As we’re writing this, it’s one of the nicer days we’ve had so far this year: we stepped outside earlier and marveled at the direct sunshine from a high-in-the-sky sun, and the Vitamin D that flooded our body seemed to wash away a depression we hadn’t realized was (apparently) seasonally induced. Hey, where did all of these beautiful people walking around come from? Have they been in New York all this time? Now we’re sitting at our desk, stealing wistful glances at the windows and the sunlight beyond, settling back into controlled-temperature melancholy. Our point: there’s nothing finer than being outside when the weather’s warm, which is why we compiled this list of 50 awesome outdoor events in Brooklyn you can attend before August ends and we all revert to September sorrow.
Photo by bklyn haus
Sure, a show anchored by The Shins and Man Man could lead us to a lot of silly jokes about mid-2000s nostalgia slowly creeping in to usurp the current 90s craze. But in all seriousness, these are two solid bands very committed to giving audiences memorable concert experiences, and we always love to see Williamsburg Park put to good use.
May 26, Williamsburg Park, $45
Unquestionably one of the greatest MCs of all time, New York’s own Rakim was a legend from the first LP he ever put out. Paid in Full, released in 1987 with partner Eric B., broke ground with innovative sampling techniques and a lyrical flow that rappers are still trying to catch up to over 25 years later. With three more records as a duo, and five more records as a solo artist, Rakim has much more classic material to draw from than that.
June 5, Summerstage at Red Hook Park, FREE
Mavis Staples, Cody Chesnutt
Thanks to her recent collaborations with Jeff Tweedy, soul legend Mavis Staples has seen her fan base expanded, which we’re guessing will make for one of the highest energy shows the Bandshell sees all year.
June 14, Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park, $3
One of two free concerts in McCarren this year as part of our Northside Festival, this one is the Walkmen’s last New York show of 2013, and it’s also an opportune time to check out a slough of great openers, including Phosphorescent, Friend Roulette, and Abadabad.
June 15, McCarren Park, FREE (RSVP required)
Whether you’re taking a date, a group of friends, or even a group of children, there’s no one who won’t have a good time sitting on the grass watching Calexico play the park. We defy you not to get up and dance.
June 15, Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park, $3
This show in the park promises to be one of the biggest events in Northside history, and a pretty good dance party, to boot. And anyway, haven’t you always kind of wanted to see hundreds of people shimmy along to “Losing You” at the same time?
June 16, McCarren Park, FREE (RSVP required)
The first time we heard this band was in the 90s; we were outside a Tom Ze concert at Irving Plaza when someone handed us a Luaka Bop rereleased cassette single of “Baby.” Cuz, remember in the 90s when the psychedelic Brazilian music from the 60s known as Tropicalia had a brief resurgence (thanks mostly to an interest from David Byrne and Beck)? Well, that cassette single blew our minds, and we can’t wait to see them in Brooklyn all these years later.
June 29, Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park, $3
Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival
Now in its ninth year, this multiday festival returns with headliners Redman, EPMD, Soul Understated, Pusha T, and Dizzy Wright. More artists and events have yet to be announced, but the ones that already have—including a tribute to Adam Yauch—are enough to have us psyched.
July 10-13, Brooklyn Bridge Park, $20-75
Belle and Sebastian
Stuart Murdoch is one of the finest pop songwriters of our lifetime. (Just gonna lead with the cold truth.) The last time his band played an outdoor show in Brooklyn, it was the best. Since they aren’t touring for a specific new record, this year’s Prospect Park show should have an even higher ratio of classic old hits. Plus, you get the added bonus of New Jersey’s finest indie-rock lifers, Yo La Tengo, their proximity to B&S making this show resemble a live reenactment of a mix-tape you made for a crush in 1998. Swoon!
July 11, Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park, $42.50
Odd Future and Meek Mill
If you can think of anything that sounds like a better, crazier time than an Odd Future and Meek Mill bill that also doubles as beloved Hot 97 DJ Pete Rosenberg’s second annual birthday show, we would very much like to hear it.
