Festival season is upon us. I know this, because my Instagram feed is flooded with women in crop tops and feathers at Coachella. The first page of results from Googling “2015 summer festivals” has 10 different events. And only one of them is Bonnaroo! Interestingly, the Hudson Project is absent.
Outdoor concerts are the best part of summer, but also an incredibly pricey part. Unless you’re willing to shell out hundreds of dollars, it can seem like your fate is to live vicariously through your friends’ tweets at Mysteryland while you cry into your “EDC 2013” commemorative tee shirt. Luckily I live in New York, where we may have to pay an ungodly amount of money to use public transportation but at least we have free art.
The SummerStage 2015 schedule was released earlier this week, and it’s a doozy. In honor of the program’s 30th anniversary, the concert series has been extended from May to September this year. There’s a dizzying amount of talent, from classic rock pros like Dr. John to metal wunderkinds Unlocking the Truth. Musicians aren’t the only performers taking the stage; each week there are dancers, actors, and spoken word artists being featured at parks across the five boroughs.
Below are ten shows that will let you taste everything SummerStage has to offer, all for free. So go grab a patch of grass and a 40oz in a paper bag, and settle in for another concert season in the city.
Tedeschi Trucks Band (May 18th, 5-10 PM, Central Park SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, New York, NY)
Kick off the SummerStage series with this spirited group of performers. The 11-piece ensemble has a slew of hits to their name, and is headed by two dynamite solo acts who came together to form a unique band that blends blues, folk, and good old rock n’ roll.
Duck Down Records 20th Anniversary BBQ (June 11, 7-9 PM, Betsy Head Park, Brooklyn, NY)
This native record label is home to some of the best rap and R&B acts in New York, including Heltah Skeltah, O.G.C., and Cypress Hills’ B-Real. Their anniversary show is bound to be full of top-notch lyricists and maybe a few surprise guests. Plus, BBQ. It’s a no-brainer.
The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series (Weekly from June 15-June 30, various locations)
Even infrequent opera attendees such as myself have to appreciate the talent and skill involved in belting out an aria sans microphone. Check out some of the Met’s most famous singers and musicians in performances across the city.
Nuyorican Poets Café (June 27, 7-9 PM, Crotona Park, Bronx, NY)
This collective of the city’s best slam poets will bring their worlds to life through their words in several SummerStage sessions. This week’s performance features a few of the Café’s most talented spoken word artists, Jive Poetic, Jamaal St. John, and Pamela Sneed.
Un Break à Mozart with the DASH Ensemble (July 7, 7-10 PM, Central Park SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, New York, NY)
What happens when you combine the works of a symphonic master with hip hop choreography? Something phenomenal to watch on stage. See members of the Champs-Elysées Orchestra perform Mozart’s “The Requiem” while the DASH Ensemble provides a visual response that is sure to make the music seem anything but classical.
George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic (July 15, 7-9 PM, Queensbridge Park, Queens, NY)
See one of the fathers of funk music perform the hits that influenced the sound of R&B and rock for years to come. This Grammy winner will take the stage with his Parliament/Funkadelic crew for a night of infectious grooves that will have your hips swaying and world rocking.
Classical Theater of Harlem presents: The Tempest (Weekly performances from July 5-July 26, Marcus Garvey Park, New York, NY)
One of the city’s best theater troupes takes Shakespeare’s work and transforms it into something for the modern stage. Their version is set in Hispaniola, the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. This take on the tale highlights both the play and the island’s themes of oppression and upheaval, as well as how hilariously far people will go to please you when they think you’re a sorcerer.
Freedom Party NYC (July 18, 6-10 PM, Central Park SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, New York, NY)
Winner of the People’s Choice for Best Party by Papermag, Freedom Party has been providing music and mayhem to the masses for over a decade. Take part in a night of dancing under the stars to some of their top DJs, because it’s way better to get your groove on in Central Park than in a sweaty warehouse.
Rhythm Revue and screening: “Get On Up” (August 2, 7-9PM, Clove Lakes Park, Staten Island, NY)
Felix Hernandez’s 29-year strong radio show Rhythym Revue features interviews and live performances from the most well-known names in blues and soul. This week’s edition will coincide with a commentary and live screening of “Get On Up”, the biopic detailing the prosperity and pitfalls of James Brown’s career.
Tito Nieves (August 4, 7-9 PM, East River Park Amphitheater, New York, NY)
Grab a dance partner and listen to the “Pavarotti of Salsa” perform some of the many tracks that span his 30-plus year career in Latin music. This iconic artist grew up in New York City, and his feet-moving music is the perfect soundtrack for any summer evening.
If you’re hellbent on spending money on music this summer, there are also a few paid SummerStage shows you may want to check out. These benefit concerts fund the production of the free shows being offered. None of them are The National, but I guess we’ll survive.
For the metalheads: Mastodon and Clutch with Graveyard ($35, May 19, 5-10PM, Central Park SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, New York, NY)
For the ravers: Lindsey Stirling ($35, June 17, 6-10 PM, Central Park SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, New York, NY)
For the indie kids: The Kooks with Atlas Genius and Joywave ($35, June 24, 5-10 PM, Central Park SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, New York, NY)
Ingrid Michaelson with Jukebox the Ghost and Secret Someones ($35, June 27, 5-10 PM, Central Park SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, New York, NY)
For the folk rockers: Father John Misty with Angel Olsen & Summer Moon ($35, August 5, 5-10 PM, Central Park SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, New York, NY)
For all of the above: Walk the Moon ($35, September 24, 6-10 PM, Central Park SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, New York, NY)