A Guide to Free Summer Music
There's plenty of free music to be had in the Washington area during the summer months, but quantity does not always equal quality. While D.C. can't be expected to match New York when it comes to free entertainment, you'd think that the nation's capital would at least be able to compete with, say, Pittsburgh. But there's nothing in D.C. that can compare to the Steel City's Three Rivers Arts Festival, which this year features free performances by the likes of Robert Randolph, Ozomatli, Grace Potter and more. Even the best free music event around here -- Artscape -- requires a trek up I-95.
But enough complaining. There's still plenty of great music to be heard at no cost in the coming months, so here are some highlights, including Wyclef Jean, the Avett Brothers and Hugh Masakela. Feel free to chime in with your favorite free picks.
Wyclef Jean, June 19 @ Kennedy Center
The Grammy-winning member of hip-hop group the Fugees is always quite the crowd pleaser. This blowout at the Kennedy Center also features performances by Shaggy, the Skatalites and Plunky & Oneness.
Peter Case, June 20 @ Strathmore
Record nerds love him for his work with power-pop relics the Nerves and the Plimsouls, but over the past few decades he's emerged as one of the stronger singer-songwriter troubadours on the circuit.
Good Deale Bluegrass Band, June 27 @ Annapolis Harbour Center
Not many people can say they are the "world's best" at anything, but Good Deale's Mike Auldridge can legitimately make the claim when it comes to the dobro.
Railroad Earth, July 1 @ Baker Park Bandshell
This bluegrass band from the New Jersey (yes, New Jersey) channels the Grateful Dead at their most melodic and least annoying.
The Young Lions, July 6 @ National Gallery of Art
Usually you have head down to U Street's Cafe Nema or Bohemian Caverns to hear the experimental, hip-hop flavored jazz this up-and-coming trio offers up. On this evening you can hear the Lions for free at the National Gallery.
Bill Kirchen, July 11 @ Woodrow Wilson Plaza
The dieselbilly legend is always worth seeing; bring an aspiring guitarist along to pick up a pointer or three.
Mary Timony, July 12 @ Fort Reno
The local product has been on the cutting edge of the underground rock scene for the better part of the two decades and she sounds as vital as ever on the new "The Shapes We Make."
Love Seed Mama Jump, July 20 @ Herndon Town Green
Can't make it to the beach this summer? Don't worry, this popular Dewey Beach group will bring it to you when the sextet plays for free as part of Herndon's Friday Night Live series.
The Avett Brothers, July 21 @ Artscape
These youngsters from North Carolina might not have much competition when it comes to ragged, boisterous banjo-driven rock, but they'd likely blow away competitors regardless. The group is just one of many highlights at Baltimore's annual, three-day summer party. Also check out Lupe Fiasco, the Isley Brothers, Los Lonely Boys, Martin Sexton, the Greencards, Burning Spear and more.
"Dueling Vibes," with Chuck Redd and John Cocuzzi, with Big Joe Maher, Aug. 4 @ Reston Town Center
Vibist Redd always keeps good company and this performance is no different as he will be joined by fellow vibist Cocuzzi, powerhouse drummer Maher and more.
The Grandsons, Aug 9. @ National Zoo
Get funky at the zoo with these locals who whip up an intoxicating blend of rockabilly, blues and New Orleans R&B.
The Bar-Kays, Aug. 18 @ Fort Dupont
Cool enough to be namechecked by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy in "Losing My Edge," these Stax originals and one-time backing band to Otis Redding are down to one original member (many died in the same plane crash that claimed Redding in 1967) but still deliver smooth soul sounds.
Hugh Masakela, Sept. 1 @ Marine Corps Memorial
The second annual Planet Arlington World Music Festival would be notable if the legendary South African trumpeter was the only performer. That he will be joined by Mexican singer-songwriter Lila Downs, Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista and the Skatalites means you should probably cancel those out-of-town Labor Day weekend plans.
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