Summer is in the air, and along with it are the strains of music coming from outdoor concerts popping up everywhere you look. Spending an evening at a free music event put on by a museum, cultural institution, or even a shopping mall is one of our favorite summer activities.
One notable absence on this summer’s schedule of free concerts is the classic Santa Monica Pier Twilight Concert Series. After outcry from some in Santa Monica, that series has been reduced in scale and moved to autumn, when they expect it will draw smaller crowds.
The concert series at Skirball is free and all-ages, and includes a worldly mix of performers, several of whom you’ll probably recognize from the playlists on your favorite public radio station. Each show starts early, with an opening DJ taking the decks at 6:30 p.m. before the main show.
8/2: Peter Mawanga
8/9: The Marías
8/16: Ranky Tanky
8/23: Kishi Bashi
8/30: Gili Yalo
We named this one our favorite museum after-hours programming, and it’ll only take one visit to see why. Take the sweeping beauty of the Getty Center, add a sunset, a refreshing cocktail, and a cool band, and you’ve got a perfect summer night.
5/19: Allah-Las, Reverberation Radio
6/23: Peaking Lights Family Band, Onochie Chukwurah
7/14: Feels, Boss Harmony (DJ set)
7/28: Lola Kirkle, King Tuff (DJ set)
8/25: Combo Chimbita
The summer after-hours programming at The Broad is a little different than some other museums–attending requires a paid ticket ($30) and is only for those 21 and over–but don’t let that turn you off, because these are some of the best and most interesting events around. Curated by James Spooner, Brandon Stosuy, and Ryu Takahashi, the Happenings feature music, film, and performance that connect with art on display in the galleries to create an immersive experience, and never shy away from the unusual or underground.
6/30: Gang Gang Dance, DJ Stretch Armstrong, Jean Grae’s Church of Infinite You, Terry Riley, Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, Tara Jane O’Neil, Jmy James Kidd, The Sunland Dancer, Marie Daulne aka Zap Mama
7/28: faUSt, Matmos, EYE, Pharmakon, Total Freedom, FlucT, Sigrid Laruen, Monia Mirabile, Nelson Patton, Lonnie Holley
8/25: Sijie Liu, Du Yun, Re-TROS, MIIIA, Daniel Collas, Juliet Swanbo, Jie Ma, Zhou Hongbo, Asian Dope Boys, Aïsha Devi, FAZI, Hell City, Shave n’ Shut, Yan Jun, Ji Dong Yong, Dai Zifan
9/29: Kim Gordon, YoshimiO, Ranika JZ Prodigy, Michael “5000” Watts, Arto Lindsay, Laraaji and Arji OceAnada, Dedekind Cut, Josiah Steinbrick, and a competitive voguing ball curated by The Banjee Ball
Friday night jazz at LACMA is the best-known of the museum’s music series, but it’s not the only way to catch a concert. In addition to that lovely week-ending tradition, try coming back for Sundays Live, a chamber music series, and the Saturday night series Latin Sounds.
6/8: Phil Ranelin
6/9: Lily Hernandez & Orquesta
6/15: Bobby Bradford Mo’tet
6/16: Kátia Moraes & Brazilian Hearts
6/22: Jeff Littleton Quintet
6/23: Dayren Santamaria & Made in Cuba
6/29: Melissa Morgan
6/30: Louie Cruz Beltran
7/1: Encore Saxophone Quartet
7/6: Louis Van Taylor
7/7: Freddie Ravel
7/8: iPalpiti’s De Ascaniis Duo
7/13: Scotty Barnhart
7/14: Echo Park Project
7/15: iPalpiti Soloists
7/20: Rayford Griffin
7/22: The Kupinski Guitar Duo
7/27: The Billy Mitchell Group with Billy Redd
7/29: Daniel Wnukowski
Other Summer & Free Concerts in L.A.
The popular public radio station curates this series of free, all-ages, ticket-free concerts at outdoor venues across the region. This year, the programming leans heavily on KCRW’s own DJ talent, but there are several nights with live acts, and more surprises to be announced.
