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Rock On: Free Summer Concerts in Washington
Break out your bug spray and picnic blanket—outdoor-concert season is upon us. Here are all the places you can catch live shows for free this summer.
Carter Barron Amphitheatre
This 4,200-seat outdoor theater in Rock Creek Park hosts concerts and dance performances throughout the summer, beginning June 11. It’s run by the National Park Service, which books an eclectic lineup of jazz, reggae, funk, hip-hop, and more. Some performances are free, though tickets—distributed the day of the show beginning at noon at the theater’s box office—are required.
Eastern Market Music
There are a few performances left in this annual spring concert series, which runs through June 27. Started in 2007 and sponsored by the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, it features some of the area’s best blues, jazz, and swing musicians. Concerts are held Sunday at 10:30 and 1. The program resumes in the fall from September 5 through October 10.
Fort Dupont Summer Concert Series
The annual free concert series at Fort Dupont Park in Southeast DC returns July 10 and runs through August 22. This year’s lineup includes R&B, jazz, and neo-soul acts. Performances are Saturday at 8, rain or shine.
Fort Reno Park Summer Music Series
Held twice a week June through August, 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. This year’s lineup has yet to be announced, but you can follow the series’ Facebook page for the latest news.
Jazz in the Garden
This popular concert series at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden kicks off Friday with a free performance by jazz vocalist Leslie Summey. Every Friday night through September 10, jazz, blues, swing, and even salsa performers take the stage. 5 to 8:30.
Live! on Woodrow Wilson Plaza
Starting Wednesday, June 9, head to Wilson Plaza during your lunch break for free concerts from noon to 1:30. The roster includes music from a variety of genres including rock, bluegrass, jazz, classical, Latin, African, and folk. Concerts are Monday through Friday through September 24.
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 Navy Memorial and Washington Monument. Performances start at 8 and run June through August. Performances are throughout the week—for the full schedule, click here.
Golden Triangle Summer Concerts
On Thursday evenings in June and July, catch performances by local bands in Farragut Square Park. Bands on the bill this year include blues-and-funk ensemble the Kelly Bell Band (June 3), reggae band Jah Works (June 10), and cover band Road Soda (June 24). Shows run from 5:30 to 7:30.
The National Zoo is hosting three concerts this summer as part of its popular Sunset Serenades program. This year’s lineup includes the Steve Scott Project (July 22), a threesome that plays jazz, calypso, reggae, and R&B tunes; the Led Zeppelin-inspired GHZ Band (July 29); and the Grandsons (August 5), a roots-rock quartet. The free shows run from 6:30 to 8.
Acoustic on the Green
Saturday night in downtown Leesburg means 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 from June 12 through August 28.
Friday Night Live!
The City of Herndon hosts local and regional bands every Friday night through August 28. Most bands cover classic and modern-rock tunes, but there are also a few reggae, funk, and other acts on the schedule. The series runs through August 27. Performances start at 6:30.
Lansdowne Resort's Sounds of Summer Series
This free outdoor concert series held at Leesburg's Landsdowne Resort will feature rock, country, jazz, salsa, and more Friday nights from June 18 through September 3. Attend the special Saturday performance by the rock group Backstreet Betties on July 3 and you'll also see a free fireworks show. Concerts start at 7; food and wine will be available for purchase.
Potomac Overlook Regional Park
Local musical acts perform at this Arlington park every other Saturday evening during the summer. This year’s lineup includes folk musicians, roots-rock bands, and jazz-and-blues performers. 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
Back for its eighth year, Rock at the Row at Arlington’s Pentagon Row features free concerts Thursday evenings in June and August. Lots of local talent is on the bill this year, including the Justin Trawick Group, Ted Garber, and Brother Shamus. Shows start at 7.
Fairfax Symphony Orchestra's Sounds of Summer Series
The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra gives free chamber-music performances at parks throughout Fairfax. Performances include brass and string quartets, Dixieland bands, and a percussion duo. Download a PDF schedule here.
Bethesda Summer Concerts
Thursday evenings through July 22, catch performances by folk, jazz, funk, blues, pop, and swing bands in Bethesda. Shows are held at Veterans Park (Woodmont and Norfolk aves.) from 6 to 8.
Gaithersburg Backyard Concerts Series
Three performances are planned for this year’s free concert series in Gaithersburg: Local singer/songwriter Shane Gamble takes the stage July 1, rock cover band One Eyed Pug July 29, and swing quintet the Natty Beaux August 5. Attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket, lawn chairs, and food donations for local food banks. Shows start at 7.
Silver Spring Swings
Big band, rock, and R&B acts take the stage in Silver Spring Thursday nights in July and August. The series kicks off with the oldies cover band the Fabulous Bel Airs July 8. Performances are from 7 to 9 at the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza.
Strathmore Free Summer Concert Series
This summer, Strathmore is hosting eight free outdoor performances as part of its annual free concert series. The program gets underway June 23 with Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra, an 18-piece jazz band from New York. Shows are Wednesday evenings at 7.
Washingtonian Center Summer Concert Series
This shopping-and-dining development in Gaithersburg hosts classic-rock, motown, country, zydeco, and soul bands every Saturday from 6:30 to 8:30. Concerts are held at the Lakefront Plaza. Through September 25.