Best Free Summer Concerts in Los Angeles

January 1, 1970

by Lisa LaBrie

Summer is a great time to spend your days and nights outside. One way to do this is to find summer concerts at outdoor venues. When my husband and I travel, we start searching out local events, looking for a place to hear music, eat good food, and hang with locals, preferably in the same place. Last May n Munich, I stayed up late hopping from bar to restaurant checking out all of the concerts with one 15 euro wristband in The Long Night of Music or Die Lange Nacht der Music. In June, here in Southern California, we used to look forward to kicking off the summer concert season with Make Music Pasadena. In June 2016, we wandered through Pasadena streets in perfect California weather. I had on my hat, sunglasses, and I was in music heaven. I was listening to bands playing in alleys, in shops, and on stages. It wasn’t Coachella or Arroyo or some other pricey 3-day music festival. Make Music Pasadena was a free all day city-wide music event that blocked off streets just east of Los Angeles in Pasadena, California. It was a fun, free way to kick off the summer. Last year, however, Make Music Pasadena didn’t happen. Due to financial issues, the event isn’t happening for the foreseeable future.
So how can you get your summer concert music fix when you visit the United States without breaking your budget? We can’t all afford to see Beychella in the desert or get tickets to SXSW. In Southern California, the Hollywood Bowl may be synonymous with summer music, but if you need to save a little cash, there are so many other options.

Summer in Los Angeles is for Music

If you’re like me, and you can’t have summer without the summer concert, don’t worry, here is a list of the best locations that locals go to for free summer concerts in Los Angeles. And you can still wear your best fringe jacket. One thing to learn about Los Angeles, it isn’t just beaches. There is a lot more to this huge metropolitan area, and hitting up free concerts is a great way to check out new neighborhoods.

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.

Grand Performances

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!




Lisa LaBrie

By Lisa LaBrie

Teacher and part-time traveler who believes in travel as a education while considering the impact of travel on the local communities. Self-care strategies expert, speaker, and writer.


Leave a Comment...