Break out the blanket, bug spray and earplugs -- it's the season for outdoor concerts. This summer in New York City, catch free performances by bands and artists that usually command fairly steep ticket prices. While there's no admission charge (some have suggested donations), we recommend showing up early, as the venues will most certainly fill up.
1. Coheed and Cambria + Adrian Belew Power Trio
WHAT Inspired by singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez's love of sci-fi comics, Coheed and Cambria's music is a head-trip of soaring guitars that punch holes in the stratosphere. It's fitting that Adrian Belew of prog-rock monster King Crimson is opening. With Tigers Jaw.
2. Talib Kweli
WHAT He got his start with Mos Def in the hip-hop duo Black Star, but Talib Kweli touts a solo career that speaks for itself. In a scene blinded by bling and booty, Kweli is a beacon of positive energy and sharp intellect. Jay-Z once rapped, "If skills sold, truth be told / I'd probably be, lyrically / Talib Kweli." No doubt Kweli's rhymes can still stop Mr. Roc-A-Fella in his tracks.
WHEN | WHERE Tuesday, June 21, at 7 p.m. Red Hook Park, bordered by Otsego, Bay, Hicks, Lorraine, Court and Halleck streets, Brooklyn
3. Lee Fields & The Expressions + Fitz & The Tantrums
WHAT Thanks to up-and-coming artists like Los Angeles' Fitz & The Tantrums, soul music is enjoying quite the revival. That gives artists who were there back in the day a fresh go-round -- and Lee Fields sounds as hungry and raw as he did in 1969, when he cut his first tune. With Andreya Triana + Rich Medina.
WHEN | WHERE Saturday, June 25, at 4 p.m. Rumsey Playfield, Central Park. Enter at Fifth Avenue and 69th (or 72nd) Street
WHAT Descendants of the Sonics, James Brown and the Funk Brothers, England's the Heavy plays sharp, tight rock and soul with a gifted sense of groove. Local boys, The London Souls are among the most buzzed-about rock bands to come out of the city in years. Also appearing: Superhuman Happiness.
WHEN | WHERE Saturday, June 25, at 7 p.m. Prospect Park Bandshell, Prospect Park West and Ninth Street, Brooklyn
5. Laurie Anderson with Bill Laswell
WHAT Experimental composer and multimedia artist Laurie Anderson is one of those performers who truly needs to be seen as well as heard. She's joined by bassist and producer Bill Laswell for a set of improvised beats and melodies. The performance is free, but tickets are required (available online or two per person at the entrance the day of show).