6/16: Shey Baba, KCRW DJ Chris Douridas, One Colorado Pasadena
6/30: KCRW DJs Liza Richardson and Garth Trinidad, Chinatown Central Plaza
7/5: KCRW DJ Aaron Byrd, Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara
7/12: Still Woozy & Neil Francis, KCRW DJ Jeremy Sole, Hammer Museum
7/14: KCRW DJs Garth Trinidad and Aaron Byrd, California African American Museum
7/19: Kauf, Sam Evian, KCRW DJ Valida, Hammer Museum
7/26: Cut Chemist, KCRW DJ Anthony Valadez, Hammer Museum
7/27: KCRW DJs Travis Holcombe and Jason Bentley, Union Station
7/28: KCRW DJs Mathieu Schreyer and Anthony Valadez, Chinatown Central Plaza
8/2: KCRW DJ Marion Hodges, Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara
8/3: KCRW DJs Anne Litt and Dan Wilcox, Union Station
8/4: Summer Nights Backyard Party featuring The Midnight Hour, KCRW HQ in Santa Monica
8/10: KCRW DJs Raul Campos and Anthony Valadez, Union Station
8/11: Summer Nights Backyard Party featuring Jim James, KCRW HQ in Santa Monica
8/18: Summer Nights Backyard Party featuring Henry Rollins (DJ Set), KCRW HQ in Santa Monica
8/25: KCRW DJs Raul Campos and Jason Bentley, Chinatown Central Plaza
If you prefer your free concerts to feel like a rad band just happens to be playing in your coolest friend’s backyard, this summer daytime series is for you. The Arts District club opens up their outdoor space for 3:00 p.m. shows on Saturday afternoons. The concerts are free, but online RSVP is suggested.
6/16: Making Time
6/23: Austin McCutchen & the Western Stars
6/30: Ethio Cali
7/7: Dean & Britta
Eclectic and global, Grand Performances gathers the crowd around a manmade pond in the center of California Plaza in downtown L.A. The programming includes concerts as well as dance, storytelling, and family entertainment.
6/6: “Good Things Happen When We Speak Up: Stories From the Front Line” and L.A. Dance Party U.S.A.
6/15 & 6/16: Kristina Wong, Peter J. Harris, D. Sabela Grimes
6/22: Chassol, Indiamore
6/23: “The Secret Life of Muslims”
6/29: Dave Hillyard & the Rocksteady 7, The Delirians
6/30: The Love Uninhibited Orchestra
7/1: “First Nations Now: Rhymes and Storytelling for Families”
7/6: Ginkgoa, The Vignes Rooftop Revival
7/7: Bootsy Collins
7/8: “Now More Than Ever: Protest Songs Sing-Along”
7/14: Urban Badlands, Gemma Castro, The Altons, The Steady 45s
7/15: “Alphabet Soup: LGBTTQQIAAP”
7/20 & 7/21: Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance
7/22: “Sock Puppet Sitcom Theater: Tale of the Mouth” (matinee)
7/22: Hanhan & Gingee (evening)
7/27: Roger Guenveur Smith, Lula Washington
7/28: Dayramir González & Habana Entrance, Candi Sosa
7/29: Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, Nom Nom Nom
8/3: When Moons Become Stars
8/10: Classic Roots, Natasha Fisher, Nakotah LaRance
8/11: El Vez, Phranc
8/12: Supernova, L.A. Chamber Orchestra String Quartet
8/17: La Marisol Curates: The California Feetwarmers, Hermanos Herrera
The DTLA shopping complex becomes a concert hall on June nights with live music and DJs. Before and after the show, you can hang out in a beer garden and play some lawn games. So summer.
6/1: Poolside, Mallrat
6/8: Lion Babe, Dave B.
6/15: Gabriel Garzóz-Montano, Jarina de Marco
6/22: Wavves, Thumpasaurus
The Sunset Marquis hotel has been a discreet retreat for rock-and-rollers since the glory days of the Sunset Strip, serving as the temporary crash pad of everyone from Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath to Blondie. They honor that tradition with a free, public summer concert series, with bands set up next to the glam swimming pool.
6/1: Johnny Irion, Julian Frampton Band
6/29: Andy Lawrence Band, Rob Leines
7/13: Meekoh, Leila Pari
8/3: Ilsey Juber, Andrew Cole & George Pajon, Jr.
8/24: Jake Allen, Nadia Lanfranconi
9/7: Andy Allo, Outer Reef
9/21: Emily Warren, Haddon Cord
It may not be the Hollywood Bowl, but the Hollywood & Highland Center holds its own as a summertime destination with this outdoor jazz concert series. The programs is curated by KJAZZ 88.1 and Rum & Humble, and if you make a $14 donation to charity partner Project Angel Food, you can enjoy your music in a proper chair with wine and cheese service provided by Wolfgang Puck Catering and One Hope Wine.
