The summer concert season is upon us and the Hidden Track staff knows that it’s virtually impossible for us to afford every show we want to hit, and still be able to pay our insanely expensive New York City rents. Luckily for us, there are a plethora of fantastic free concerts throughout the summer that don’t cost a dime. We decided to weed through all the listings and present to you our 5th Annual NYC Free Summer Concert Picks. Let’s take a look…
When: Thursday, June 14, 7 PM
Official Info: In her native England, singer-songwriter Laura Marling, who was born in 1990, has often been described as an old soul, wise beyond her years. While so many artists of any age attempt to locate their inner child, Marling, with a sometime steely gaze, measures the prerogatives of youth against the looming realities of adulthood – the spectre of mortality, the betrayals of love, the balm of sex, the yearning for companionship, the need for independence. As the Times Of London recently posited, “Who else is making music as ambitious, as haunting, as centuries-straddling, as thought-provoking and artistically tenacious as this? And the answer is: nobody. No, really. Not a soul.”
Her two startlingly self-assured albums — Alas I Cannot Swim (2008) and I Speak Because I Can (2010) — brought the self-effacing and relatively shy Marling an extraordinary level of acclaim in her homeland, with each of them in turn being nominated for the U.K.’s prestigious Mercury Prize. She subsequently won a 2011 Brit Award, England’s equivalent to the Grammy, as Best British Female and an NME Award as Best Solo Artist.
Michael Kiwanuka is a British soul singer whose sound has been rightfully compared to Otis Redding and Bill Withers. Having just released his debut album “Home Again” in the UK, Kiwanuka’s music has already garnered much attention including the top spot in BBC’s Sound of 2012.
They will also be joined by the enigmatic songwriter WILLY MASON.
Other Free Shows At The Prospect Park Bandshell: 6/5 – Jimmy Cliff, 6/9 – AfroCubism / Alsarah & The Nubatones, 6/16 – Balkan Beat Box / Chico Trujillo / Nation Beat, 6/22 – Keb’ Mo / Natalia Zuckerman, 6/23 – Lyricist Lounge 20th Anniversary featuring Ghostface Killah / Camp Lo / Astro & More, 6/29 – Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue / The Brooklyn Safers / Dayna Kurtz, 6/30 – Angélique Kidjo’s Women Waging Peace with Special Guests Laurie Anderson / Sibongile Khumalo / Somi, 7/7 – Souad Massi / Simon Shaheen, 7/8 – Ezra Jack Keats Family Concert / Sweet Honey in The Rock, 7/13 – Calle 13 / Ana Tijoux / Ritmo Machine, 7/20 – Machel Montano / BélO, 7/21 – Arturo Sandoval / Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, 7/27 – The Head and the Heart / Lost in the Trees, 8/3 – Wild Flag / Mission of Burma, 8/4 – The Del McCoury Band / Cahalen Morrison & Eli West / Spirit Family Reunion, 8/10 – Little Dragon / Frankie Rose / Voices of Black, 8/11 – Lyle Lovett / Aoife O’Donovan
HT Recommends: The Beach Boys
When: Friday, June 15, 8 AM
Official Info: The Summer Concert Series returns for the fourth year to the Rumsey Playfield in New York City’s Central Park, where music’s biggest names will perform live every Friday.
The Summer Concert Series is sponsored by Pepsi Co. Pepsi’s new global campaign captures a mindset and focuses on inspiring and inviting consumers to “Live For Now.” In partnership with “GMA,” Pepsi will be bringing consumers exciting “Now Moments” in music and entertainment across the summer. The level of talent and excitement created by the concert series will put consumers in the center of what is happening in music now.
Viewers interested in joining “GMA” in Central Park are encouraged to arrive at Rumsey Playfield via the 72nd street entrance on Fifth Avenue at 6:00am when the park opens to the public.
Other Free Good Morning America Summer Concert Series Shows: 6/1 – Brad Paisley, 6/8 - Counting Crows, 6/22 – TBA, 6/29 - LMFAO, 7/6 – Demi Lovato, 7/13 – TBA, 7/20 – TBA, 7/27 – No Doubt, 8/3 – TBA, 8/10 – TBA, 8/7 – Neon Trees, 8/24 – The Wanted, 8/31 – TBA
HT Recommends: Alejandro Escovedo
When: Sunday, June 10, 4:30pm
Official Info: There are songwriters who sing their songs, and then there are songs who sing their writers.
