This year’s version of the now-regular outdoor festival moves from its previous home on Governors Island to Randall’s Island but retains a strong lineup. Saturday has a dancey, up-tempo set of acts, including Passion Pit, Chromeo, James Murphy and indie rap stalwarts Atmosphere. Sunday slows things down with guitar soundtrack maestros Explosions in the Sky, as well as Beck and Modest Mouse, plus a plethora of other melodic, granola-pop bands. While the performers are about as middle-of-the-road as it gets in modern Indieland (look for experimentalism and risk-taking elsewhere), all of them are established acts. This one might be worth the money.
June 23-24; $180 for the weekend. Randall’s Island Park, governorsballmusicfestival.com.
Kicking off its first year, the Catalpa Festival offers yet another chance to see top-tier musical acts playing outdoors within city limits. The fest will feature more than 40 performers, including blues rock superstars The Black Keys and Snoop Dogg rocking his seminal album Doggystyle in its entirety. Other highlights include NYC faves TV on the Radio, Girl Talk and hip-hop instrumental wizard AraabMUZIK. There will also be a reggae stage sponsored by High Times magazine, a “sculpture” that belches fireballs in the air and various other novelties (inflatable “sham marriage” church?) included to distract from the fact that music lineup is mostly weak, aside from the headliners.
July 28-29; $140–$180 for the weekend. Randall’s Island Park, www.catalpanyc.com.
This is for those who dance. A lot. It’s three days; an all-night(s) blitz of modern dance music from the likes of David Guetta, A-Trak and more. If you appreciate the contemporary offshoots of what we used to call techno, this fest will be something of great joy. A zoo—of dancing people.
Aug. 31-Sept. 2; $299 for all three days. Randall’s Island Park, electriczoofestival.com.
Make Music New York
Started in 2008, Make Music New York is a festival that has been offering an annual feast of soundbites across the city on the first day of summer. From 10 in the morning to 10 at night in hundreds of spots throughout the city, normal sidewalk sounds will be replaced by thousands of free concerts. Some of last year’s highlights were a rendition of Xenakis’ Persephassa on Central Park Lake, in which audience and musicians alike enjoyed seating on boats. Also in Central Park were middle school jazz groups from the Bronx, and Bryant Park was the site of a rock ‘n’ roll showdown between musically inclined corporate execs.
June 21; free. makemusic.org.
4Knots Music Festival
This annual music fest at the South Street Seaport is an indie rocker’s dream come true, with buzz bands like Bleached, Hospitality, The Drums, Crocodiles and more playing on Piers 16 and 17 along the East River. The fest benefits from the Seaport’s concentration of restaurants and bars, not to mention the food trucks that will inevitably pull up for the event—as long as you pack sunscreen and enough water to keep from daydreaming about jumping into the river, it sounds like a pretty much perfect day.
July 14, 1 p.m.; free. South Street Seaport, Fulton St. at Front St., facebook.com/4knots.
Washington Square Music Festival
Consisting of four Friday night concerts in July, the Washington Square Music Festival is now in its 54th year of entertaining New Yorkers in one of our most beautiful parks. This year, the festival will include a night of music and poetry, a night of Viennese chamber music, a night of music for strings and wings and one of the West African sounds of the Deep Sahara Band. Seating is first-come, first-served, so get there early to enjoy a night of music beneath the stars—and the park’s famous arch—or at St. Joseph’s Church, where the first two concerts will take place.
July 10, 17, 24 & 31, 8 p.m.; free. St. Joseph’s Church, 371 6th Ave. at Waverly Place and Washington Square Park, 5th Ave at Waverly Place, washingtonsquaremusicfestival.org.
Madison Square Park’s Oval Lawn Series
Beneath the canopy of Madison Square Park’s trees—and just a dash away from Shake Shack—is one of New York’s best summer-long music series, featuring performances from Grammy-nominated jazzman Gregory Porter, singer and actress Nellie McKay and a night of family music with Suzzy and Maggie Roche, Sloan Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche. Chairs aren’t welcome here, but bring a blanket and some snacks (or buy them from the Fatty Crab kiosk nearby) and set up camp for an unforgettable night.
