SummerStage drops line-up of free in-person shows for the 2021 season

Photo: Merissa Blitz

New York City’s free concert series is coming back with a bang this summer.

On June 3, Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage officially announced the line-up of free in-person shows for the 2021 season. This year, SummerStage’s line-up will include performers that have personal ties to New York City.

The in-person shows are returning to Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, and The Coney Island Amphitheater. Performances will also be live-streamed on SummerStageAnywhere.org, artist approval and rights permitting.

“The last year has been enormously difficult for our city, but New York City’s parks have provided needed respite. Now, our parks will help us re-engage with one another, generating the unique energy that is sparked only by experiencing live performance collectively,” said Heather Lubov, City Parks Foundation’s Executive Director.  “This year’s SummerStage line-up reflects our city’s tenacity and spirit, its vibrancy and creativity. We are thrilled to be back.”

The festival will kick off on June 17 with a free concert featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis at Central Park. On June 19, Harlem will have a special Juneteenth celebration with an outdoor screening of “Summer of Soul” followed by performances at The Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park featuring Questlove and surprise guests.

On July 24, Sun Ra Arkestra, who performed at the inaugural SummerStage concert at the Central Park Bandshell in 1986, will perform alongside female jazz ensemble Sistazz of the Nitty Gritty in Central Park. Dance will take center stage on July 25 with Dance IS!, a one-of-a-kind show featuring artists from Rennie Harris Puremovement, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Parsons Dance, A.I.M, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with special guest Madison McFerrin, and Soles of Duende with guest artist Asha Griffith. On July 31, New York’s DJ legends The Originals will return to SummerStage for an incredible dance party.

Heading into August, SummerStage alum Tito Nieves will perform in Central Park on Aug. 1 for a night of salsa music. On Aug. 8, the Metropolitan Opera will return to Central Park to present a summer recital for the Met Opera Stars. New York City electronic musician Marc Rebillet will perform on Aug. 14 alongside DJ and record producer DJ Premier (D’Angelo, Nas, Kanye West) and Harlem bass player Brady Watt, and on Aug. 15 Brooklyn’s rap duo Armand Hammer (Elucid and Billy Woods) and prolific hip-hop producer The Alchemist will take the stage with Moor Mother, KAYANA and Fielded. Brooklyn-based Afrobeat band Antibalas will perform on Aug. 21

The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival will return for its 29th year on Aug. 28-29 at the Marcus Garvey Park/Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Harlem. The two-day festival will honor the legacy of Parker with performances by Jazziz Magazine’s 2007 Person of the Year, Donald Harrison and his quartet, performing “Charlie Parker with Strings” along with The Harlem Symphony Orchestra on Aug. 28 and the Charlie Parker Centennial Celebration on Aug. 29. 

Dom Salvador will perform with his Samba Jazz Sextet on Sept. 4, and Erica Campbell will perform on Sept. 11. On Sept. 19, New York icon Patti Smith and her band will make their return to SummerStage.

Six concerts are coming to the Seaside Park Community Arts Center & the Coney Island Amphitheater. Kicking it off on July 17 will be Grammy-award-winning disco hitmaker Gloria Gaynor with Harlem-via-East London selector DJ Stormin Norman. Latin Grammy Award-winner La India will take the stage on July 18, and multi-platinum R&B artist Ginuwine with special guests will celebrate legendary hip-hop DJ Funk Flex’s birthday on Aug. 7. On Aug. 29, there will be a tribute to Michael Jackson with a performance of Invincible which will be kicked off by Bronx DJ KS 360. More SummerStage at the Coney Island Amphitheater shows will be announced at a later date.

SummerStage will also host several paid benefit shows throughout the summer, including jazz-pop musician Chris Botti on June 20, funk icon George Clinton on June 27, jazz-funk New Orleans-based jam band Galactic will be joined by Tank and the Bangas’ vocalist Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph and special guest MonoNeon on July 11.  The Bowery Presents benefit shows will include hip-hop/rap-rocker Machine Gun Kelly on Sept. 13, Boston-based pop, rock, R&B, and jazz group Lake Street Dive on Aug. 24, folk-rock band Dawes on Sept. 17, and folk-rock co-bill Indigo Girls with Ani DiFranco on September 21 with more to be announced. Tickets for the benefit shows must be purchased in advance for all benefit performances and are on sale now at SummerStage.org.

“We are so thrilled to bring SummerStage back for all New Yorkers to enjoy in-person, outside, in parks again this summer. The artists performing this summer represent a true sense of resiliency in their own art and deep connection to New York City,” said Erika Elliott, Executive Artistic Director of SummerStage. “While we continued to present artists of all genres for the past year with SummerStage Anywhere digitally, we are eager to provide artists the platform to perform to a live audience and to bring communities together to enjoy the live, spirited experience that is truly unique to our city and festival.” 

Meanwhile, SummerStage is partnering with Rooftop Films to host a free drive-in film and performance at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on June 24. In association with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Jr., the event will include a screening of “Monsoon Wedding” followed by a performance by internationally recognized artist Falu. SummerStage and Rooftop FIlms will also curate a schedule of short film screenings throughout the summer.

“Capital One is proud to continue our long-standing support for SummerStage as the title sponsor,” said Michael Slocum, President, Commercial Banking and Northeast Regional President, Capital One. “This city is resilient and free live music and dance performances bring neighborhoods to life. After a challenging year, we are committed to supporting New York City’s revival by sponsoring SummerStage performances and keeping them free and open for all New Yorkers to enjoy.” 

Tickets are required to be reserved ahead of the free and benefit shows and are available on SummerStage.org. Ticket reservations will be open for request on Monday, June 7 at 12 p.m. ET. Requesting a ticket does not guarantee entry due to performances being held at a reduced capacity due to social distancing requirements.

For the most up-to-date lineup, follow SummerStage on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and visit SummerStage.org for festival information.



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