Summer’s for a lot of things: cookouts, the beach, working on that sweet trucker’s tan. But in Providence, one of our all-time favorite summer pastimes is taking in as many of the excellent outdoor concerts that pop up all over the city as we can. Whether you’re more classically minded or proudly count yourself among those about to rock, consider the city your proverbial open-air jukebox.
1. The Rhode Island Historical Society’s Concerts Under the Elms is a tradition right at home on the East Side. Take a break in the shade of the titular elms on the John Brown House Museum lawn for an eclectic lineup of performers. The 21st annual series begins on June 29 with The American Band, and will continue weekly with local favorites including Steve Smith & The Nakeds (July 6), The Nickel Jukebox Band (July 13), The Becky Chace Band (July 20), The Cajun Hobos (July 27) and Greg Abate (August 3). Food trucks will be on standby for each performance, so come hungry.
2. Unplug on Saturdays at Roger Williams National Memorial for the Downtown Sundown Series. This series brings the coffeehouse singer-songwriter vibe outdoors with performances from Tammy & Jeana (July 8), Bob Kendall (July 22), Ian Fitzgerald (August 5) and The Vox Hunters (August 19), to name just a few. Pack a picnic and settle in for some up close and personal acoustic performances.
3. Summer’s not complete until you’ve heard an orchestra perform John Philip Sousa under the stars. This year, get your fix when the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra plays at the beautiful Temple to Music in Roger Williams Park on August 4 as part of their Summer Pops series. Works from The Sous are a given, and expect some Tchaikovsky and Leonard Bernstein in the mix as well. If the kids are already rolling their eyes, the orchestra will be throwing them a bone with selections from recent Batman and Star Trek movies and, yes, the button-mashing worlds of Halo and Kingdom Hearts.
4. The WBRU Summer Concert Series is a Providence institution that has called Waterplace Park home for years. Pairing local opening acts with alternative’s rising stars, this weekly concert splits the difference between ’BRU’s role as the gatekeeper for what’s new on the FM dial and its commitment to the city’s homegrown talent. This year’s shows feature Cannibal Ramblers opening for Unlikely Candidates (July 21), The Beardogz and Dreamerz (July 28), Call Security and Marian Hill (August 4), and Neutral Nation and SWMRS (August 11). Best of all, it’s 100 percent free.
5. If any institution personifies the wild, artistic spirit of the city, it’s AS220. Let your freak flag fly on Empire Street when their annual Foo Fest sets up camp between Washington and Westminster streets on August 12. The chance to see some of the cool art that happens at AS220 up close is a big draw, but the concerts both inside and out keep the party going all night. Providence-based drag queen Annie B. Frank will be your host for the day, and local bands including Hott Boyz, The Funk Underground, Hell Bent and AS220 Youth Zukrewe will be keeping it loud.
6. Live tunes are taking over Burnside Park every Thursday, all summer long. The Burnside Music Series and Trinity Beer Garden turns Kennedy Plaza into the hottest venue in town with killer local performers, a beer garden courtesy of Trinity Brewhouse and delicious bites from Red’s Rhode Island. See Roz and the Rice Cakes, The ‘Mericans, Bellerophon, What Cheer? Brigade and others each week, beginning on July 13 with a returning performance from Burnside favorite, Afrimanding.
7. Geographically speaking they couldn’t be any more different, but you can’t spell East Side of Providence without East Providence. This summer, Bold Point Park will become the new home of Waterfront Events, the hosts of annual summer celebrations like the Reggae Festival and Oktoberfest. To kick off year one, Bold Point Park is hosting the Beach Boys on August 9. Jam band favorite Moe. will make an appearance on August 24, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd will headline the Blues and BBQ Festival on August 26.
8. Providence has one of the largest Cape Verdean American communities in the country, and they’ll be partying at the Cape Verdean Independence Day Festival in India Point Park on July 9. This 42nd annual celebration – the longest-running of its kind in the US – will bring traditional Cape Verdean food, art and music to the park from noon until sundown.
9. Blackstone Boulevard is lovely any time of year, but the summer months add a little extra incentive to visit. The Blackstone Parks Conservancy Summer Concert Series is taking over the historic Trolley Shelter across from Swan Point Cemetery for four nights of music every other week starting on July 12 with Latin Jazz featuring Wendy Klein. It’s the perfect reason to spend a little extra time on the bucolic boulevard.