10 ways to listen to live music for free this summer

Anyone who has witnessed painfully high ticket prices knows that inflation is a reality of the live concert industry right now. It’s not just superstars like Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé who are raising their ticket prices – it’s not uncommon for mid-level performers in major clubs and theaters to see ticket prices rise into triple digits, but audiences are resisting, Some planned audience trips have now been cancelled.

The good news is, you can enjoy a summer filled with live music for free, thanks to the variety of events offered in the greater Boston area. While you’re unlikely to see superstars, respected Latin, gospel, hip-hop, jazz and roots artists will all be playing for free in the coming months, and you might just discover your new favorite local act .

June 29-30

Each year, the Boston Arts & Music Soul Festival seems to further expand the scope of black musical excellence it presents. The 2024 program features not only R&B star BJ the Chicago Kid and groundbreaking hip-hop diva Rapsody, but also jazz funk from Butcher Brown, Nay Speaks from Mattapan, house music giant Lee Wilson and Caribbean dance music from Sound International and the Theater atmosphere. Note that after being completely free last year, the festival moved to a pay-as-you-go model with a range of donation tiers. In addition to music, the event includes the Soul Food Row of food trucks, a variety of vendors, and a Beat Feet area where local black choreographers teach various Afro-diasporic dance styles.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

Club Passim is more than just a famous Harvard Square folk room. It is also a non-profit organization dedicated to creating performance opportunities for emerging talents. They’re doing just that, hosting at least four free summer concert series throughout Cambridge: Tuesday at noon in the Harvard Northwest Science Building, Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Denny Park, Wednesday at noon in the Kendall Square City Park Roof Garden, Thursday at 5:30 pm on the corner of Kennedy and Palmer Streets. To name a few highlights: High Tea, whose 2022 Tiny Desk production impressed (July 16 at Danehy Park), Mozambique-born singer/guitarist Albino Mbie (August 13 at Danehy Park ) and charming songwriter/guitarist People character Puzzle Tree (July 24 at Kendall Square).


While free music is usually an outdoor event, for the past few months it’s also been happening at Boston’s Long Live Roxbury Brewery, which has a jazz show every Thursday at 6 p.m., usually Latin music, and always Performed by top musicians, the summer calendar includes free jazz legends The Fringe (July 11) and Plural (July 18), led by Venezuelan pianist Gonzalo Grau, and Ecuadorian bass Burning Latin Jazz Band led by Alex Alvear (July 25).


This weekly concert series has a tradition dating back to 1966 and is located right in the middle of Franklin Park. The Tuesday 6pm show emphasizes classic soul, R&B and funk. Highlights include two of Boston’s most compelling singers: Angelena Hightower with her Unit (July 9) and Safiya, who will join Roots Alley Band and friends for Caribbean Night on August 6. The series concludes on August 13 with a performance by the E-Water Band. The rain date is scheduled for August 20th.


Boston’s strong Latin music scene shines in this annual series, co-presented by Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, the City of Boston, and Berklee College of Music (which also hosts many other free summer concert series). Locations range from the South End to the Boston Common to East Boston. Highlights include Colombian accordionist and NPR Tiny Desk concert star Gregorio Uribe (July 25), and the pairing of Boston salsa enthusiast Edwin Pabon with Tito Puente Jr., son of the series’ namesake, to cap the series ended (August 15). In addition to great music, the evenings usually feature amazing salsa dancing performed by the audience. Show starts at 7 p.m.


The Boston Landmark Orchestra is an all-star ensemble that presents a bold repertoire of contemporary and classical works. As part of its commitment to accessibility, every concert the group performs is free. This year’s program includes a popular tribute to George Gershwin and John Williams (July 24) and Arabian Nights (August 21). The Aug. 3 program includes the first public performance of “Four Spirituals” by underappreciated 20th-century black composer Julia Perry. The August 14 show of “Mozart and More” will also be presented for free on August 15 at Hibernian Hall in Nubian Square, and two additional Boston community performances will be announced this week.

July 20

Another great event hosted by Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción is the long-running Festival Betances, which celebrates Puerto Rican food, games, dance and, of course, music. This year, salsa singer Eh Shawnee, timpani player Zayra Pola, singer Luis Matos Burgos, contemporary Afro-Latin music Pirulo y La Tribu and Salsero Charlie Aponte (best known for his work with Puerto Rican music giant El) Gran combination. Plaza Betances is located at 100 W. Dedham St. on the south end.

July 26-28

Perhaps the most unique music event of the summer and certainly one of the most fun, the Lowell Folk Festival is both an iconic attraction in the host city and a celebration of traditional music, food, and crafts from around the world. This year’s lineup includes New Orleans’ Cyril Neville, the last active performing Neville Brother, Kentucky’s select guitar virtuoso Eddie Pennington and Caleb Coots, a very rare opportunity to hear the Cayman Islands with the Swanky Kitchen Band of African violin sounds, and Yoni Battat, whose ensemble delves into the rich heritage of Arab-Jewish music. But for many, the real draw is the world of food, nearly all of which is sold by local nonprofits.

July 27-28

The Cambridge Jazz Festival may be a scrappy non-profit organization, but it has always delivered an impressive array of significant talent. This year is no exception. On Saturday, July 27, the theme is Afro-Latin music, including classic mambo performances by Jacques Schwarz-Bart and Eguie Castrillo y Su Orquesta. Sunday, July 28, including the return of former Boston vibraphonist Cecilia Smith, pianist Lafayette Harris Jr., drummer and festival co-founder Ron Savage’s Trio, with notable guests saxophonist Bill Pierce and guitarists Bobby Broom and Gabrielle Goodman ) Tributes to Roberta Fleck.


Last year’s inaugural GLD FSTVL, curated by seminal band STL GLD, was more than just a grand celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary. It’s also proof that Boston’s hip-hop scene is a true community and an example of how the newly renovated City Hall Plaza can still host quality events. The good news is that the festival is returning, with August dates expected to be announced in a few days. Speaking of City of Boston-sponsored events: Save the date for Boston’s 24th Annual Gospel Festival, which will be held on August 25 at 5 p.m. in the Leader Bank Pavilion, with a lineup to be announced soon.

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