14 places to catch free outdoor summer concerts in Denver and beyond — The Know

Gora Gora plays at the Backyard Concert Series in Thornton. (Provided by Anythink Libraries)

While the amount of public venues offering free, outdoor music in the summer months continues to balloon around Denver — from parks and museums to libraries and lake houses — there are only so many quality artists, local or national, to go around.

That’s why you’ll see many of the same names on these lineups as in past years, or even from show-to-show. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Acts that do well — resonating with and entertaining their audiences — get invited back year after year.

This list focuses on free and family-friendly concert series at public venues running through September. Grab a blanket, a cooler and some snacks, and prepare to chill.

Levitt Pavilion is a great spot for outdoors summer concerts in Denver. (Provided by Levitt Pavilion)

Levitt Pavilion

The free-music lineup at this nonprofit, one-of-a-kind venue looks especially robust in its second year, with 50 family-friendly shows running from June 1 to Sept. 28. Regardless of your tastes, there’s a solid chance you’ll find something to love amid the lineup, which includes an opening set from Denver ska legends Five Iron Frenzy (June 1) and follows with near-daily folk, indie rock, hip-hop, country, punk, reggae and Spanish-language offerings. Some highlights: Thee Phantom & Illharmonic Orchestra (June 10); the Latin Grammy-nominated Flor de Toloache with Los Mocochetes (June 17); The Posies’ 30th anniversary tour (June 30); Denver expat Esmé Patterson and current darlings The Still Tide (Aug. 17); Rooney (Aug. 15); and the Colorado Symphony (Sept. 9). All shows at 1380 W. Florida Ave. levittdenver.org

City Park Jazz returns for 2018. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

City Park Jazz

As one of the most popular and diverse live-music events in Denver, this free series unites neighbors in a way that most events can only dream of doing. This year, the 10 free concerts kick off with Jyemo Club (June 3), followed by Katie Glassman & Snapshot (June 10), Paa Kow (June 24), Pat Bianchi Trio (July 15), Mistura Fina Band (July 22), The Sammy Mayfield Blues Band (July 29) and more. Sundays through Aug. 5 at the bandstand and pavilion at City Park, 1700 N. York Street. 6-8 p.m. rain or shine. cityparkjazz.org

More than 350 people gathered to eat, drink and dance at the Anythink Backyard Concert Series with Gora Gora Orkestar on June 12, 2014.

Backyard Concert Series

Produced by Thornton’s Anythink Libraries, the Backyard Concert Series returns this year with free, all-ages shows from Roka Hueka (June 8), Leon and the Revival (July 13), and returning favorite/Denver institution Hazel Miller (Aug. 10). All shows run 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Anythink Wright Farms, 5877 E. 120th Ave. in Thornton. Dogs are welcome, and 10 percent of food-truck sales will benefit the nonprofit Anythink Foundation. anythinklibraries.org

Audience members relax in the grass during last year’s Clyfford Still Museum concert series.

Clyfford Still Museum

With a world-class collection of abstract expressionist paintings on the inside, Clyfford Still Museum will again host its free live music series outside of its Golden Triangle building on select Friday evenings through September, with free museum admission from 5 to 8 p.m. This year’s lineup, presented in association with Swallow Hill Music, features Chimney Choir (June 29), Red Baraat (July 27), The Dustbowl Revival (Aug. 17) and Kyle Emerson (Sept. 7) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the lawn. Ice cream sandwiches from Peteybird, craft beers from Baere Brewing Co., and gourmet sausages from Biker Jim’s will be available at each event. 1250 Bannock St. clyffordstillmuseum.org

Swallow Hill Music at Commons Park

Speaking of Swallow Hill: The south Denver folk-music institution is bringing back its Commons Park series for a second, expanded year of shows on select Sundays. The free concerts include Blue Canyon Boys (June 3), Grown Ass Man Band (June 17), The Currys (July 1), lan Bibey & Grasstowne (July 15), Half Pint & The Growlers (Aug. 5), and Mama Magnolia (Aug. 19). All shows begin at 6 p.m. at 2101 15th St. in the fast-rising Platte Valley neighborhood. swallowhillmusic.org

Caption: DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 03: ...
Union Station is seen on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

Union Station Summer Concert Series

Once a month from May through August, Lower Downtown’s Union Station will double the size of its Terminal Bar patio to host free concerts and New Belgium Brewery beers. The lineup this year includes Supermagick (May 11), Blake Brown and the American Dust Choir (June 22), Paizley Park (a Prince tribute, July 13), and So What Bros. (Aug. 24). Believe us when we tell you the people-watching is top-notch. unionstationindenver.com

People dance to live music at Coohills’ free, annual Beats on the Creek in Lower Downtown last year. The 2016 series continues through Aug. 16.