Alejandro Escovedo is one with his muse and his music. Over a lifetime spent traversing the bridge between words and melody, he has ranged over an emotional depth that embraces all forms of genre and presentation, a resolute voice that weathers the emotional terrain of our lives, its celebrations and despairs, landmines and blindsides and upheavals and beckoning distractions, in search for ultimate release and the healing truth of honesty. Sometimes it takes the form of barely contained rage, the rock of punk amid kneeled feedback; sometimes it caresses and soothes, a whispery harmony riding the air of a nightclub room, removed from amplification, within the audience.
His rise has been gradual, a steady incline rather than a quick ascendance, but it has deepened and burnished his music, made it closer to the bone, where it begins to break, deepening his insight and his ability to find that insight in performance. His tireless touring, and dogged determination to place one album after another, has taken him through many musical scenes, remaining the same persona within each, of an artist who doesn’t settle for the easy way out.
Other Free Shows During The Big Apple Barbecue & Block Party: 6/9 – Jon Langford/ JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound / Southern Culture On The Skids, 6/10 – Roadside Graves / The Revelations featuring Tre Williams
[Photo by Jeremy Gordon]
Where: Red Hook Park
When: Thursday, June 21, 7 PM
Official Info: The music of Deer Tick fits loosely into the alternative/country category, but lead singer John McCauley’s rough, raw, and ragged vocals bring a wealth of rock and grunge influences to the band’s sound. Following the 2007 release of their first CD, War Elephant, Deer Tick began earning comparisons to bands such as Felice Brothers and Langhorne Slim. Their two follow-up albums, Born on Flag Day and The Black Dirt Sessions both helped to secure the band’s unique mark on the face of music with their trademark sound. The band’s fourth release, Divine Providence changes directions and features rowdy and raucous songs that draw inspiration from the raw power of the Stones and the Stooges.
Jonny Corndawg is a country singer, not a singer-songwriter. Born in Montana, raised in rural Virginia, Corndawg has been touring on his motorcycle since he dropped out of school in 2001. He’s played shows in every U.S. state, Canada and in Europe, but you won’t find him on CMT. His music is more in the vein of that obscure ‘70s country that housewives would discover on a Bear Family reissue in twenty years. In addition to pursuing the lost art of the Real Deal, Corndawg is an airbrushing, leather-working, marathon-running, truck-driving American. Audiences rest assured; Nashville Scene says “this guy knows exactly what he’s doing.
Other Free Shows At Red Hook Park: 6/19 – Das Racist, 6/20 – Brand Nubian / Game Rebellion, 6/24 – Comedy Central Presents – Hannibal Buress / Kevin Barnett / Josh Rabinowitz
Where: Central Park Summerstage
When: Sunday, June 24, 3 PM
Official Info: The story of the Alabama Shakes begins in a high school psychology class in Athens, Alabama when Brittany Howard approached Zac Cockrell and asked if he wanted to try making music together. Inspired by diverse artists such as James Brown, Otis Redding, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, the band retained a sense of groove and space from their idols, along with a blistering force and emotion that simply couldn’t be learned. Eventually finding their way to a Nashville studio in 2011, they cut the song “You Ain’t Alone,” which helped launched the band. In 2011, NPR named them one of the best bands of the year, while MTV has called them one of the top bands to look for in 2012.
Diamond Rugs is a collaboration between members of Deer Tick, The Black Lips, Los Lobos, Dead Confederate and Six Finger Satellite. When John McCauley, the lead of Deer Tick decided he wanted to make another record during his downtime in his new home base of Nashville he decided to work with a number of friends and musical colleagues. What happened next was entirely unexpected; the musicians McCauley had recruited to play on his record, ended up contributing their own songs to the album and a fully-formed band emerged. The Diamond Rugs debut long player is going to be released in 2012.
