Guide to free family summer concerts
Few things say "summer" like listening to music in a park. Here are a bunch of chances to do just that.
Editor's note: updated for summer 2019
Summer is a great time for music lovers. Musicians of all kinds venture out of doors and it's a great time to check out new acts for free. It's really fun to dance with your kids.
It's educational too. In a world saturated with recorded music, it's helpful for kids to see that music is something made by wondrously skilled human hands.
Plus, because it's a free concert, in a public place, it is easy to move on if your kid for some reason would rather be doing something else, so you can experiment a little.
You won't see many people you've heard of featured in summer concert series lineups, but that doesn't mean you're in the dark about choosing which ones to go to. Most bands that can command a booking have a good sampling of YouTube videos, so you can check in advance as to whether a band is likely to please.
Here are some of the places you and your kids can catch free live music this summer. Notice I say "some of." At the height of summer, neighborhood and specialty festivals pop up all over the city, and many of them feature live performances. So you never know what you are going to run into.
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July 12-14Stage at junction of Ballard Ave NW and 22nd Ave NW
KEXP, the station championing independent music everywhere, is the co-presenter for the music here, and the lineup reflects that. 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, July 12, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 13 and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday July 14.
July 12-14Stage on California Ave between SW Genessee St and SW Oregon St
This big street fair features a long list of local bands performing at its main stage. Concerts start on Friday, July 12 at 5:30 p.m., continue past 10 p.m., go from 11:30 a.m. until past 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 13, and then go from 11:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.-ish on Sunday, July 14.
Aug. 2-4Judkins Park, Seattle
"Umoja," the Swahili word for "unity," is the theme of this festival that celebrates African culture and heritage. There's a children's day and parade (Aug 3), and musical fun that includes African drum and dance, soul, reggae, gospel and hip-hop.
Noon-11 p.m. Friday Aug. 9101 Westlake Ave N
The festival stage on the lawn outside the South Lake Union Discovery center gives excellent views of the bands. There's a herd of food trucks, and the chance to watch a five-ton steamroller in action, printing letterpress posters.
5:30 p.m. Fridays, Aug. 2 to 23.Mural amphitheater, Seattle Center
KEXP curates this showcase of Seattle's independent music scene, in a series designed to be family friendly. With a scenic venue smack dab under the space needle, this series has a beer garden, food and all the amenities Seattle Center can offer.
6:30 p.m. Thursdays, July 18 to Aug. 22.2700 California Ave SW
The lineup of local acts mixes genres and ages, and concludes with on Aug. 22 with a chance to rock out with with Caspar Babypants, the children's performer identity of Chris Ballew, lead singer of the Presidents of the United States of America.
7 p.m. Wednesdays, July 10 to Aug. 21.2623 NE University Village St
The lineup includes folk rock, funk, and party cover bands. What they all have in common is that they are high energy and danceable. There's a kids' play area, food, and a beer garden.
Weekdays July 9 to Aug. 3110 downtown locations.
The series of concerts in 10 locations spans a variety of genres and energy levels.
Noon to 2 p.m. Thursdays, June 6 to Aug 29Cascade Playground, 333 Pontius Ave N
A rotating group of local musicians play Thursday afternoons in this South Lake Union playground.
2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays June through August, plus June 19, July 4, and Sep. 2.3015 NW 54th St
Community bands, orchestras and combos make up the lineup for these weekend afternoon concerts that take place in the Carl S. English Gardens next to the Hiram M. Chittenden locks.
Various evenings in JulyVolunteer Park, Yesler Terrace Park, Seattle Chinese Garden, Columbia Park and Freeway Park.
The main event in this series is Chamber Music in the Park, Saturday, July 27 at Volunteer Park Amphitheater. It starts off at 6 p.m. a "Community Play-Along" of volunteer audience members bringing their instruments to perform Elgar's "Serenade for Strings." Afterwards, festival musicians will perform. Leading to the big event is Music under the Stars, 7:30 p.m. on 12 different July evenings in five different parks, in which a student group performs from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., when park-goers can listen to the King FM broadcast of the chamber concert going on in Benaroya Hall.
10 a.m. Tuesdays, July 9 to Aug. 20Juanita Beach Park, 9703 NE Juanita Dr, Kirkland
A who's who of local children's entertainers takes the stage on Tuesday mornings at this Eastside lakefront park.