Things to Do

21 Great Outdoor Concerts and Music Festivals Around DC This Summer

Wolf Trap hosts wallet-friendly outdoor concerts, theater performances, and more in summer. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Grab a lawn chair, flashy sunglasses, and comfortable shoes—we’re going to an outdoor show.

Festivals:

Capital Jazz Fest

Merriweather Post Pavilion
June 7–9

This festival leans more toward R&B than jazz, but the lineup is still packed with household names. Of the 30-plus acts, Gladys Knight, Babyface, Brian McKnight, and India.Arie are standouts. Maybe it should be renamed Capital City Soul Fest? $69.50–$99.50.

DC Jazz Festival

Various
June 7-16

Now in its 15th year, this fest will span more than 25 neighborhoods in the District and includes top-notch acts like outstanding vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and MacArthur “Genius” pianist Vijay Iyer next to local classics like the Chuck Brown Band. Many performances are free but prices vary.

Firefly Festival

The Woodlands
June 21–23

Headlined by Panic! at the Disco, Travis Scott, and Post Malone, the jam-packed lineup is a rap-EDM-rock fan’s dream, though folk and country acts also get some time on stage. $129–319.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

National Mall
June 29–30

The Smithsonian’s annual weeklong festival has shrunk to a two-day event (blame the government shutdown), but the condensed lineup is by no means less impressive. With a theme of “the social power of music,” the sets are curated by East LA Chicano rock group Quetzal and DC rapper GoldLink, followed by a tribute to Pete Seeger. The festival still promises the usual selection of great food, workshops, and pop-up vendors. Free.

Fort Reno

Fort Reno Park
July (specific dates to-be-announced)

For 50 years, this free, independent music festival has given shine to relatively unknown and new acts, which puts on shows throughout July. A $13,771 Kickstarter campaign last year guaranteed that this year’s slate of performances won’t be interrupted by funding problems, as has happened in the past. The lineup has yet to be announced. Free.

Immigrant & Refugee Music Festival

Echostage
July 6

This new festival highlights the music of local immigrants, with performers like rapper Tabi Bonney (Togo) and Colombian band La Colombopercutiva—who say “You. Will. Dance.” $29.99-$69.99.

Summer Spirit Festival

Merriweather Post Pavilion
August 3

Catch an array of fantastic R&B artists; we’re most excited to see “Sativa” serenader Jhené Aiko and Canadian duo DVSN. Bring the person with whom you’re most comfortable dancing…intimately. $65 – $250.

Moonrise Festival

Pimlico Race Course (Baltimore)
August 10-11

One of the few good EDM offerings in the region, Moonrise will definitely be laser-laden and booming; don’t miss 21 Savage, Tiesto, Cheat Codes, and more. $164.50-$259.50.

MOECHELLA MegaFest

Location to-be-announced
August 17 or 24

If you followed the #DontMuteDC protests this spring, you’ve likely heard of Moechella, the massive gathering of go-go bands, peaceful protestors, and party people at 14th and U. The organizer, Justin “Yaddiya” Johnson is planning a festival this August—and while details are still in the works, he says go-go staples like the Backyard Band and Rare Essence will headline a set filled with mostly local acts. Stay tuned for more info.

Lockn Festival

Infinity Downs & Oak Ridge Farm
August 22-25

Jam bands? Yep, this is where you might want to bring your dad. Party like it’s 1969 with acts from Bob Weir (Grateful Dead), Trey Anastasio (Phish), and Derek Trucks (Allman Brothers). Yes, camping is available—do you really have to ask? $69-$289.

Sunday in the Country

Merriweather Post Pavilion
September 29

Radio station WPOC throws one helluva country fest, this year headlined by Old Dominion. The lineup relies on the new and radio-friendly, so no, you won’t see Garth Brooks on stage—but anyone who tunes in to 93.1 around the clock will right at home. $55–$125.

Shows:

Florence and the Machine + Blood Orange

Merriweather Post Pavilion
June 3

Knock back a tablespoon of honey to prep those vocal chords for your inevitable belting along to Florence Welch. Don’t skip out on the UK’s Blood Orange who will have you up and on your feet with his synth-heavy funk. $39.50 – $109.50.

Brandi Carlile

Merriweather Post Pavilion
June 14

Part country, part folk, and all skill, Carlile is known for her cutting personal lyricism and a voice that really hits differently. Tissues advised. (We’ll need them, at least.) $46-76.

Dead & Company

Jiffy Lube Live
June 26

The former Grateful Dead members-plus-John Mayer are perhaps best known for lighting up a faux-giant joint over a crowd a few years ago—but they also nail plenty guitar solos throughout the set. $49–$186.

Dispatch & Anderson East

Wolf Trap
June 29

Indie group Dispatch has been at it for two decades and has built a career on the hit “The General,” but there’s much more to the group than that one song—live, they’re a great jam band, and this will be their first show at Wolf Trap. Nashville singer Anderson East brings the rhythm-and-blues to this show, and it’s hard not to sway to his soulful “Satisfy Me.” $35–$75.

Pitbull

Merriweather Post Pavilion
July 11

Once a Miami street rapper, the now-global mogul knows how to throw down a great performance that is basically a front for a party. As “Mr. Worldwide” often shouts, “Dale!” $55–$125.

Thomas Rhett

Merriweather Post Pavilion
July 18

The country-pop crooner will be blasting his light-hearted, sing-along-able tracks (we see you, “Crash and Burn” fans) and sharing the stage that night with Dustin Lynch, Russell Dickerson, and—the best part—his dad, Rhett Atkins. $55-$125.

Blink 182 & Lil Wayne

Merriweather Post Pavilion
July 21

The unlikely pair takes its tour to the DMV this summer, mashing up the band’s pop-punk hits with Lil Wayne’s iconic rap anthems. The resulting show will likely induce both head-banging and head-scratching (check out the “What’s My Age Again? / A Milli” mashup for a sample). $37–$127.

Herbie Hancock & Kamasi Washington

Wolf Trap
July 30

Prepare for phenomenal improvisation and fun experimentation as jazz legend meets jazz youngin’ in this Hancock-Washington set. $35-$150.

Jennifer Hudson and the National Symphony Orchestra

Wolf Trap
September 5

The Dreamgirls and American Idol powerhouse performs with the NSO. Maybe she’ll give us a rendition of The Jeffersonstheme song? $45-$65.

Kacey Musgraves

Wolf Trap
September 7

With a CMA Album of the Year award under her belt, Musgraves has made a name for herself as one of the most thoughtful songwriters in Nashville. Her sound is pop-influenced with Americana roots—perfect for relaxing to on a summer night. $35.

Assistant Editor

Elliot joined Washingtonian in January 2018. An alum of Villanova University, he grew up in the Philadelphia area before earning a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post, TheAtlantic.com, and DCist.com, among others. He lives in Bloomingdale.

Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian as an editorial fellow in fall 2016. She likes to write about race, culture, music, and politics. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a degree in International Relations and French with a minor in Journalism. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.