This is the time of year to get out your blanket and/or lawn chair, fill your cooler and picnic basket and head out to spend an evening listening to some free music under the open sky. From the Cleveland Metroparks to Cuyahoga Valley Nation Park, from University Circle’s Wade Oval to the Lakewood Public Library, from Legacy Village to Holden Arboretum, there’s music everywhere.
While a few big popular concert series rely on tribute bands, most of these events feature some of the area’s best musicians, playing jazz, blues, folk, zydeco, R&B, Latin, classical and original music. It’s a great chance to discover some new bands; almost all these events are free. Perhaps you’ll find a new favorite you’ll support all through the winter.
Here are some the series and bands you can catch:
Wade Oval Wednesdays take place 6-9pm, every Wednesday 6/13-8/22. Bands include opener Wesley Bright & the Honeytones playing old-school soul, Son Gitano playing Latin/salsa 7/18 Red Light Roxy closing it out with their high-energy ’40s-style swing, and the biggest draw every year, roots/reggae ensemble Carlos Jones & the P.L.U.S. Band 6/27(with fireworks!). There are lots of food vendors and activity booths sponsored by various area organizations.
The Akron Art Museum’s Downtown @ Dusk series, held in their outdoor Bud and Susie Rogers Garden on Thursdays @ 6:30pm, starts 6/28 with jazz trumpeter Curtis Taylor and pianist Theron Brown. Look for a lot of Akron/Kent area bands including Purple k’niF with Chris Butler of the waitresses and Bob Basone of the Walking Clampetts, Shivering Timbers, and the Numbers Band, as well as regular, singer/songwriter Anne E. DeChant and Cleveland Latin jazz artist Sammy DeLeon and his band.
The Cleveland Metroparks offers music at a couple of lakefront locations. The big, event-type series is Edgewater LIVE, which draws thousands of people to the newly upgraded park for music, food trucks, yoga, paddleboarding and more. It takes place Thursdays @ 6-9pm through 8/2 with hip-hop, country, and a lot of classic rock cover acts from the 70s-today. There’s also an appearance by Carlos Jones & the P.L.U.S. Band 7/12, sure to have every square foot of space occupied.
The Metroparks also hosts Euclid Beach LIVE on the east side, running Friday evenings @ 6-9pm through 8/3. This series is heavy on black music genres including gospel from Sending Up Songs of Praise (6/22), R&B from the legendary Kinsman Dazz Band (6/29), jazz from Forecast (7/6) and reggae from Jah Messengers (8/3) among others. Food vendors will be onsite or you can bring your own.
Also on the east side along the lakefront is the long-running series at the East Shore Park Club, taking place alternate Thursdays @ 7pm, starting 6/7. Bands include a few tribute/cover bands along with the Dallas Baumgartner Quartet’s gypsy jazz (8/16), Americana string band the Original Waysiders (7/5) and rock/blues band the Charlie Wheeler Band from Pittsburgh (7/19). The concerts take place rain or shine; food tricks will be there weather permitting. Bringing your own is allowed.
For something laidback, Holden Arborteum has its Tuesday night series starting 6/19 with students form the Cleveland Institute of Music. Running through 8/7, it offers Loch Erie’s Celtic folk (6/26), bluegrass by the Next Nolan (7/24), gypsy jazz from Moustache Yourself (7/10), singer/songwriters Sands & Hearn, and other performances by CIM students. One of the few with a cover charge, it’s still only $5 and you get to enjoy Holden’s beautiful countryside location in Kirtland.
Another exceptional bucolic location is Howe Meadow in Cuyahoga Valley National Park where the Music in the Meadow concerts take place on alternate Wednesdays starting 6/6 and running through 8/15 @ 6:30pm. They kick off with everyone’s favorite summertime band, Carlos Jones & the P.L.U.S. Band and close with energetic swamp rockers Cats on Holiday. There’s also traditional American music from Hillbilly IDOL (6/20), bluegrass from the David Allen Parade 7/11, horn-driven jazz/funk/rock from Funkyard Experiment (7/18) and Americana rock from Chris Allen and the Lonesome Stars (8/1). Come early for family activities starting at 5:30pm.
The Front Porch concerts is a series of low-key events taking place at the Lakewood Public Library’s main branch on Friday evenings @ 7-9pm. They start 6/22 with Becky Boyd & Groove Train performing jazz, blues and rock, and run through 9/7. Here an interesting variety of music including Drumplay’s jazz/world music/spoken word mix (7/27), Cleveland-based, world-renowned jazz sax player Ernie Krivda 8/24), indie folk/rock band Mimi Arden featuring vocalist/songwriter Michelle Gaw 7/20) and even a kids’ concert with Mr. Eric’s Music (8/17).
Stop by Legacy Village in Lyndhurst on Fridays and Saturdays @ 6:30-9:30pm through 9/1 and take a break from shopping to listen to a little music. The lineup includes of rock, blues, R&B, pop and acoustic acts including swamp rockers Cats on Holiday (6/8), blues rockers Bluescasters (6/16), Blue Lunch’s swing/blues/rock (7/20), Sabority Latin Soul (8/10) and Cleveland ’80s rockers Wild Horses of “Funky Poodle” fame (6/30).
Shaker Square is presenting weekly concerts on Saturdays @ 6-pm starting 6/23 and running through 8/4. They kick off with the Swamp Boogie Band and conclude with the ubiquitous Carlos Jones.
BAYarts in Bay Village hosts free concerts on most Sundays from 7-9pm starting 6/17 with Sweet Melissa’s providing concessions. Highlights include Maura Rogers & the Bellows’ original folk rock (7/1), Cleveland Opera Theatre performing short opera excerpts (7/29), blues/jump/swing by Moko Bovo (8/5) and concluding with B Side Jazz (8/26).
A new series is taking place in University Circle on Toby’s Plaza outside MOCA Cleveland in Uptown. Called Uptown in the Circle, the concerts take place on Fridays @ 11am-1pm starting 6/15 and running through 9/7. This series is heavy on original bands working in a variety of genres including guitarist/vocalist Luca Mundaca with her Brazilian pop jazz (6/29), Jul Big Green’s R&B/pop music (7/20), Latin music quarter Chamba Music (8/3), Morning [A] BLKstar, a jazz/soul-based band laced with social/political commentary (8/10) and 88bit: Nintendo Games Re-imagined on Piano by Rob Kovacs (8/31).
Finally, while it might seem counterintuitive to have some of the area’s liveliest most danceable bands play in a graveyard, the Lake View Cemetery’s concerts, taking place on alternate Sundays @ 4pm from 6/24 through 9/9 on the lawn beside the Garfield Memorial, feature the kinds of acts you can’t sit still to. Sammy DeLeon kicks it all off with his Latin jazz, followed by Red Light Roxy’s retro swing jazz (7/8), Blue Lunch’s swing/jazz/blues 7/22), Rachel Brown & the Beatnik Playboys’ alt country/Americana (8/5), Hot Djang’s gypsy jazz (8/19) and Hubb’s Grooves soul jazz (9/9).