The best of folks who write songs make you think about time, and Robert Ellis has the same ability. When he performs, the final hours of night race along in a sweaty, whisky-soaked blur. When he sits on a stool — with just his guitar, voice and songs — time slows down, as he spins tales of love and life and the way they twist together and are torn apart. All of it could easily be classified as country, of a sort with the great writers and players Ellis studies and admires, from George Jones to Paul Simon. Ellis’ own songwriting ability shines on his debut album, Photographs
Other Free Shows At Central Park Summerstage: 6/5 – Annual Summerstage Gala Honoring the music of Jimi Hendrix, 6/7 – Bobby Womack / Willis Earl Beal, 6/12 – New York Pops with Ozomatli, 6/15 – Joey Arias, 6/16 – Dawes / Kurt Vile & The Violators, 6/17 – Blue Note Jazz Festival – Groove Theory / Soulive / Riq & Rah / DJ ?uestlove, 6/26 – The Klezmatice / Socalled / Daniel Kahn and Painted Bird / Joshua Nelson / NYT-Folksbiene’s Soul To Soul / Yiddish Princess, 7/14 – Kinky / Los Autenticos Decadents / 3Ball Mty / DJ Raff, 7/15 – Guthrie Family Reunion Celebrating Woody’s 100th, 7/21 – Bebel Gilberto / Criolo / Flavio Renegado / Beco Dranoff, 7/22 – Orchestre Poly-Rythmo / Smod / Bibi Tanga & The Selenities / Chief Boima, 7/28 – Gary Clark Jr. / Givers, 8/4 – Amadou & Miriam / Theophilus London / Just A Band, 8/11 – Carolina Chocolate Drops / Buckwheat Zydeco / Abigail Washington
When: Wednesday, July 4, 3 PM
Official Info: Virtuosic banjo player Noam Pikelny headlines MSPC’s 10-year anniversary July 4 celebration with his band of friends including Aoife O’ Donovan (Crooked Still), Gabe Witcher (Punch Brothers), Chris Eldridge (Punch Brothers) and Mark Schatz (Claire Lynch Band). Part of the acclaimed bluegrass group Punch Brothers and winner of the first Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music, Pikelny is, “a player of unlimited range and astonishing precision,” (Steve Martin).
The Sweetback Sisters Emily Miller and Zara Bode may not be blood relations, but their precise, family-style harmonies recall the best of country music from the Everlys to The Judds, as well as the spirited rockabilly energy of Wanda Jackson, one of the band’s role models. Like the artists they admire, the Sweetbacks are concerned with the traditional subjects of heartbreak, revenge, remorse and staying strong in the face of relationships gone wrong, albeit with a contemporary sensibility.
“Spuyten Duyvil,” Dutch slang for “in spite of the devil” as well as the creek connecting the Harlem and Hudson Rivers, is a new band of eight old souls playing and singing their hearts out. Led by husband and wife duo Mark Miller (guitar, Bouzouki, vocals) and Beth Jamie Kaufman (vocals) they lean on the history, folklore and sounds of the last 100 years to craft an energetic bluesy, bluegrass, jug band, Old Timey influenced force.
Other Free Shows At Madison Square Park: 6/20 – James Maddock and Band, 6/27 Gretchen Parlato / Gregory Porter, 7/11 – Nellie McKay, 7/18 – Jeff “Tain” Watts Quarter, 7/25 Regina Carter’s “Reverse Thread”, 8/1 An evening with Suzzy and Maggie Roche, Sloan Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche, 8/8 Bettye LaVette
When: Thursday, July 12, 6 PM
Official Info: Celebrate the Blues downtown at the World Financial Center’s waterfront Plaza as new stars join great legends for a two-day musical tribute to the history and continuing legacy of the Blues on July 11 – 12, 2012.
Neko Case – Grammy nominated singer and songwriter Neko Case has developed a sound all her own: a mix of country, gospel, torch, and pop, and her five full-length solo albums (not to mention her two live collections and Canadian Amp EP) have won her critical acclaim and countless devotees.
Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires – 63-year-old Charles Bradley released his debut album No Time For Dreaming in 2011 and has since gone on to win accolades for his haunting, soulful voice, and is one of the leading lights on the esteemed label, Daptone Records.
He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister – Led by brother and sister Rob and Rachel Kolar, He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister also includes tap dancer Lauren Brown and cellist Satya Bhabha. Together, they create a mix of folk, glam and western swing, and their live performances are full of dancing, humor, nostalgia, and great vibes.