July 20, Williamsburg Park, $42
New Order, Holy Ghost!
New Order didn’t abandon all of their lyrical angst after Joy Division singer Ian Curtis left them permanently, but the rush of their beats, synths, and riffs makes it near impossible to mope through their extensive catalog of 80s pop hits. In the summer twilight, the atmosphere should be downright dreamy. DFA Records’ Holy Ghost!, who’ve been focused on emotionally accessible dance floor jams for years, are an enticing opener and fitting heir.
July 24, Williamsburg Park, $50
Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds Five, Guster
Do you really want to fight back against the insane current of 90s nostalgia that’s been going on for the past couple of years, or do you want to ride the wave and maybe have a nice time in Prospect Park? That’s what we thought. Plus, if you choose this as the night to have too many beers and scream at your friends the part of that Barenaked Ladies song about “chickidy Chinese chicken” or whatever, well, you will probably not be alone.
July 30, Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park, $49.50
Sheila E at BAM’s R&B Festival
Best known as Prince’s virtuosic drummer during his untouchable mid-80s peak, Sheila Escovedo’s amazing career also included collaborations with Ringo Starr, Diana Ross, Beyonce, and Marvin Gaye. (She was also the band leader of Magic Johnson’s doomed late night talk show, but we’ll just let that one slide.) Being one of the baddest of badass drummers in pop history is more than enough to earn her center stage at this free show.
August 1, Metrotech, FREE
Beck’s been dancing around to his own 808 beat lately, producing other artists’ records, grabbing famous friends to make cover albums in his home studio, publishing a sheet music-only record for just anyone out there to suss out. But he was one of the most committed performers in alternative music, even when everyone assumed he was being ironic. It won’t just be goofy, because that’s never all it was. August 4, Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park, $50
They Might Be Giants
Making smart, silly rock music since moving here in 1981, They Might Be Giants might be the original heroes of the Brooklyn underground. Nanobots, released in March, is the 16th studio album of their very prolific lifespan. On it, the band races through pop moves like the old pros they are, delivering sticky hooks in under a minute before motoring on to the next.
August 10, Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park, $3
Mad Decent Block Party
This is always a reliably good sweaty time, and this has been especially true since they moved the festivities from the South Street Seaport across the river to Williamsburg Park. With a lineup anchored by Major Lazer, Flosstradamus, and Dillon Francis, there are ample reasons (besides the high ratio of people who neglected to really wear clothes) to stop by.
August 10, Williamsburg Park, $33.50
Once again, The L Magazine brings you your favorite 80s and 90s movies once a week for the whole summer—plus food trucks and alcohol vendors—starting with Can’t Hardly Wait (for which we can’t hardly... oh forget it) and ending with Speed. Actually, the series ends with an audience vote. Almost our entire editorial staff voted for Heathers, but, you know, you can vote for whatever you want—as long as it comes from a place of sincere nostalgia.
Wednesdays, July 10-August 14, Sundown, McCarren Park, FREE
Now in its 17th year, this film series will once again bring movies to outdoor venues around the city all summer long. Movies include sneak peaks at buzzy indies—Kings of Summer, Drinking Buddies, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints—plus hot docs (Towheads, Bending Steel, etc.), short-film programs and more. Venues include the roofs of the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus and Industry City in Sunset Park, plus spots in Williamsburg, Downtown Brooklyn, Red Hook, Clinton Hill, Coney Island and Fort Greene.
Through August 17, Various times and locations and prices
Syfy Movies with a View
Since most of us aren’t wealthy enough to summer elsewhere or even take one of these “vacations” people keep talking about, we’re stuck in New York for the hot months, which is why we’re grateful for this screening series: each film will be set in a different city—8 Mile, Vertigo, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, etc.—allowing us to travel the world vicariously, one week at a time Good enough.
