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
Charlie Parker Jazz Festival-279
Photograph: Courtesy Jack Vartoogian
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.

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Best summer concerts in NYC

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Photograph: Courtesy Eva Vermandel
Music, Rock and indie

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

On its latest album, Luciferian Towers, the Canadian collective channels an orchestral cacophony, layering frantic arrangements of violins, horns and drums with killer riffs. The band patiently builds toward huge musical moments, which should sound absolutely glorious in Brooklyn’s finest green space.

The Breeders
Photograph: Courtesy Chris Glass
Music, Rock and indie

The Breeders + Speedy Ortiz

Catch this year’s last free show in Prospect Park. The ’90s act still rocks with insouciantly punky cool behind twin sisters Kim and Kelley Deal. Don’t miss excellent indie-rockers Speedy Ortiz in the opening slot.

Photograph: Courtesy City Parks Foundation
Music, Rock and indie

Porches + Sunflower Bean + Crumb

As the SummerStage series nears its end, the annual East River Park gigs are always a highlight. For this strong three-band bill, Aaron Maine, who inflects his dazed brand of introspective indie pop with ’80s-style synths, plays as Porches alongside rocking NYC trio Sunflower Bean and the jazzy up-and-coming quartet Crumb.

Harlem Meer in Central Park
Photograph: Courtesy Central Park Conservancy
Music, Classical and opera

In the Name of the Earth

The Mostly Mozart Festival ventures beyond the Lincoln Center campus with this performance of John Luther Adams’s large-scale choral work. Eight hundred singers, split into four choirs, will take part in creating an immersive aural environment around the uptown pond.

Photograph: Scott Kowalchyk

Fool’s Gold Day Off

It's that time of the year again! The most innovative sounds in electronic music and hip-hop intermingle at this all-day party hosted by A-Trak's Brooklyn label Fool's Gold. This year's edition features a particularly underground lineup, including irrepressable rapper Junglepussy, weirdo punk trio Show Me The Body, GHE20G0TH1K leader Venus X and a host of other stellar acts.

Guided by Voices
Photograph: Courtesy Matt Davis
Music, Rock and indie

Guided by Voices

Perhaps no one in the indie-rock kingdom inspires quite the same chest-pummeling devotion as the shambling Bob Pollard and his troupe of beery veterans. Since reuniting in 2010, the band has released so many albums of its patented raw, hooky guitar pop that it's been hard to keep up—the latest of which, Space Gun, came out in March.

Beach House
Photograph: Courtesy Shawn Brackbill
Music, Rock and indie

Beach House

Delectably dreamy Baltimore duo Beach House, comprised of guitarist Alex Scally and husky-voiced singer Victoria LeGrand, are masters of lush-yet-intimate synthscapes. The group's brand of electronic relaxation, which it's been honing since 2006, returns this year with 7, its aptly titled seventh full-length that adds a jagged edge to its synthy pastures.

Photograph: Courtesy Jack Vartoogian
Music, Jazz

Charlie Parker Jazz Festival

This year’s edition of the city’s roaming ode to Bird features another boundary-pushing bill, which includes the new lineup of jazz trio the Bad Plus (with Orrin Evans on keys), R&B-inspired trumpeter Keyon Harrold and Adam O’Farrill, the postbopping son of bandleader Arturo (and grandson of the equally legendary Chico).

HO99O9 - Afropunk Fest
Filip Wolak

Aug 25, 26: Afropunk Fest

Like the rest of this globe-spanning, fashionable festival franchise, the original Brooklyn edition is a celebration of forward-thinking black music that’s come to span genres far outside punk. This year’s bill is a doozy, including soul singer Erykah Badu, rapper Tyler the Creator, pop visionary Janelle Monáe and much more.

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Kerri Chandler
Photograph: courtesy Nervous Records
Clubs, House, disco and techno

Kerri Chandler

House hero Kerri Chandler has been releasing thumping New Jersey–bred tunes since the early ’90s. Coming from a jazz-heavy background, Chandler was always surrounded by soul, disco and the “New York Underground Sound." Those influences shine on his (highly recommended) 2017 contribution to the DJ Kick mix series. The house legend visits the Output rooftop for a late-summer session.

Sun Ra Arkestra
Courtesy the artist
Music, Jazz

Sun Ra Arkestra

The world owes a great cosmic debt to time-traveling bandleader Sun Ra. He went back to Saturn and left the funkiest, swingingest band in the Milky Way here on Earth. This afternoon matinee show is your opportunity to travel the spaceways; your captain is 90-year-old Arkestra mainstay Marshall Allen.

Phil Lesh & the Terrapin Family Band
Photograph: Courtesy Neal Casal
Music, Rock and indie

Phil Lesh & the Terrapin Family Band

The wildly popular Fare Thee Well shows in 2015 marked the final concert appearance of the "core four" Grateful Dead members, as Phil Lesh stepped away from Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir to focus on his solo stylings. Here the bassist keeps the Dead's spirit alive by playing with a band that includes son Grahame Lesh and guests singer Nicki Bluhm and guitarist Eric Krasno.

Panorama Festival 2017
Photograph: Filip Wolak
Music, Music festivals


Music website Pitchfork and its beer-focused spinoff October present their second annual pairing of bands and brews. The fest hits Governors Island with a two-day lineup of more than 20 acts, including Vince Staples, Yo La Tengo, Chic, Vagabon, Julie Byrne and the Flaming Lips. Between sets, grab beer samples from over 90 different breweries based near (Blue Point, Circa) and far (India's Bira 91, Germany's Aktien). A single-day ticket includes 45 ounces of beer, a two-day ticket includes 90 ounces and plenty more is available for $1.50 per 3-ounce pour. Come thirsty.

Van Morrison
Photograph: Courtesy Shore Fire Media
Music, Rock and indie

Van Morrison + Willie Nelson & Family

The great bard of Irish R&B turns up in Queens for a rare show. You never know what you're going to get from a Van gig—or what mood the famously prickly singer-songsmith will turn up in—but he remains one of the least contrived performers of his generation. While Morrison's vocals might have diminished over the years, his penchant for thrilling improvisational risk remains very much intact. Outlaw-country figurehead and genuine American institution Willie Nelson brings his road-sharped crew to open the night.

Riot Fest 2017, Jawbreaker
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Punk and metal


Seminal ‘90s punk band Jawbreaker came out of retirement last year, which meant two decades’ worth of teenagers who passed around 24 Hour Revenge Therapy CDs finally got to shout along to a live rendition of “Boxcar.” Since reuniting for Riot Fest last September, the trio has gradually expanded its tour and even revealed plans to log some studio time. If you weren't able to catch the band during its sold-out run at Brooklyn Steel in February, consider this Coney Island appearance your shot at redemption.

David Byrne
Photograph: Courtesy Chris Buck
Music, Rock and indie

David Byrne + Tune-Yards

The former Talking Head, active solo artist and avid bicyclist returns to Forest Hills for the first time since his erstwhile band visited in 1983 (he's also doing a two-night stint at Kings Theatre directly afterward). His new show is a choreographed spectacle that echoes his Stop Making Sense heyday. In the opening slot, Merrill Garbus and Co. supply Afrobeat-inspired pop with vocal gymnastics that never fail to impress. 

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