Other Free Shows During the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival: 7/11 – Buddy Guy / Quinn Sullivan / John Mayall
HT Recommends: George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic
When: Thursday, July 12, 7 PM
Official Info: One of the most influential names in R&B and funk music, George Clinton is the leader of Parliament/Funkadelic (or P-Funk), a collective of wildly talented musicians who revolutionized soul music in the 70′s by incorporating influences from Hendrix, Zappa, and Sly. George and P-Funk have been rocking steady for more than 50 years with hit songs like “Flash Light,” “Mothership Connection,” and “Chocolate City.” In 1997, George Clinton and 15 other members of the group became the largest band yet inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, proving that they are epic in both size and sound. Clinton has been a particular influence on Prince, and recorded several albums for his Paisley Park record label. Come down to Rockefeller Park and join One Nation Under A Groove, getting down just for the funk of it.
Other Free Shows At Rockefeller Park: 6/20 – Phillip Glass Ensemble, 6/21 – Eddie Palmieri, 7/27 – Third World
Where: River Rocks – Pier 84
When: Thursday, July 12, Doors 6 PM
Official Info: Baltimore-based musician Dan Deacon is well known for his live shows with frenzied audiences feeding off looping music. His songs are intense and epic and at the same time down to earth and welcoming. Minnesota native John Maus taps into gothic ‘80s synth-pop sounds. Maus utilizes synthesizers, tensely strung bass lines and chasing drum machines as the backdrop for his deeply resonant reverb-drenched vocals.
Other Free Shows At Pier 84: 7/26 – Oberhofer / The Soft Pack, 8/9 – Wild Nothing / Grimes
HT Recommends: Zac Brown Band
When: Friday, July 13, 8 AM
Official Info: Fans and visitors are encouraged to come to the plaza for the live performances. Viewing is on a first-come, first-served basis outside TODAY’s window-on-the-world studio, located at 49th Street and Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. Fans should arrive by 6 a.m. for best viewing.
Other Free Today Show Summer Concert Series Shows: 6/1 – The Band Perry, 6/8 – Chris Brown, 6/15 – Justin Bieber, 6/29 – Maroon 5, 7/6 – Flo Rida, 7/20 – Hot Chelle Rae, 8/24 – Train, 8/31 – Jason Mraz with special guest Christina Perri
HT Recommends: Eleanor Friedberger
When: Friday, July 13, 7 PM
Official Info: Eleanor Friedberger is an exceptional songwriter, a fearless performer, and one of the sweetest alto voices in music. A masterful wordsmith, Friedberger mashes up colorful, complicated lyrical lines into beautiful refrains, often describing whirlwind New York moments within her narratives. Her performances are delivered with passionate vocal phrasing and excellent manipulation of melody, never ceasing in her explorations of sound. Although Friedberger is known for her role as the lead singer of The Fiery Furnaces, one of music’s most interesting and dynamic bands, she is just as comfortable playing alone on a stage with an acoustic guitar as she is fronting a band.
Other Free Shows At Pier 17: 6/22 – The Mircales Club, 6/23 – Chico Mann, 6/24 – Body Language, 6/29 – Veronica Falls / The People’s Temple, 7/6 – Patrick Watson / Loney Dear
When: Saturday, July 14, 3PM
Official Info: Blitzen Trapper and Ben Kweller make July even hotter at this sizzling live performance! Free to all residents and their guests.
Other Free Shows At Stuyvesant Town Oval: 6/10 – Dan Zane & Friends, 6/23 – The Wood Brothers / TBD, 6/30 – Garland Jefferies / TBD, 7/21 – Zoe Muth / Eilen Jewell / Marc Erelli, 7/28 – Kat Edmonson / TBD
HT Recommends: 4Knots Music Festival
Where: South Street Seaport
When: Saturday, July 14, 1 PM
Official Info: Making its home at New York’s legendary South Street Seaport, The Village Voice’s 4Knots Music Festival will be back for its second year on Saturday July 14, 2012. Continuing the Voice’s 12-year history with live music showcases, 4Knots will showcasing renowned and emerging artists on today’s breaking music scene.
The 4Knots Music Festival in 2011 showcased breakthrough musicians The Black Angels, Titus Andronicus, Davila 666, Oberhofer, Eleanor Friedberger and Mr. Dream at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17. 4Knots also featured DJ sets in 2011 at the official 4Knots Indoor Lounge from Dan Deacon, Yearsayer, Punches and Brahms.
Working together with the Seaport, the festival will be located at this designated New York City historic district which features some of the oldest architecture in downtown Manhattan. The entire Seaport neighborhood is meant to transport its visitors back in time to the mid-19th century, to demonstrate what life in the commercial maritime trade was like.