Thursdays, July 11-August 29, Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1, Sundown, FREE
Friday Movie Night at Narrows Botanical Gardens
Almost 20 years ago, neighborhood residents turned a neglected stretch of Bay Ridge greenspace into one of the prettiest darn small parks in the borough. Some Friday evenings in summer, they set up a big white screen on their big lawn and show old movies. The schedule isn’t out yet, but keep an eye out.
Fridays, Narrows Botanical Gardens, Sundown
Soul Food Junkies
Byron Hurt’s documentary looks at this history of soul food and its role in black culture, both positive and negative. Before the screening, the politically conscious hip-hop duo Dead Prez will perform.
June 16, Herbert Von King Park, 7pm, FREE
Dracula, with the Philip Glass Ensemble
Celebrate Brooklyn tried this once before—a screening of the Bela Lugosi classic accompanied by a live performance of Philip Glass’s score—but an epic thunderstorm chased everyone out of the park halfway through. So they’re giving it another go. Here’s to clear skies!
July 13, Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park Bandshell, 7:30pm, $3
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Even cooler-sounding than the Dracula event is this one: a screening of last year’s Academy Award-nominated hit in a new print without a musical track so Dan Romer and Wordless Music Orchestra can perform director-composer Benh Zeitlin’s score live.
August 8, Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park Bandshell, 8pm, $3
Food Truck Rally
Anytime someone manages to convene a critical mass of some of the best food trucks in Brooklyn, you can count on us to be there. And, for the first and third Sundays of each month until October, the Prospect Park Alliance is doing just that. This year, their annual Food Truck Rally will convene the likes of the Red Hook Lobster Pound, Coolhaus, and Gorilla Cheese in Grand Army Plaza for your eating-and-strolling-in-the-park pleasure. If you can think of a more perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, we’d like to hear it.
First and third Sundays, through October 20, Grand Army Plaza
Nathan’s Famous Hot-Dog-Eating Contest
This one really needs no introduction. This year’s contest will have a bit of extra significance given the battering Nathan’s took during Superstorm Sandy and their heroic work to reopen in time for the summer Coney Island crowds. Pay your respects.
July 4, Nathan’s Famous
It’s basically a GoogaMooga every weekend: Saturdays in Williamsburg’s East River State Park, Sundays in DUMBO’s Brooklyn Bridge Park, 75 or so vendors turn out to sell their best foodstuffs and food-related items.
Saturdays and Sundays, 11am-6pm
Renegade Craft Fair
For close to a decade, this has not only showcased some of the best DIY craftmakers in Brooklyn, but also made it way easier than usual to actually find and purchase all the cool stuff they’re making (and believe us, it never fails to be cool). If you really have your life together, this would be an ideal place to get your holiday shopping out of the way, but if not, a good time will still be had by all. Did we mention there’s lots of food, too?
June 22-23, East River State Park
Fort Greene’s Juneteenth Arts Festival
What could possibly be better than a scenic, outdoor summer arts festival in Fort Greene, you ask? A scenic, outdoor summer arts festival in Fort Greene with incredible wordplay in its name and major historical significance—it’s so named after June 19, 1865, the day when the last slaves in the US were emancipated, which has since become a nationwide day of celebration and reflection. Fort Greene’s is thrown by the Cooperative Culture Collective and features world-class dance and music performances, plenty of family-friendly activities, and even public health screenings.
June 15, Culyer Gore Park
Fort Greene Park Literary Festival
Every year, the New York Writers Coalition does the important work of keeping young writers not only busy but truly engaged for the summer with a series of free creative writing workshops held throughout the city. Registration for this year’s classes starts on June 10, with classes kicking off July 13, and the whole thing culminates at the end of August with the Fort Greene Park Literary Festival, a lovely day of readings from this summer’s crop of students alongside the acclaimed Brooklyn authors with whom they’ve been working.
