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Your guide to outdoor summer music in the cities

Is there more outdoor music now than there was pre-COVID? Or does it just seem that way because last summer was so quiet? Here’s our attempt at a roundup, minus the breweries.

Heiruspecs performs on Aug. 26 in Mears Park in downtown St. Paul.
Heiruspecs performs on Aug. 26 in Mears Park in downtown St. Paul.
Courtesy of Lowertown Sounds

Is there more outdoor summer music now than there was pre-COVID? Or does it just seem that way because last summer was so quiet? Here’s our attempt at a roundup, minus the breweries. If we missed something major, let us know in an email or a comment below.

Some events provide seating; some ask that you bring a chair or blanket. Check individual listings for details.

At city parks all over Minneapolis, now through August: Music & Movies in the Parks. Summer’s best bet, under way since May, brings live music (and movie screenings) to our parks every day of the week. Print out the calendar and circle or highlight whatever interests you, then enjoy an entire summer of free family entertainment.

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In the courtyard of the American Swedish Institute, Thursdays from July 15-Aug. 19: “Music in the Courtyard,” 6-7 p.m. A series with a distinctly Nordic feel. July 15: Art Bjorngjeld and Ross Sutter. Accordion, jazz and vocals. July 22: The McNordiques. Scandinavian meets Celtic meets French music in a band that includes Dan Newton on accordion. July 29: Slovczech. A blend of folk with contemporary rock. Aug. 5: Tjärnbloom. A Scandinavian-style string band. Aug. 12: Allsång Pång Asi. Popular Swedish songs. Aug. 19: TBD. Cost included in museum admission. ASI is now open on Thursdays until 8 p.m.

On the green roof of the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis: Live music and theater. The science museum with the beautiful grounds on the western shore of Bde Maka Ska has announced a summer event series that includes two concerts, both at 7 p.m. July 1: The OK Factor, Aug. 5: Jeremy Messersmith. Both are ticketed.

Julius Collins
Julius Collins
In the bandshell at Boerboom Park in downtown Osseo through Aug. 24: Yellow Tree Theatre Summer Concert Series. Yellow Tree’s producing artistic director since February, Austene Van wants to bring the community together any way she can. To create this series, she called on some of her famous friends, including Sara Renner (July 8), Jamecia Bennett (July 22) and Julius Collins (Aug. 12). 7 p.m. Free.

At Canterbury Park in Shakopee and the outdoor Hilde Performance Center in Plymouth from July through September: Sue McLean & Associates (SMA) concerts. SMA’s Music in the Zoo summer concert series is a much-loved tradition in the Twin Cities. Last year’s was canceled by COVID, and this year’s has been split between two venues because SMA and the Zoo didn’t reach an agreement on the series. Most shows have been moved to Canterbury Park starting in August, including En Vogue (Aug. 6), Steve Earle & the Dukes (Aug. 7) and the Robert Cray Band (Aug. 16). Two July shows will take place at the Hilde: the BoDeans (July 17) and the Okee Dokee Brothers (July 18). All are ticketed. More shows may be added as the summer moves on.

Reina del Cid
Reina del Cid
At Como Lakeside Pavilion’s Dock & Paddle in St. Paul, now through August: Live Music. A variety of events and performers. A sampling: This Friday, June 25: Reina del Cid (full band); July 28-30: Opera on the Lake Presents Operetta Under the Stars; Aug. 27: Panhandlers Steel Drum Band. Some are ticketed, many are free.

On the lawn in front of Como Park’s Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, Wednesdays in July, 6-8 p.m.: “Groovin’ in the Garden.” Tonight: Leslie Rich & The Rocket Soul Choir. July 14: Innocent Reggae Band. July 21: The Flamin’ Oh’s. July 28: Kiss the Tiger (Meghan Kriedler’s band is one of the summer’s hottest acts). If it rains, concerts will move inside the Visitor Center Porch next to the Water Gardens. 6-8 p.m. Free. Food, ice cream, beer and wine will be available to purchase. P.S. Como Zoo is now open from 10-6 every day.