The name of the festival “4Knots” comes from this rich nautical history at the Seaport meaning “the speed of the water as it moves through New York’s East River at the South Street Seaport”.
HT Recommends: Les Chauds Lapins
When: Tuesday, July 24, 7:30 PM
Official Info: Les Chauds Lapins (“The Hot Rabbits”), led by New York’s Kurt Hoffman and Meg Reichardt, specialize in a repertoire of French swing from the 1920s through 40s. Their whimsical, sophisticated, and poetic catalog includes numbers popularized by the likes of Mistinguett, Lucienne Boyer, Edith Piaf, and in particular features suave, swing-tinged gems from the enchanted catalog of songs by the great, late Charles Trenet. Kurt and Meg are backed by Karen Waltuch on viola; Garo Yellin on cello, and Andy Cotton on upright bass.
Other Free Shows At World Financial Center: 6/5 – Bob Stillman, 6/12 – Gregg August Quartet, 7/17 – Thomas Mapfumo, 7/31 – Maria De Barros
HT Recommends: Aloe Blacc
When: Thursday, August 9, 12:00 PM
Official Info: This free outdoor summer concert series features an eclectic roster of legendary trailblazers and emerging musical visionaries of R&B and world music. Past performers have included Maceo Parker, Los Lobos, Jimmy Cliff, The Wailers, Odetta, Salif Keita, Amadou and Mariam, and The Spinners. These lunchtime performances are held at MetroTech Commons, located at the corner of Flatbush and Myrtle Avenues in Downtown Brooklyn.
The BAM Rhythm & Blues Festival at MetroTech concert stage is located on the lawn at MetroTech Commons. MetroTech Commons is situated in the Civic Center/Borough Hall area of Downtown Brooklyn at the corner of Flatbush and Myrtle Avenues.
Other Free Shows At Metro Tech: 6/7 – Larry Graham and Graham Central Station, 6/14 – Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, 6/21 – Ky-Mani Marley, 6/28 – Fishbone, 7/5 – Van Hunt, 7/12 – Shemekia Copeland and NRBQ, 7/19 – The Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, 7/26 – Pedrito Martinez, 8/2 – Blitz the Ambassador
When: Thursday, August, 9, 7:30 PM
Other Free Shows At Damrosch Park Bandshell: 7/25 - Nile Rodgers & The CHIC Organization, 7/26 - G.R.U.B.B. (Gypsy Roma Urban Balkan Beats) / The Stooges Brass Band, 7/27- Los Irreales de Ondatrópica / Wil-Dog el Gavachillo featuring Banda Sol de Santa Cruz, 7/29- Joe Hurley’s All-Star Irish Rock Revue! Co-Hosted by Ed Rogers featuring Willie Nile, Michael Cerveris, Tami Lynn, plus members of The Mekons, Cracker, Alice Cooper Group, Bob Dylan Band, Blue Oyster Cult & many more TBA, 8/1 – Yemen Blues / Khaira Arby / UkanDanZ, 8/2 – The Bad Plus: On Sacred Ground / Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble, 8/4 – Kimmo Pohjonen & Helsinki Nelson: Accordion Wrestling, 8/5 – Las Caras Lindas de Mi Gente Negra—Homenja a Tite Curet Alonso featuring Grupo Esencia / Viento de Agua with special guest Lalo Rodríguez, 8/8 – Dr. L. Subramaniam—Global Fusion featuring Kavita Krishnamurthi Subramaniam, Larry Coryell, Corky Siegel, Bindu Subramaniam & Ambi Subramaniam / The Alaev Family, 8/11 – 29th Annual Roots of American Music Festival – The Triple Goddess Twilight Revue – Celebrating The Music of Laura Nyro featuring Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, Desmond Child & Rouge and many more special guests TBA / Otis Clay & The Platinum Band / Soulful Songwriters Circle: Dan Penn, Teenie Hodges and additional artists TBA / Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls All-Stars Band: Sister Songwriters, 8/12 – 29th Annual Roots of American Music Festival – Pardon Our Analysis: An All-Star Gathering for Gil Scott-Heron – Performed by Black Rock Coalition Orchestra & Guests LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, artistic director Featuring Brian Jackson, Sapphire, Martha Redbone, Abiodun Oyewole, Sandra St. Victor, Carl Hancock Rux, A. Van Jordan, Gordon Voidwell, Hanifah Walidah, Willie Perdomo and surprise guests / Aloe Blacc / Swamp Dogg