August 24, 3pm, Fort Greene Park
Bushwick Block Party
In the few short years since it kicked off, this block party has already exploded into a reliably packed jumble of local food vendors (led by Roberta’s, the ones who are throwing the whole thing), dancing (thanks to DJ’s from the Tiki Disco lineup), and an assortment of other summer-appropriate diversions (think photobooths and water games). In other words, everything you’d expect from any self-respecting block party. And knowing Roberta’s, this year’s festivities will only be bigger and better, and, as usual for the brave souls who line up early for the first couple of hours, it comes with the promise of free margherita slices. Well worth the wait.
July 27, 261 Moore Street
Bushwick Open Studios
Granted, a good deal of this festival takes place, by necessity, indoors in artists’ studios. But wandering the Bushwick streets, popping in and out of exhibitions (and maybe a few bars along the way) is half the fun of BOS, which promises to be bigger than ever this year. If the sheer volume of options (569 registered studio shows, and a separate music festival to boot) is overwhelming, we recommend starting at Brooklyn Fireproof—which has exhibits both in its outdoor area and the studio space above—and working from there.
May 31-June 2, All Over Bushwick
Brooklyn Pride Parade and Festival
In Marty Markowitz’s final State of the Borough speech this year, he said Brooklyn had more lesbians than anywhere else on the Eastern seaboard. Which, good for us! Let’s celebrate our pride at this annual hootenanny-in-motion.
June 8, Fifth Avenue between Sterling Place and 9th Street
Photo by Winnie Au
Red Hook Fest
This annual celebration of local arts and culture, now 20-years-old, returns for the first time since Sandy, which makes it all the more important that you come out and support artists who’re still getting back on their feet. There’ll be a dance company, a rock band, a marching band, kayak rides, dancing, and more. Nobody does a party like Red Hook!
May 30-June 1, Louis J. Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier, And Elsewhere
The annual Coney Island burlesque will only happen this year if you donate to the Kickstarter: its sponsor, Coney Island USA, has a budget shortfall of $100,000 it needs to crowdsource before June 3, otherwise it can’t afford to host the 30-year-old parade. As they say: Don’t Be Shellfish. Donate.
June 22, 1pm, Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk
Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Fair
Just like in Park Slope, Fifth Avenue is the cooler little cousin of major retail avenues in Bay Ridge. It’s less boutique-y but also has a lot of the neighborhood’s best spots: the wine bar, the pretzel place, the great liquor store, the out-of-this-world Turkish restaurant, and so on. Come get a taste of all it has to offer at this annual street festival.
June 2, 12-6pm, Bay Ridge Avenue to 85th Street
Storefront Art Walk
You know what else Fifth Avenue has? The annual SAW, which teams businesses with artists to give storefronts a little pizzaz, from painted charcoal-bags outside a Turkish grocery to the streaks of color emanating from painted bottles of booze on the windows of the liquor store next door.
Through June 21, Ovington Avenue to 82nd Street
Meanwhile, down on Third Avenue, 10-block stretches will be closed to traffic this summer, creating half-mile pedestrian plazas for music, art, al fresco dining and more, with local cultural groups on hand for glad-handing.
July 19, 26, 80th Street to 90th Street; August 9, 16, Bay Ridge Avenue to 80th Street
They do something similar to Summer Stroll up north, when chunks of Bedford Avenue are rendered car-free so we can think of other ways we might use such space. Last year there was yoga, “pop-up parks,” chalk, concerts, play areas, workshops and much more. Whose streets? Our streets!
Saturdays, June 8-22
Photo by Scott Eder
You know what’s just as good as Shakespeare in the Park? Shakespeare in any park. Which, as big Shakespeare fans, is one reason we love summer so much: cuz everybody and their mother tries to capitalize on the popularity of the Public Theater’s Central Park series by doing their own play in their own community. Like Smith Street Stage, which chose this Roman tragedy for a few performances in Carroll Gardens.
June 28-July 2, July 5-7, July 11-14, 7pm, Carroll Park, FREE
Midsummer Night’s Dream
Theater 2020 takes on the lighter side of Shakespeare with this popular comedy about love and fairies—promised, in this production, to be “very swinging musical fairies.”