June 20-Aug. 8; free. Madison Square Park, enter park at E. 23rd St. and 5th Ave.,
UPPER WEST SIDE
RCTA Sunset Concert Series
Nine concerts over the course of the summer, from evenings of jazz to nights of Middle Eastern sounds, will grace the tennis lawn overlooking the Hudson River at West 97th Street. Kicking off with a concert from jazz bassist Ron McClure, the series will include sets from Gotham Winds, Dave Glasser, Musica Bella Orchestra, The Atwaters, Efendi, Dartmouth Boys, Los Hermanos Cintron and Steve Tarshis and his Instrumental Trio. You won’t need to bring a racquet or even be any good at sport in order to make a night at these tennis courts a win.
June 10-Aug. 19, 7 p.m.; free. Riverside Clay Tennis Courts, enter Riverside Park at W. 96th St. and Riverside Dr., rcta.info.
New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Park
The New York Philharmonic will play a series of six concerts around the five boroughs. Performing classical favorites—and in two cases conducted by superstar baton-wielder Alan Gilbert—the group will provide listeners with those only-in-New-York evenings of music and entertainment, which we’ve found goes quite well with a picnic meal and a discreetly dispensed bottle of wine.
July 11-17; free. nyphil.org.
Founded in 1986 at the Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, SummerStage expanded to venues in all five boroughs two years ago. The program—featuring everything from screenings, dance performances and concerts—has now become synonymous with summer in the city; the best part is that the programming is largely free. This season kicks off with the SummerStage Gala June 5 honoring the music of Jimi Hendrix and featuring performances by G. Love & Special Sauce, Bebel Gilberto and The Roots.
June 5-Aug. 30. summerstage.org.
The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series
If ticket prices for the Met Opera are a bit too steep for your wallet, check out the Opera’s annual Summer Recital Series. The tenors and sopranos get to practice their vocal dexterity while you take in genius performances at no cost at all. You also don’t have to travel too far, as the series travels to all five boroughs throughout the summer—even Staten Island! This year will feature soprano Danielle de Niese, bass-baritone John Del Carlo and tenor Dimitri Pittas.
July 25-Aug. 9; free. metoperafamily.org.
Blue Note Jazz Festival
While the Blue Note Jazz Festival is a relative newcomer on the summer concert sceneit only started last yearthe Blue Note jazz club was started in Greenwich Village in 1986, and the record imprint of the same name has brought listeners the likes of Norah Jonest debut. This year, Blue Note is once again offering an eclectic mix of sounds and artists ranging from Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), Béla Fleck and Kathleen Battle.
June 4-30; prices vary. bluenotejazzfestival.com.
Naumburg Orchestral Concert Series
While classical music isn’t the usual top pick for summer concerts, who can pass up the opportunity to listen to classic orchestral arrangements from the likes of Wagner and Schumann outdoors in Central Park—did we mention that it’s free? Celebrating its 107th year of providing gratis concerts, the Naumburg series is sure to please in its 700-seat uptown venue.
June 19-Aug. 7; free. Concert Ground at Central Park, south of Bethesda Terrace betw. 66th & 72nd Sts., naumburgconcerts.org.
UPPER EAST SIDE
Harlem Meer Performance Festival
Summer is the optimal season to enjoy the sights and sounds that New York City has to offer, and there is perhaps no better program or venue for this than the Harlem Meer Performance Festival. Entering its 19th year, the festival is situated lakeside in Central Park at 110th Street. The program features a mix of sounds, from emerging jazz musicians to Latin and gospel music. Attendees are encouraged to pack a picnic, bring a chair and relax for this free outdoor concert series.
June 17-Sept. 2; free. Plaza of the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, 110th St. betw. 5th & Lenox Aves., centralparknyc.org.
Scandinavian Summer Sessions
Scandinavia,especially Sweden,is known for its smart furniture, eclectic cuisine and unbelievable catchy pop music. While this summer series held at the Scandinavia House leans more to the acoustic and jazz side, the range of artists, from a Danish songstress to an Icelandic guitarist, combined with the locale, Smörgås Chef’s terrace cocktail bar, is sure to please. Dubbed an alternative to happy hour, the series runs through August and will only set you back $12.
Jun. 14-Aug. 2, doors at 6 p.m., concerts start at 7; $12. 58 Park Ave., betw. 32nd & 33rd Sts., scandinaviahouse.org.
Summergarden: New Music for New York
As is its tradition, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) presents its annual summertime concert series in the sculpture garden, tapping the talent of performers from The Juilliard School and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Spanning four evenings, the series offers the best in “adventurous contemporary music” with premieres each night. While the event is always free, seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
July 10-31; free. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at MoMA, enter through the Sculpture Garden gate on W. 54th St. betw. 5th & 6th Aves., moma.org.
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