Summer Music Preview 

New York City has the best free outdoor summer music in the entire world. Better than France, better than China, even better than Spain. So don't miss it.

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311, Ziggy Marley, The Expendables
That this is sold out makes us question the tastes of New York's general population and has us wondering if everyone really wanted Blake Lewis to win the sixth season of American Idol after all... Everyone, except for you, dear reader, who we like to think staunchly agrees that rap-metal-ska fusion only sounded good in 1997 and finds joy in the fact that a band called the Expendables is also playing. June 25, 5pm. SOLD OUT.

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Explosions in the Sky, Constantines
The sprawling post-rock of Explosions in the Sky can make almost anything seem more dramatic, so feel free just to stand sort of near Central Park's Summerstage, lending gravitas to your normal park activities. Bonus points for reenacting the deep drama of their Friday Night Lights film score with a touch-football game that's just way more emotionally devastating than usual. June 30, 5:30pm. $25.

Matisyahu, Umphrey's McGee
Matisyahu sorta looks like this guy we know from South Williamsburg. Except in this case, he happens to be a hugely successful reggae-infused hip-hopper with a flair for beatboxing. Same beard and hat though. July 9, 5:30pm. $35.

Alpha Blondy & The Solar System, Lee "Scratch" Perry & Dubblestandart
Alpha Blondy is a West African reggae singer who's achieved widespread notoriety pretty much everywhere in the world except here in the States, despite winning a Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 1993. He's known as much for his political activism as his music, specifically fighting for causes relevant to his native Ivory Coast. July 19, 3pm. FREE.

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M. Ward, Mike Watt & Nels Cline, Yuka Honda and Dougie Bowne
If there's one show this summer where we want all the artists to get onstage together and take part in a good, old-fashioned all-star jam it's this one. M. Ward, best known for his folksy, rickety Americana, is no slouch on the guitar. Wilco guitarist Nels Cline is one of the most innovative and recognizable guitarists alive, and Mike Watt has been known to play a spot of bass. August 1, 7pm. FREE.

Bela Fleck and Toumani Diabate
If one instrument represents dusty roads and the heat of summer, it's the banjo. Lucky for us, Bela Fleck plays one better than just about anyone out there. He'll be joined by Toumani Diabat, an acclaimed Malian harpist, for an evening of laidback vibes appealing to both Dave Matthew fans and hardcore roots enthusiasts. A screening of Throw Down Your Heart, a documentary about Fleck's trip to Africa to explore the origins of the banjo, follows. August 3, 7:30 pm.

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Connor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band with Jenny Lewis
After two years of July 4th shows featuring first Belle and Sebastian (Scottish) and then New Pornographers (Canadian), they finally got a couple Yanks to help you celebrate your independence. Oberst and his Mystic Valley Band will be playing selections from their quite good new record, while Jenny Lewis will likely feature songs from her scattered but also good Acid Tongue. Then they'll probably sing some songs together and you will wish you were as attractive as they are. July 4, 3:30pm. FREE.

Go to for more information.

We sometimes wonder what it would have been like to be at the original Woodstock, but then we quickly remember that we probably would have skipped it because it was hot, there were no beds, and no television, let alone DVRs to record everything we would have been missing. These four-night series commemorating the 40th anniversary of the festival are far more palatable. And Richie Havens totally uses his thumb to fret the low E string, which is still awesome. 7pm, FREE.

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