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Free for All: A Guide to Outdoor Summer Music Festivals in NYC

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Although some city slickers head for the hills during the summer — to the Hamptons, to Fire Island, to the Shore or to the Catskills — most music fans agree that New York City's outdoor summer concert fare can not be beat. Here are some of the myriad musical happenings we'll be at this summer.

      BAM Rhythm & Blues Festival in Downtown Brooklyn Get your funk and blues fix on your lunch break during the BAM Rhythm & Blues Festival festival. The legendary George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic headlines the free concert series. Other artists include Dionne Farris, Geri Allen and Timeline, Swamp Dogg and Maxi Priest. (Would that we all worked in Downtown Brooklyn on Thursdays!) The two-hour concerts start each Thursday at noon and run through August 4 at the MetroTech Commons. BAM Rhythm & Blues Festival kicks off on Thursday, in Brooklyn.

      SummerStage in all five boroughs This summer, City Parks Foundation will host its concert series at parks around the five boroughs. From salsa to hip-hop to classical to indie, there's something for concert goers of all ages and tastes.  Among those performers playing on the Central Park Mainstage are Yo-Yo Ma, Emmylou Harris, Wanda Jackson, Florence and the Machine, Vijay Iyer, Rakim, EPMD, DJ Funkmaster Flex (of Hot 97 fame) and Reggie Watts. Slick Rick and Xcstacy will play in Crotona Park, while Talib Kweli, Ozomatli and We Are Scientists will play in Red Hook Park. Music lovers can also enjoy the SummerStage Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series and the Go-Gos on the Good Morning America Summer Concert Series. SummerStage kicks off on Tuesday, at stages across the city's five boroughs.

      Tools of War True School NYC Summer Park Jams in the Bronx, Harlem and El Barrio Jorge "Fabel" Pabon and Christie Z-Pabon know all about the power of performance. As co-founders of the Tools of War series, their mission is to teach others about social and political issues through the medium of hip-hop culture. Hip-hop fans can get educated at free Tools of War Jams throughout the summer — the performance series consists of Spanish Harlem Hip-Hop at El Barrio's White Park, the 9th Annual Crotona Park Jams in the Bronx, and Digger's Delight at Harlem's St. Nicholas Park. On June 16, from 5 to 9 P.M., don't miss the fierce lyrical battles of seminal old school hip-hop DJs Tony Tone and GrandMaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers. Also look out for performances by b-boys, b-girls and by DJ GrandWizzard Theodore of The Fantastic Freaks crew on July 21 in Crotona Park and on August 16 in St. Nicholas Park. The 2011 Tools of War True School NYC Summer Park Jams continue through August 30, with the potential for an extra month of jamming through September, in Manhattan and the Bronx. Kicks off June 9, in the Bronx and Manhattan.

      Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Part Bandshell Celebrate Brooklyn! has unveiled its line-up for the 2011 season, and it does not disappoint. On June 10, Andrew Bird will kick off the concert series, only to be followed by Ra Ra Riot, The London Souls, Junip, Justin Townes Earle, Steel Pulse, Los Lobos, Raekwon, Sufjan Stevens and a number of other well-known (and soon-to-be-known) performers. Shows at the Prospect Park Bandshell fall on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through early August. Most concerts feature three or more artists or groups. Celebrate Brooklyn! kicks off June 10, in Brooklyn.

      River to River Festival in Lower Manhattan Now in its tenth year, the River to River Festival offers summer concertgoers an eclectic mix — from alt. rock to opera — of performances in  Lower Manhattan. Outdoor concert venues include Battery Park, Governors Island and The Seaport. This summer, expect artists such as the New York City Opera, Garland Jeffreys and My Teenage Stride to perform. River to River also includes theatrical performances, movie showings and poetry readings. All festival events are free, although prospective attendees should take note of first-come, first-served seating policies. River to River kicks off on June 19, in Manhattan.

      Naumburg Orchestral Concerts at the Central Park Naumburg Bandshell This summer, the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts series returns for another season of free, outdoor classical music performances. Since 1905, these shows have entertained the New York community. Since 1923, they have done so from the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park. This season, performers include The Knights, The Matt Herkowitz Trio, and the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players. Naumburg Orchestral Concerts kicks off on June 20, in Manhattan.

      HOT SUMMER NIGHTS! in Brighton Beach Each weekend in July, the HOT SUMMER NIGHTS! festival takes over Manhattan Beach. The concert series, which is held at the outdoor bandshell of Kingsborough Community College's oceanfront campus, kicks off with the Stars and Stripes Forever Concert, featuring the Brooklyn-based Community Wind Ensemble & Concert Band. Concertgoers can enjoy memorable Broadway compositions performed by the Chestnut Brass Company, a swing concert and the tunes of popular nightclub group The Birdland Big Band. Free, performances begin at 8 P.M. HOT SUMMER NIGHTS! kicks off on July 2, in Brooklyn.

          Washington Square Music Festival in Manhattan The Washington Square Music Festival kicks off with a performance of W.A. Mozart’s "The Impresario" and Schubert’s "Unfinished Symphony." The free concert series founded in 1953 is rooted in classical music, but groups will perform jazz, opera and vocals in addition to traditional orchestral fare. The concerts take place on Tuesdays at 8 P.M. at the Main Stage in Washington Square Park. Washington Square Music Festival kicks off on July 12, in Manhattan.

          The Village Voice 4Knots Music Festival at the South Street Seaport Indie music fans, get ready for some "out with the old and in with the new." After a 10-year run producing the Siren Music Festival in Coney Island, The Voice will usher in the 4Knots Music Festival this summer at Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. The festival kicks off with a performance by the psychedelic rock band The Black Angels. Titus Andronicus, Davila 666, Oberhofer and Eleanor Friedberger are among other established and emerging artists to take the stage for the one-day festival's inaugural year. And because one day of indie-rock isn't enough, The Village Voice will also host a kick-off show one week before the festival on July 9 at Pier 17, featuring Ted Leo & The Pharmacists. Both events are free and open to music-lovers of all ages. On July 19 from 1 to 8 P.M., in Manhattan.

                Plus: If you're out and about on June 9 near Central Park's Great Lawn, you just may hear Fergie et al doing their thing at The Black Eyed Peas Concert 4 NYC . (Unfortunately, there are no more free tickets to the show.) The concert is a benefit for the Robin Hood Foundation.

                Updated 6/16/11

                On July 9 while the 4Knots Music Festival runs from