Best Free Summer Concerts in Los Angeles
January 1, 1970
by Lisa LaBrie
Summer in Los Angeles is for Music
KCRW Summer Nights
Every year, KCRW Summer nights, hosted by Santa Monica City College’s premier radio station, grows bigger than the year before. This year there are free summer concerts at Union Station in downtown L.A., One Colorado court in Old Town Pasadena, the Hammer Museum in Westwood, Chinatown, the California African American Museum in Exposition Park, and many more. Some nights have KCRW DJs, while others have singers or band performances scheduled. Some of these locations are easily accessed by Metro trains, while some may require taking your car. One Colorado courtyard is surrounded by restaurants with patios like Il Fornaio and Sushi Roku, but make reservations and plan ahead, because they are popular. You can’t beat sitting at a patio table and ordering a glass of wine while listening to eclectic beats as the sun sets.
Pasadena Pavillion for the Performing Arts
All summer, Thursday through Sunday night, the Levitt Pavilion in Pasadena and at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles have different performances to enjoy. Bring your blanket or low chairs, pack a picnic, and enjoy your summer evenings listening to jazz, world music, rock, or performances for children. Past performances have included Los Lonely Boys and the Mariachi Divas. There are some bench seats if sitting on a blanket is not your thing. They also usually have a couple food trucks parked onsite if you didn’t pack your own food. You are not permitted to bring alcohol to these events.
In the heart of downtown LA, close to Grand Central Market, in the California Plaza, Grand Performances puts on a bunch of different free summer concerts and shows that include spoken word, world music, protest music sing-a-longs and rock operas like Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance on July 20th. As a paying member, you can secure seats, or you can show up for the free spots. Parking may be difficult, take the Metro Red Line to Pershing Square Station. Stop at Grand Central Market and get a burrito at Tacos Tumbras a Tomas.
LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) Latin Sounds and Jazz at LACMA
Free and open to the public, on Saturday afternoons from Memorial Day through Labor Day, you can listen to bands from all over Latin America. These concerts start at 5pm and are in Hancock Park, east of the museum. If you would rather hear jazz, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art offers jazz from local artists on Friday evenings from April to November. Jazz is at the BP Grand entrance where tickets are purchased. There isn’t any Metro line that directly serves LACMA, but you can Lyft from a red or purple line stop or park at the museum.
Pershing Square Summer Concerts
Pershing Square is a block-sized public park located in downtown L.A. near 7th and Olive. From July to August, you can spend Friday evenings watching films, Thursday and Saturday nights listening to music, and Sunday evenings listening to salsa music. Previous acts have included the B-52s. In July, there is even a free weekend salsa festival featuring the kind of salsa you eat not just the kind you dance to. Alcohol is allowed with restrictions. You can take the purple or red Metro line to Pershing Square or park in the underground parking garage. Check-in will be at the corner of 6th and Olive. Wear comfortable shoes, this part of downtown can be hilly. Be sure to walk over to Bottega Louie to pick up perfect French macarons for your dessert.
Pro tip: DASH is the bus service for the downtown area and 27 neighborhoods. The rides are only 50 cents. Use google trip planner to plan your ride.
You can check out the local music scene in most major cities when you travel, but there are very few places with as much to offer as Los Angeles. After paying for flights, hotels, and food, saving some cash with free summer concert is a great way to enjoy the local scene without breaking your bank. Cheers to your summer of music!