7/10: Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band
7/17: David Binney
7/24: Dayren Santamaria & Made in Cuba
7/31: Sammy Miller & the Congregation
8/7: Poncho Sanchez
The Levitt Pavilion summer lineup includes 50 free concerts from June to September. That leaves room to represent an eclectic mix of styles and genres, with something to appeal to all. Performances take place on an amphitheater stage with an open dance area up front, surrounded by a grassy area for blankets and picnics (skip the wine though; this is a kid-friendly, booze-free venue), ringed in with lush trees and great sunset views.
6/9: Bostich, Fussible & the Paranoias
6/10: Sonidos Salvadoreños
6/14: Moon Honey, The Paranoyds
6/15: Quinto Sol, Alika
6/16: The Slackers
6/17: Tamal Festival, Doris Montenegro y Su Sonora Explosiva
6/21: Katzù Oso, Rudy De Anda
6/22: Thee Midnite Cruzzers, Allensworth
6/23: 35th Annual Radiotron
6/24: Seoul of Korea
6/28: Feels, Hooveriii
6/30: La Sonora Dinamita con Vilma Diaz
7/1: Noche De Danzon featuring Bana Filarmonica Maqueos Music
7/5: The Steady 45s, Maria Blues
7/6: Pompeya, Mons VI
7/7: Celso Piña
7/8: Mosaico Musical Mexicano featuring El Conjunto Nueva Ola
7/12: La Chama, Maria del Pilar
7/13: Sotomayor, Coastcity
7/14: Paul Thorn, Blind Boys of Alabama
7/15: Kiddle Karoo, Bob Baker Marionette Theatre
7/19: Georgia Ann Muldrow, Harriet Brown
7/20: Parche en El Parque with Tucuprá and Golpe Afrocaribe
7/21: Furza Tropical, Mayaztek, Rey Inn
7/26: Almalafa, Hijos Del Sol
7/27: KXFest: Sammy Sam, Flavor Flav
7/28: KXFest: Justin Park, Rocky Rock
7/30: KXFest Night Three
8/2: Gospelbeach, Laura Jean Anderson
8/3: Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra
8/4: Boogaloo Assassins
8/5: Noche Norteña: Banda Maravillosa, Los Norteados del Sur
8/9: Swimm, Winter
8/11: The Aggrolites
8/12: Mundo Maya Celebration
8/16: La Resistencia
8/17: Very Be Careful, Weapons of Mass Creation
8/18: Gato Preto, Earth Arrow
8/19: “Flamenco Meets Peru” with Matalache
8/23: The Delirians, Jackie Mendez
8/24: Church in the Park: Mark de Clive-Lowe, Ras G, Linafornia
8/25: Flor de Toloache
8/26: “L.A.’s Got Talent”
8/30: Alice Bag, Generacion Suicida
8/31: Jungle Fire, Here Lies Man
9/1: “Wonder-Full: A Stevie Wonder Celebration”
9/2: Havana Secret, El Haru Kuroi
Within the grounds of North Hollywood’s Garland Hotel lies an entire park, typically used for private events. But on select summer nights, it’s opened up to the public for a free summer concert series. While the shows are open to all, capacity is limited, and an advance online registration is required to attend.
6/14: Everyday People
8/16: Cowling Band
This ticketed event series at the S. Mark Taper Foundation Ampitheater tucked amid the trees in Coldwater Canyon Park isn’t free–tickets will run you $12 to $20 for most shows–but the money goes entirely to support the local nonprofit TreePeople, who not only care for the park itself, they also provide tree plantings and environmental education around L.A.
7/29: The Lao Tizer Quartet, Karen Briggs
8/4: Louden Swain
8/19: Maz Jobrani & Friends
8/25: Billy Valentine
9/8: L.A. Hootenanny
9/15: L’Équipe Tambora
Enjoy skyline views from Hotel Indigo’s 18 Social penthouse lounge, while enjoying summer free concerts. The weekly series features local musicians, food and drink specials, and all the ‘gram-worthy sunsets you can handle.
7/25: Travis Atreo
8/15: Danielle & Perry
8/29: Jesse MacLeod
BOA’s West Hollywood steakhouse becomes a jazz club, so you can enjoy some live music along with your dinner and drinks–and put off the ultimate easy-yet-swanky date night.
8/9: Cooper Phillip