June 7-9, 7pm, Brooklyn Bridge Park, FREE
Park Slope’s Piper Theatre, once known for its Shakespeare productions, has in recent years expanded its focus to other classic texts. (While we love Shakespeare, of course not everyone can just do Shakespeare all the time. Or can they?) This year, they kick off their season in Washington Park with Mary Shelley’s classic monster story, accompanied by original short films and live music.
Thursday-Saturday, July 5-20, 8:30pm, Old Stone House, FREE
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
In rep, Piper will also be performing this classic musical, which is probably a little more kid-friendly than the play about the reanimated monster whose body is assembled from various corpses.
Sat-Sun, July 6-20, 7pm, Old Stone House, FREE
Theatermaker Randy Weiner and director Alfred Preisser teamed up to retell the classic story of beauty killing the beast with a hip-hop theme: Kong is a South Bronx MC in the 70s pursued by the execs of a failing record label, who hire a secretary Faye Wellington “to capture Kong and bring him to civilization.” Ha!
July 30-August 1, 8pm, Herbert von King Park, FREE
Using original music by Tomas Doncker and reimagined songs by Howlin’ Wolf, Mando Alvarado has conceived a love story, set in Hell’s Kitchen, about a man who made a deal with the devil now desperately looking for someone else’s soul for Satan to take.
August 2-3, 8pm, Herbert von King Park, FREE
Green-Wood Cemetery Memorial Day Concert
For the 15th straight year, Brooklyn’s favorite cemetery brings visitors onto the grounds to hear the InterSchools Orchestra of New York play a program that includes at least some pieces by the cemetery’s permanent residents: Leonard Bernstein, Fred Ebb, Louis Gottschalk, and more. Bring a blanket.
May 27, 2:30pm, Green-Wood Cemetery, FREE
Make Music New York
This biannual event, featuring more than 1,000 free outdoor concerts in all five boroughs, is always better in the summer. As of press time, the schedule had not yet been released, but there’s always interesting stuff in Brooklyn and elsewhere. (Last year we saw an orchestra perform from different boats in Central Park, and then this Philip Glass vocal piece in Times Square which you could just show up to and participate in.) It might be worth taking the day off work—or at least a long lunch.
June 21, All Day, All Over NYC, FREE
The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series
We say this every year, but we still long for the days—only a few years ago!—when the Met would do a whole opera with a full orchestra in Prospect Park, because ain’t nothing lovelier than drinking wine under the stars and listening to great music. Well, that’s why we’re still happy for these stripped-down concerts, this year featuring soprano Erin Morley, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, and tenor Stephen Costello with piano accompaniment. Good enough.
July 19, 7pm, Brooklyn Bridge Park, FREE
New York Philharmonic
While the Met has cut back on its park performances—to save money, and to focus more resources on its Live in HD series—the New York Philharmonic continues to put on parks performances with a full orchestra. This year, they do Dvorak’s Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth, which is a great fucking symphony. Music director Alan Gilbert himself will conduct.
July 10, 8pm, Prospect Park, FREE
Red Hook Jazz Festival
One evening, we went bar hopping in Red Hook, and it seemed like every place we stopped in had some hot little jazz combo that was killing it. The neighborhood knows from jazz, which is why you should check out this homegrown festival, now in its sixth year, which features mostly local talent.
June 9 and 16, 1pm, The Urban Meadow, $10/day
Jazz at Lincoln Center in Brooklyn
Well, this is supposed to be a concert for kids, but I bet they’d let you in. And you definitely want to go, because this band is like the New York Philharmonic of jazz—a little stuffier maybe than what’s cooking after midnight at Small’s, but still swingin’. And damn tight. Also, Wynton Marsalis is going to read Ezra Keats children’s stories during the break, which sounds fun.
June 8, 4pm, Prospect Park Bandshell, FREE