At Crooners in Fridley, Thursdays through Sundays: Music in the Belvedere Room. Blessed with ample outdoor space, including a big parking lot, and a staff committed to presenting live music come hell or high water, the supper club in Fridley has already booked shows through mid-October in its new tent. This weekend (Friday through Sunday, June 25-27), the Belvedere will host parts of the summer Twin Cities Jazz Festival* including performances by two-time Grammy winner Kurt Elling and JazzMN Orchestra. In-person tickets are sold out, but you can livestream the whole festival for free. A sampling of more shows scheduled for the Belvedere: July 8: An Evening of Show Tunes with Tyler Michaels King and Friends; July 15: Bastille Day with Café Accordion Orchestra; Aug. 20-21: The New Standards. All are ticketed. *There will also be a fall Twin Cities Jazz Festival at Mears Park on Sept. 17-18. We’ll tell you more about that as soon as we can.

At Downtown Park in Hopkins: The Sunset Series. Thursdays through Aug. 12.  Hear local favorites, emerging artists and some big names including Daisy Dillman (July 22), Sawyer’s Dream (July 29) and blues phenom Joyann Parker (Aug. 5). Concerts start at 7 p.m.

At 50th & France in Edina, Fridays through Aug. 27: Performances on the Plaza (P.O.P.). A new series curated by songwriter Katy Vernon. A sampling: This Friday, June 25: Munson Hicks Party Supplies; July 2: Chris Koza Trio; Aug. 20: Queen Drea and Kashimana Ahua. 4-7 pm. Free.

In the Excelsior Commons: Concerts in the Commons. Six free concerts, two Wednesdays each month in July, August and September, include “Free Fallin’ – A Tribute to Tom Petty” (July 14), Daisy Dillman (Aug. 18) and 70’s Magic Sunshine Band (Sept. 15). Food trucks and beverages from 5-9 p.m., music from 7-9 p.m. Free.

At the Hook & Ladder in Minneapolis: Under the Canopy. The Hook continues the “urban outdoor summer concert series” it began on May 1 with Cornbread Harris’ 94th birthday show. They’re still selling reserved seats in pods of 2, 4 and 6, but general admission single tickets have been added. A few of the concerts coming up: Saturday, June 26: The Big Wu; July 10: Carnage the Executioner Presents the Plant-Based Poets; July 25: Bluegrass Blowout.

At Icehouse on Eat Street in Minneapolis: Outdoor shows on the plaza. Icehouse started using its Nicollet Ave.-facing plaza for live music in fall 2020, when we were desperate to hear some and they were trying to stay alive in the pandemic. Now they’re making regular use of what has turned into a second stage. A sampling: This Saturday, June 26: Framework (Jay Epstein, Chris Olson, Chris Bates); July 2: Zacc Harris; July 10: Dave Huckfelt Residency with Jeremy Ylvisaker, J.T. Bates & Special Guests. All are ticketed.

At the Lyndale Gardens amphitheater in Richfield: Illusion Theater: Live at Lyndale Gardens. Illusion calls this “live theater” but there’s music in nearly everything, so go for it. The series includes a dozen live events on 10 Wednesdays and two especially-kid-friendly Saturdays, all free. A sampling: Wednesday, July 14: Kevin Kling, Simone Perrin and Dan Chouinard. Wednesday, July 28: Ragamala Dance. Saturday, Aug 5: Open Eye Theatre’s “The Driveway Tour.” Wednesday, Sept. 1: T. Mychael Rambo and Roberta Carlson. Wednesday, Sept. 8: Black Table Arts Presents a  Celebration of Spoken Word. Wednesday events start at 6:30 or 7 p.m., Saturdays at 11. Rain-out days information here.

