big-tent music festival, Governors Ball occupies a unique place among summer concerts in NYC. This year’s three-day fest brings music from headliners Tyler the Creator, Florence + the Machine and The Strokes, as well as support from rising acts like rapper Noname and pop singer Charlie XCX.

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The National
Photograph: Deirdre O'Callaghan

2. The National + Courtney Barnett


Although they formed in Cincinnati, the National first exploded in Kings County, an almost comically appropriate home base: The group’s brooding, insightful songcraft touches upon the anxieties and cynicism many borough residents know all too well. The band's most recent disc, Sleep Well Beast, might be its most cohesive statement of that purpose yet, expanding its world of interior reflection with dense, gorgeously textured production. Catch them at this open-air set for BAM's Celebrate Brooklyn series.

Ariana Grande
Photograph: Courtesy Republic Records

3. Ariana Grande

Music Pop

Between the tragic Manchester Arena bombing, the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and the very public end of her brief engagement to SNL star Pete Davidson, the past year has been a rough one for Ariana Grande. But amid the turmoil, the singer released Sweetener, her most impressive collection of songs to date, filled with empowering anthems and soaring R&B ballads (not to mention the inescapable single “God is a Woman”). The former Nickelodeon star will take her latest album on the road this spring, including a stop at the United Center, where Grande can fill the cavernous venue with her expansive vocal range. No word yet on whether or not her pet pig, Piggy Smalls, will make an appearance, but we're keeping our fingers crossed.

4. Wu-Tang Clan

Music Rap, hip-hop and R&B

The legendary Staten Island rap crew that includes the renowned solo artists Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah and RZA—who now pops up in movies just as often as he does on hit records—comes to Coney Island for a summertime bash. What needs to be said outside of "Wu-Tang Clan ain't nothing to fuck with"?

Death Cab for Cutie
Photograph: We Are the Rhoads

5. Death Cab for Cutie + Jenny Lewis


Key exponents of the earnest, easy-listening school of indie rock that flourished in the early aughts, Death Cab for Cutie are still going strong. Here, Ben Gibbard and his Washington State crew gig behind their ninth LP, Thank You for Today. In keeping with the bands M.O., fans shouldn't expect too radical a shift; the new material just sounds like good, old Death Cab to us. Here at this stadium gig, frontwoman of revelatory ‘90s indie band Rilo Kiley, Lewis, sets the stage.

6. Steve Gadd Band

Music Jazz

One of music's most celebrated studio drummers, Gadd has left his unmistakeable touch on everything from pop mega-hits like Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" to landmark fusion releases like Chick Corea's The Leprechaun (along with a variety of other works by Steely Dan, Aretha Franklin, Al DiMeola, Stanley Clarke, Frank Sinatra…). Here the living legend turns up with his own dynamic, grooving live combo.


7. Mick Jenkins + Leikeli47

Music Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Two up-and-coming MCs—Chicago's Mick Jenkins and Brooklyn-raised Leikeli47—touch down for a free Prospect Park gig with a cache of worthy releases under their belt. Anyone on the fence should give a few spins to the two's new release Pieces of a Man and Acrylic (respectively).

Carly Rae Jepsen
Photograph: Courtesy Hazel & Pine

8. Carly Rae Jepsen


This artist first wormed her way into both indie and poptimist ears alike back in 2012 with her undeniably infectious breakout single, "Call Me Maybe." But with her glitzy sophomore effort E-MO-TION—which hit its titular peaks of heartbreak and adoration with soaring majesty—she graduated from one-hit wonder to a versatile and inventive star with staying power. Here she plays from a new release, Dedicated—a collection of tightly written pop songs that shimmers with fevered beauty (though perhaps not quite as respendently as its predecessor).

5814613r, Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX/Shutterstock (5814613r)Iron Maiden - Steve HarrisIron Maiden in concert at Spaladium Arena, Split, Croatia - 27 Jul 2016
Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

9. Iron Maiden

Music Punk and metal

In any discussion of rock acts that have improved with age, English heavy-metal institution Iron Maiden has to come in somewhere near the top: Even if Bruce Dickinson can't hit every screeching high note of his prime (cut him some slack, the guy just overcame tongue cancer), he deploys his resources for maximum impact, something that could be said equally for his restless bandmates.

Dead & Company
Photograph: Courtesy Danny Clinch

10. Dead & Company

Music Rock and indie

More than fifty years after forming the Grateful Dead, longtime members Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir are still out there truckin'. As Dead & Company, the crew teams up with Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge and ax slinger John Mayer to bring its exploratory jams and time-tested Americana to the masses. Expect a tie-dyed parking-lot scene and a party atmosphere at these outdoor shows.

Mac DeMarco
Photograph: Brad Elterman

11. Mac DeMarco

Music Rock and indie

It's 2019 and the reigning hooligan jester of indie pop is up to all his same antics—this time, announcing a new album titled Here Comes the Cowboy alongside a new single "Nobody," both of which he claims bear no relationship to Mitski's acclaimed 2018 release, Be the Cowboy, nor its main single, also titled "Nobody." The video for (Mac's) "Nobody" features the singer in a hauntingly elaborate lizard-man (or, lizard-cowboy) costume, which is none too out of place in an oeuvre of music vids that includes the artist surrounded by VR humanoid dog creatures or drowning in a bathtub of cabbage heads. Catch all the madness at this outdoor Celebrate Brooklyn! gig.

The Smashing Pumpkins
Photograph: Courtesy Olivia Bee

12. Smashing Pumpkins

Music Rock and indie

What better way to endure the dog days of summer than with a good dose of ’90s angst? The alt-rockers hit town behind a newie, Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol. 1/LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun (a title that ostensibly indicates a continuing album series on the horizon), with an almost-complete original lineup. (Alas, bassist D’Arcy Wretzky will be absent because of a feud with Billy Corgan.)

Photograph: Zach Hollowell

13. Joyce Manor + Saves the Day

Music Rock and indie

To the chagrin of some and celebration of others, the last two albums from these Cali emocore types skew toward the former half of their "pop-punk" moniker—consider such divisive lines as "[she was] singing 'What do you think about Kanye West? I think that he’s great / I think he’s the best.' Unexpected namedrops aside, the band's newest developments continue to mature the same brand of jaded irony that makes frontman Barry Johnson's writing so effective. Don't miss them as they pop up with genre vets Saves the Day.

14. Jethro Tull

Music Rock and indie

Too old to rock & roll, too young to die? Hardly! Original band leader and celebrated flautist Ian Anderson brings the modern lineup of his prog-folk institution Jethro Tull to town for its 50th anniversary tour. It may have been nearly half a century since the band's golden days, but few since have so elegantly melded the worlds of woodwind instruments and arena rock showmanship.


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