When summer hits the city, LA explodes into seemingly endless sights and sounds to help satisfy your cravings for some fun in the sun. What better way to celebrate the season of play than the plethora of hot summer music nights offered (mostly) for free all around town? So as a little gift to you, we present our run-down of the best mostly-free mostly-outdoor live music concerts going on in the city from now until the end of summer. Gather up your gang and go get your groove on, compliments of our great city. Don’t say it never gave you anything!
KCRW’s Sound In Focus at The Annenberg Space for Photography (FREE)
This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it outdoor summer concert series lasts only three short weeks, so be sure to get on it before it disappears! For three Saturdays in July, KCRW and the Annenberg Foundation team up to bring you free live music on the lawn of the Death Star, a.k.a. the CAA building in Century City, also home to the Annenberg Space for Photography. It may seem like an odd choice of venue at first but there is also something that feels wonderfully subversive about occupying the lawn of some of the biggest corporate entertainment conglomerates with the music-loving rabble…who all got in for free. Add to this the fact that your ticket gains you entry into the museum’s photo exhibitions, REFUGEE and NEW AMERICANS, documenting the current refugee experience, and you can almost hear, “There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear…” begin to cue up somewhere in the distance.
We checked out the first concert of the season featuring Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and it was a stirring night of music under the stars. The band was noticeably more subdued in this new incarnation without the presence of female singer Jade. But this new older-and-wiser (if not a little world-weary) version somehow seemed more fitting for our times—echoing the feeling of the audience in these very charged days. Their surprise rendition of The Beatles’ “Instant Karma” had the crowd reverently singing all together about how “we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun…” and we could feel those embers of the Love Revolution still burning.
This Saturday July 23rd is the final concert, so be sure to check it out. You can start lining up at 4pm and doors open at 5pm. If you arrive by 5:30pm, you’ll be fine. Music starts at 7pm. But the event does reach capacity, so don’t arrive so fashionably late that you have to sit outside and watch the livestream on your phone while your friends enjoy the concert inside (which happened around 6:20pm when we went). Bring a picnic blanket and claim some space on the lawn to spread out and enjoy. The 21+ beer garden houses some quick places to grab a bite. But the row of food trucks outside is your best bet for some summer smorgasbord feasting—a little of this and a little of that, all of it excellent. The Green Truck’s Paleo Bowl is always a healthy crowd pleaser. I went for Peaches Smokehouse & Southern Kitchen’s pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and baked beans and it was smokey scrumptious.
*HOT TIP: RSVPs are already filled for this Saturday’s final show, but the truth is you don’t need to. They never actually check the guest list and it is first-come-first-served. It’s fine for you to just show up, as long as you’re there before the capacity cut-off. This Saturday, KCRW’s Garth Trinadad will be spinning before Wild Belle opens with NAS headlining. It’s all ages and entry is free. See their website for more info: http://soundinfocus.kcrw.com.
Twilight Concerts on the Santa Monica Pier (FREE)
July 7th through September 8th, the Santa Monica Pier hosts a free weekly concert series every Thursday night from 7pm-10pm. Your RSVP will get you a spot on the pier itself in front of the stage if you arrive early enough and you can handle standing in tight crowds. For the more relaxed version, you can bring a blanket and enjoy a beach picnic with friends while listening to the live tunes. *HOT TIP: It does get crowded, so be sure to arrive on the early side in daylight to find a good spot. We usually sit on the south side of the pier. Because of the crowds, cell service is almost non-existent. So try to get a spot close to the bike path so that arriving friends can find you or else meet somewhere before and walk in together. We are not joking when we say that a solo late arriver might never find you and will not receive your texts—so plan ahead. The main pier parking lot can be pretty overrun, so we recommend the $10 beach lot off of Bicknell, just south of Casa del Mar and Shutters. The Bike Valet stand offers you a $5 rebate coupon here. Just bring the flyer to the stand and they hand you back $5, no catch. Otherwise, we recommend walking, biking or public transpo to make it easy on yourself. We checked out BORNS, one of our summer playlist faves, and they were awesome. But there are plenty of great bands coming through all summer long. The Psychedelic Furs play this Thurdsay July 21st. Other concerts of note: Unknown Mortal Orchestra on September 1st and Holy Ghost! opening September 8th’s final show. See website for full schedule and details: http://santamonicapier.org/twilightconcerts/.