Coohills’ Beats on the Creek

We generally don’t write up the live-music offerings at bars or restaurants, given how common they are, but Coohills has offered something novel the last few years: live tunes performed on an industrial bridge over Cherry Creek in LoDo, with great views of downtown and beyond. The music is free and open to the public, but folks can reserve patio tables if they’re looking for a more upscale experience. This year’s acts include Mr. Majestyk’s 8-Track Revival (June 19), The Merger (July 17), Tracksuit Wedding (July 31), Under a Blood Red Sky (Aug. 7) and more on Tuesday nights at 1400 Wewatta St. The series benefits Conservation Colorado’s Education Fund. coohills.com

Discovery Park Concert Series

Parker Arts sponsors this free series, which takes place Thursday nights at the outdoor Discovery Park. The all-ages, 6 p.m. events include food trucks and acts such as Last Men on Earth (June 14), The Radio (June 21), Soul School (June 28), HomeSlice (July 5), Soul X (July 12), Wash Park (July 19), The Eighties Band (July 26), and Tunisia (Aug. 2). 20115 E. Mainstreet in Parker. parkerarts.org

Wednesdays on the Waterfront

In our dry, landlocked state, Broomfield has one of the few free summer concert series that takes place along calm, cooling water. Its Wednesdays on the Waterfront series this year features Celtic music from Take Down the Door (June 13), Cuban-born blues singer Eddie Turner (June 20), funk band The Pamlico Sound (July 18) and more. 7 p.m. Wednesdays at Broomfield Amphitheater, 3 Community Park Road in Broomfield. broomfield.org

Shady Grove Picnic Series

Denver’s Four Mile Historic Park hosts this long-running concert series, which this year offers live music on Wednesday nights (except for July 4) from June 6 to Aug. 22. The booking includes Clay Kirkland with Al Chesis & the Delta Sonics (June 13), Shakedown Street (June 20), Colorado folk legend Harry Tuft (July 25), Rocky Mountain Jewgrass (Aug. 15), and Felonius Smith Trio (Aug. 22). Events start at 6:30 p.m. and cost $12 for adults; $3 for kids aged 3-12; and are free for 2 and under. 715 South Forest St. swallowhillmusic.org

Aurora Rhythms

A quartet of accessible concerts will return to the Aurora Municipal Center on Thursdays in June and July, 6:30-8 p.m. This year features Mr. Majestyk’s 8-Track Revival (June 28), Cowboy Dave Band (July 12), Potcheen (July 19) and Warp Trio (July 26), plus food trucks. 15151 E. Alameda Parkway. auroragov.org

UNC Concerts Under the Stars

The Garden Theatre stage at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley hosts this eclectic series, which offers free lawn seating as well as ticketed options. The July shows, which begin at 8 p.m., include the UNC Bluegrass Faculty (July 8), Mariachi Aztlán and Ballet Folklorico (July 15), Colorado Jazz Orchestra (July 17) and more. Corner of 18th Street and 10th Avenue in Greeley. arts.unco.edu/concertsunder-stars

Snowmass Free Concert Series

A fine summer playground, the ski village of Snowmass offers 10 consecutive Thursdays and two “bonus” Saturdays (June 9 and July 21) of free, live music on Fanny Hill June 9-Aug. 16. Now in its 27th year, 2018’s lineup features bands (and a setting) you’re not likely to see at other free concert series, including The Drunken Hearts (June 9), Southern Drawl Band (July 19), “American Idol’s” Mandy Harvey and The Spin Doctors (July 21), and more. Kid-friendly amusements, shuttles from parking garages and plenty of food and drink options sweeten the deal. gosnowmass.com

Evergreen Summer Concert Series

Evergreen Park & Recreation District’s 21st annual concert series features free outdoor shows at Evergreen Lake every other Wednesday 5-9 p.m., May 30-Aug. 22. The picnic-friendly lineup at Evergreen Lake House, 29612 Upper Bear Creek Road, includes tribute acts, bluegrass, rock, country and more. evergreenlakepresents.com

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