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Free Summer Concerts in Washington

Summer is on the horizon, and that means oppressive heat, gaggles of tourists, hours of traffic on the Bay Bridge… and free outdoor concerts! Save your pennies for gas, sunscreen, and bug spray, and check out our roundup of great spots for free music. Have the scoop on other fun freebies? Let us know in the comments.


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Carter Baron Amphitheatre (16th St. and Colorado Ave., NW). This 4,200-seat outdoor theater in Rock Creek Park hosts concerts, theater, and dance performances throughout the summer. It’s run by the National Park Service, which books an eclectic lineup of reggae, classical, gospel, pop, hip-hop, and more. Some performances are free, though tickets—distributed the day of the show at the theater’s box office and at the Washington Post building (1150 15th St., NW)—are required. Tickets are distributed on the day of performance at the Carter Barron box office from 12 to 8 and at The Washington Post at 8:30 in the morning. A complete schedule of this year’s performances will be posted on the National Park Service’s Web site in the next few days.

Eastern Market Music (at the corner of Seventh St. and North Carolina Ave., SE). Started in 2007 and sponsored by the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, this series features some of the area’s best blues, jazz, and swing musicians. Concerts are held Sundays and run through June 28. The series picks up again from September 6 to October 11. Performances are held at 10:30 AM and 1PM.

Fort Dupont Summer Concert Series. Starting July 18, the annual free concert event at Fort Dupont Park returns Saturdays at 8. Performances are held rain or shine. Through August 22. 

Fort Reno Park Summer Music Series (3800 Donaldson Pl., NW). Held Mondays and Thursdays, these concerts in Tenleytown are heavy on indie rock and hardcore talent. The shows are alcohol-free, so they draw crowds of under-21 rockers and hipsters. According to the event’s Facebook page, a schedule should be announced any day. June through August.

Jazz in the Garden (Constitution Ave. between Seventh and Ninth sts., NW). Friday nights, enjoy free jazz concerts in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden. Bring a blanket and picnic dinner or enjoy a sushi platter and a cheese-and-fruit plate from the Pavilion Café in the garden from 5 to 8:30. Through September 11.

Live! on Woodrow Wilson Plaza (1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW). Starting June 3, head to Wilson Plaza during your lunch break for free concerts from noon to 1:30. The roster covers music from a variety of genres including rock, bluegrass, jazz, classical, Latin, African, and folk. Concerts are Monday through Friday through September 25.

Marine Corps Evening Parades (Eighth St. between G and I sts., SE). Friday nights at the US Marine Corps Barracks mean outdoor performances of the United States Drum and Bugle Corps and the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. Performances start at 8:45, but they’re popular events, so plan on getting there an hour earlier. The Marines perform in light rain or shine; if a passing shower occurs, performances are delayed until it’s gone. Concerts continue through the end of June.
Military Band Concerts. Maintaining the 1863 tradition, the bands of the US Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force perform on the west lawn of the Capitol and at the Air Force and Lincoln memorials. Performances start at 8 PM and run through August 7. Click here for the schedule.

Sounds in the Square (Connecticut Ave. and K St., NW). On Thursday evenings in June and July, catch performances by local bands in Farragut Square. Bands on the bill this year include the Rebelicious (June 4), JunkFood (July 9), and Gonzo’s Nose (July 23). Shows run from 5:30 to 7:30 PM.

Sunset Serenades at the National Zoo (3001 Connecticut Ave., NW). Starting June 9, head to the zoo Thursday nights from 6:30 to 8 throughout the summer for family-friendly concerts. Through June 23.
Acoustic on the Green (25 W. Market St., Leesburg). Saturday nights in downtown Leesburg mean free concerts on the front lawn of Town Hall. Bring lawn chairs or blankets, and spend an evening listening to local performers. Concerts start at 7 and run June 13 through August 22.

Fairfax County Summer Entertainment Series (locations throughout Fairfax County). Fairfax presents a roster of free shows, concerts, and movies each year from May through September. Musical performances include woodwind and brass quartets, blues, and jazz performances. Check out the Web site for an easy-to-use search tool of all the entertainment this summer.

Friday Night Live! (777 Lynn St., Herndon). Friday Night Live! in Herndon hosts local and regional bands every Friday night through August 28. No pets are allowed on concert grounds.

Potomac Overlook Regional Park (2845 N. Marcey Rd., Arlington). Local musical acts perform at the park every other Saturday evening during the summer. On May 30, catch local musician Andrew Acosta. Admission is free, but donations are accepted to help fund the series. Feel free to bring a picnic dinner, but leave the alcohol at home.

Rock at the Row (Pentagon Row at Army Navy Dr. and S. Joyce St., Arlington). Back for its seventh year, Rock at the Row features free concerts Thursday evenings at 7 through August 20. In addition to music by local bands and performers, you can sample food, snag giveaways, and participate in contests.

Sounds of Summer (44050 Woodbridge Parkway, Lansdowne) Sponsored by Lansdowne Resort, this concert series will feature jazz, country, salsa, and blues musicians. The series kicks off June 5, with jazz band Sharon Thomas Experience performing at 7:30. For a roster of artists performing and more information about the series, click here. Sounds of Summer runs through September 4.

Bethesda Summer Concert Series (Bethesda Place Plaza at Old Georgetown Rd. and Woodmont Ave.; Veterans Park at Woodmont and Norfolk aves.). Wednesday afternoons and Thursday evenings, catch performances by folk, jazz, funk, blues, and swing bands in Bethesda. The Wednesday shows at Bethesda Place Plaza run noon to 2, and the Thursday performances at Veterans Park are 6 to 8.

Black Rock Center for the Arts 2009 Summer Concert Series (12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown) This series kicks off July 4 and runs every Saturday through August 15. Hula Monster, a Hawaiian rock band plays July 11, and the US Navy Cruisers perform August 1. Shows start at 7, except for the July 4 show, which starts at 6. For a complete schedule, click here.

Gaithersburg Backyard Concerts Series (parks throughout the area). Showcasing pop rock, folk, hip-hop, and reggae, this series runs June 4 through July 30. Attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket, lawn chairs, and food donations to aid local food banks. A schedule of the music festival is available on the event’s Web site.

Silver Spring Summer Concert Series (Silver Plaza on Ellsworth Dr. between Georgia Ave. and Fenton St.). Starting June 20, catch musical performances Saturday evenings at 6:30 in downtown Silver Spring. This year’s eclectic lineup includes zydeco, rockabilly, classic rock, jazz, reggae, and blues. Through August 8.

Strathmore Hall (5301 Tuckerman La., North Bethesda). Wednesday evenings through August, Strathmore holds free outdoor concerts at the Gudelsky Concert Pavilion Gazebo. Rock quartet Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem kicks it off on June 24. Project Mingus, a seven-piece band, makes a stop July 15, and a performance by the Afro-Pop Alliance rounds out the free series August 15.

Washingtonian Center Summer Concert Series (231 Rio Blvd., Gaithersburg). This shopping-and-dining development hosts classic rock, motown, and soul performances every Saturday from 6:30 to 8:30. Concerts are held at the Lakefront Plaza. June 6 through August 15. For more information, click here.
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