Kensington at The York Manor ($20)
Okay, so this one isn’t free—but we promise you it’s worth every penny. No listing of awesome summer music in LA would be complete without mentioning Kensington Presents. These guys are masters at elevating the concert-going experience to the next level. Their unique venues always feel like walking into some secret LA Wonderland that may or may not actually exist in reality. The music is soulful, the food options are all handmade with great care and the crowds are folks you’d want to hang with in your own living room. This is live music for true music lovers. We have written about our obsession with their Viaduct concerts before and now we’re thrilled to announce that they have a new venue in Highland Park that they will be debuting Thursday July 28th at The York Manor. They’ve put together a beautiful night of Bluegrass/Americana music with The Raising Sand Tribute Band to literally “take you to church”. Come enjoy drinks, food and poetry in the garden before heading inside for some music to stir your soul. 6:30pm-10:30pm. $20 advance tickets. Tickets and full info can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/raising-sand-tribute-band-church-concert-garden-party-tickets-26435414035
Read about our previous trips down the rabbit hole with Kensington:
Sunset Concerts at Skirball Cultural Center (FREE)
Beginning this Thursday July 21st and running each week through August 25th, Skirball Cultural Center presents up-and-coming and traditional roots artists in concert. No RSVP is required, although you do need a parking ticket to gain entry. Parking in the lot is $10 cash only. If you take public tranportation or Uber, staff at the front entrance can provide you with a ticket stub to get in. Your entry includes the concert and access to the museum’s exhibitions. Singing and dancing along is encouraged, so wear your dancing shoes for a twilight spin or two. The full line-up is available on their website: http://skirball.org/programs/sunset-concerts.
For all you foodies, the Skirball also offers a Sunset Supper at their Zeidler’s Café beginning at 6pm on concert nights. The chef prepares a gourmet meal “inspired by the evening’s artists and their music” each week. Pre-pay reservations online are $26 per person. Walk-ins are $32.95 per person (not including alcohol, tax or tip). http://skirball.org/programs/food/sunset-supper
FIGat7th Downtown Festival (FREE)
Friday nights July 15th to August 19th, FIGat7th in Downtown LA opens their plaza for free live concerts. The series highlights up-and-coming artists across multiple genres. We caught the Allah-Las here in a previous season and loved how intimate the space is—it feels like your own private concert. Bar opens and DJ starts at 7:30pm, with live music from 9pm-10pm. It’s a great excuse to get in a little Downtown Art Date in advance to really take advantage of all the city has to offer. Find our Downtown Field Trip guide: HERE. Full FIGat7th schedule and details on their site: http://www.figat7th.com/events/.
Sizzling Summer Nights at The Autry (FREE FOR MEMBERS)
Every Thursday night through August 18th, the Autry in Griffith Park raises the heat with their 20th Annual Sizzling Summer Nights celebration. Entry is free for members, $12 for non-members and is open to all ages. Reservations are recommended but not required. Come picnic on the lawn, order up some tacos, saddle up to the bar and mosey through the museum’s latest exhibitions before taking in a complimentary salsa lesson to make sure you’ve got your dancing feet on. Then prepare to cha cha cha the night away to some of the best salsa and Latin fusion bands in town. This is a joyous night out, a great place to cozy up with the one you love (or hope to love). 6pm tacos, bar, museum and lawn open. 6:30pm music begins, 7:30pm dance lesson, bands play until 9pm. See their site for more info: https://theautry.org/events/music-and-festivals/sizzling-summer-nights.
Friday Night Jazz at LACMA (FREE)
Now through November, you can enjoy a free jazz concert every Friday night at 6pm in the LACMA courtyard. Bring a blanket or chairs and nosh on a picnic as you enjoy some of LA’s best jazz musicians under the stars. *HOT TIP: LA residents get free admission to the museum on Friday evenings 3pm-8pm, so come early and check out some art before enjoying the smooth tunes. One of LA’s classiest dates and you don’t even have to pay a single penny for it…get a-wooing, gents! You’re welcome. http://www.lacma.org/programs/music
Amoeba Hollywood Concerts (FREE)
And last but not least, for an awesome year-round free live music source, check out our article on how to do Amoeba’s free concerts right! https://sirensandscoundrels.com/2016/07/05/free-live-music-amoeba-hollywood/
HAPPY SUMMER CONCERT-ING, LOS ANGELES!! love, Sirens & Scoundrels xo
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Contributing “Sound in Focus” Photography: Euphoriazine, Joshua Kartsch ~ Insta: @jnkarts, @jackgorlin, @thejasonbentley, @happy.inchworm
Event photos & exhibit stills subject to copyright
© 2016 Sirens and Scoundrels