Fresh air, a cold brew and a loud band – if that’s not the perfect summer night, we don’t know what is. With August comes the last big push to get in all of that summer fun, and there’s nothing better about summer in Providence than all of the outdoor concerts. Whether your jam is alt-rock, hip-hop, punk or jazz, we’ve found a show (or a few) for you.
The Summer Concert Series – thrown every summer by WBRU and the City of Providence's Department of Art, Culture and Tourism – 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. It kicks off on with Cannibal Ramblers opening for Unlikely Candidates (July 21), and The Beardogz opened for Dreamers (July 28). In August, local pop rockers Call Security setting the stage for the synth pop sounds of Marian Hill (August 4). Closing out the series are recent Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame inductees Neutral Nation, opening for bouncy pop punk rockers SWMRS (August 11). Best of all, it’s 100 percent free.
The Rhode Island Historical Society’s Concerts Under the Elms are an East Side tradition that has long served up tunes in the shade of the titular elms on the John Brown House Museum lawn. The 21st annual series is happening every Thursday, culminating with a performance from the Greg Abate Jazz Quartet (August 3). The Woonsocket native has performed all over the world – his appearance at the Concert Under the Elms is hot off a UK tour – and played sax alongside legends like Artie Shaw and Ray Charles. And because no outdoor concert is complete without some good eats, Bit’ Chin BBQ will be on hand with its mobile menu of smoked meats.
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. From 1pm to 1am it’s a nonstop block party and an opportunity to experience art in all forms. During the day, hands-on activities and art projects will be offered for families, but we all know that the big draw – and the reason we all stay out well into the night – is Foo Fest’s awesome lineup of local bands. Annie B. Frank the Jewish drag queen will be your host for the day, with performances by Jodi Jolt and the Volt, Queen Elephantine, Hairspray Queen, The Funk Underground, AS220 Youth Zukrewe… We’re counting down the days over here.
Live tunes take over Thursdays downtown as the Burnside Music Series and Trinity Beer Garden turns Kennedy Plaza into the hottest venue downtown with killer local performers, a beer garden courtesy of Trinity Brewhouse and delicious bites from Red’s Rhode Island. Expect performances from the jazz combo Charles Allin (August 3), a rare reunion appearance by Providence supergroup Hott Boyz (August 10), the samba and Latin jazz stylings of Grupo Sazon (August 17), the one-two punch of The Quahogs and What Cheer? Brigade (August 24) and the spacey sounds of Roz and the Ricecakes (August 31). The ‘Mericans will close out this year’s season (September 7) with a triumphant return to the Burnside stage.
A new, 3,500-person outdoor music venue is opening this summer, not here or in Newport, but just over the Seekonk River in East Providence’s Bold Point Park. This first season kicks off this month with The Beach Boys (August 9), followed by the 8th Annual Waterfront Reggae Festival (August 12), moe. with Railroad Earth (August 24) and the new Waterfront Blues and BBQ Festival with headliner Kenny Wayne Shepherd (August 26). Bold Point hasn’t forgotten about our homegrown performers – Rhode Island bands The Silks and Cannibal Ramblers are among the acts on the Blues and BBQ lineup, and other local acts will serve as openers for several concerts. Rhode Island may have found the outdoor summer venue it’s been missing.
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 Mountainess, Wild Sun, Ian Fitzgerald and Colby & Keila (August 5) and The Vox Hunters, Lainley Dionne, Kerri Powers and Ava Callery (August 19). Pack a picnic and settle in for some up-close-and-personal acoustic performances.
The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra plays at the beautiful Temple to Music in Roger Williams Park (August 4) as part of their Summer Pops series. Expect Tchaikovsky and Leonard Bernstein in the mix as well, and 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.
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 every other Wednesday night, hosting the Tish Adams Quintet (August 9) and Nickel Jukebox (August 23).
Providence might only have one rooftop bar, but quality beats quantity any day. The Rooftop at the Providence G adds seven nights of music across all genres to its great downtown views, food and drinks. This month they’re also hosting singer-songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter (August 8) for an intimate concert under the city sky.