by Tom Nguyen
Let me be frank: I’m not a fan of these lists of free summer concerts all the big publications and cool kids come out with every year, for many reasons:
- Like how do you call yourself the “The Ultimate List” when you’re missing great free events like Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks in Leimert Park, Central Avenue Jazz Festival in South LA and Watts Towers Day of the Drum (that’s in its 136th year???) just to name a few. I’ll tell you why: These folks who deign to be authorities on Los Angeles either don’t step foot in communities of color or don’t care to include POC events.
- Then just because you have events in POC and immigrant communities doesn’t make it a culturally relevant and genuine event. Chinatown Summer Nights for example: seeing KCRW DJs spinning for a bunch of hipsters wearing Chinese coolie hats like a costume, while the neighborhood of mostly immigrant and poor folks is gentrifying, makes me want to puke.
- Yes there’s a lot of great free concerts bringing in great international acts as well as featuring local talent…Grand Performances, Skirball Cultural Center and Levitt Pavilion (kudos to Spaceland for their curation this summer!). But if you only focused on free free free, you’d miss out on other venues and nonprofit orgs like Hollywood Bowl, Ford Theatres, JACCC, MOLAA putting on amazing shows.
- Not every worthy band gets selected to play these free summer concert platforms, so I think it’s important to support our local bands during the summer as well as amazing visiting acts coming through.
- Where are the cultural and community festivals? Where are the film festivals? Again with those free lists…it doesn’t take a genius to just look at a bunch of calendars and compile them into a list. But if you’re not interacting and participating in communities of color and immigrant diaspora, you’re going to miss events like Hollywood Carnival, Nisei Week Japanese Festival in Little Tokyo, Cambodia Town Film Festival in Long Beach, 21st Annual Feria Agostina de Los Angeles in MacArthur Park, and so much deeper appreciation and awareness of the diversity of LA.
So if you only care about free concerts, read no further, and don’t even bother with those other lists…just go to socalsummerconcerts.com. I don’t know who puts that calendar together but it’s very convenient. Now if you do care about a wider range of summer events in LA, and you do care about supporting both local bands and venues who work hard to put on cultural relevant and important shows, then welcome. I spent a good week initially putting this list together and I will never call it a complete or ultimate list…I will continually add to the list as I hear of more events. And if you want a reminder of more awesome upcoming events as well as ticket giveaways to many of these shows, subscribe to our newsletter!