In Mears Park in downtown St. Paul, Wednesdays through Sept. 1: Live Jazz at Mears Park. Presented by the Twin Cities Jazz Festival every Wednesday from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. A sampling: Tonight (Wednesday, June 23): Walker West Music Academy Youth Jazz.; July 7: Gypsy Mania Hot Club; July 21: Kavyesh Kaviraj; Sept. 1: Mac Santiago and the Jazz Central All Stars.

In Mears Park in downtown St. Paul, Thursdays from July 8 through Aug. 26: Lowertown Sounds (formerly Music in Mears). A great lineup, plus food trucks. A sampling: July 8: Flamin’ Oh’s; Kiss the Tiger opens. July 29: Salsa del Soul; Atlantis Quartet opens. Aug. 19: The New Standards; Lucy Michelle opens. Aug. 26: Heiruspecs. 6-9:30 p.m. Free.

Courtesy of the artists
On the lawn at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, Tuesdays in July: Bands on the Boulevard. Free. July 6: Roe Family Singers (“Minneappalachian” music); July 13: Bluedog (Native American blues); July 20: Malamanya (vintage Afro-Latino melodies); July 27: Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra (big band swing). 5:45-8 p.m. Free.

At the Minnesota State Fair: 2021 Free Stage Entertainment. The Grandstand is still only partly booked (Miranda Lambert, Doobie Brothers, Tim McGraw), but the Fair on Tuesday released a list of more than 100 acts and 900 shows spanning its 12-day run (Aug. 26-Sept. 6), all free with admission. Some examples (on the web page, click the names for times and places): Davina and the Vagabonds, NUR-D, Dr. Mambo’s Combo, Café Accordion Orchestra, Cornbread Harris, Jack Brass Band, the Legendary Wailers, Monroe Crossing, the Neighborhood Trio (Steve Roehm, Nick Salisbury, Dan Schwartz), Sister Sledge.

At Plymouth Church in Minneapolis, in the parking lot: 2021 Plymouth Summer Music Series. Three free concerts on Tuesdays in July. The opening concert on July 6, “New Deal Ditties and Wartime Warbles (Songs from Broadway)” was created by Vern Sutton. July 13: Bluegrass from Monroe Crossing. July 20: Jearlyn and Jevetta Steele with Sanford Moore on keys. All three have rain dates: July 7, 15 and 21. All 7 p.m.

At the Rog Amphitheatre in Roseville Central Park: Live @ the Rog! Summer Performance Series. Music and sometimes dance on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays through Aug. 15, starting at 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. (check the calendar). A sampling: July 1: University of Minnesota Alumni Band; July 18: Duniya Drum & Dance (West African dance); Aug. 8: Iranian Inspirations.; Aug. 15: Enso Daiko (Japanese Taiko drumming).

On the lush green hill beside the Walker Art Center: Hillside Jazz. The summer concert series that began on June 3 with Irreversible Entanglements featuring Moor Mother (and guest Douglas Ewart) continues Friday, July 2, with jaimie branch’s FLY or DIE and Friday, Aug. 6, with Joel Ross Good Vibes. 7 p.m. Free. Watch the Walker’s Summer Ahead calendar for more outdoor music events, like Hillside Beats (Honey + Fresh Fruit) on July 1, Hillside Soul on Aug. 5 (PaviElle + Ahanti + Tiyo) and Sounds for Silents on Aug. 19 (FPA).

Leslie Vincent and Emily Dussault, The Champagne Drops
Leslie Vincent and Emily Dussault, The Champagne Drops
On West 7th Place in St. Paul (the pedestrian mall between Wabasha and St. Peter), starting July 22: St. Paul Summer Sunlight Performance Series. Park Square Theatre and the St. Paul Downtown Alliance have joined forces to offer a welcome-back-to-downtown series of 10 free performances, some at lunchtime (12 noon) and some during happy hour (starting at 4:30 p.m.). A few Happy Hour examples: Thursday, Aug. 5: Ready Freddie: A Queen Experience; Thursday, Aug. 2: The Champagne Drops; Thursday, Sept. 23: The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society.