Despite spring’s split-personality weather, outdoor concerts are generally a great idea in Colorado. Sleet tapers off, slopes turn green and amphitheaters throw open their gates to families with blankets, coolers and the occasional pet (when permitted, of course).
Here are some of the best free, all-ages concert series at public venues running through September around Denver. Visit theknow.denverpost.com for more lineups, dates and details, and don’t forget that even on a cloudy day, sunscreen is also a generally great idea in Colorado.
City Park Jazz
To many central-Denver residents, summer wouldn’t be summer without this long-running, free concert series at the city’s biggest public space. People of all ages and backgrounds gather with blankets, folding chairs and something to nosh or sip while a diverse lineup of acts entertains from the picturesque pavilion. This year’s shows include Emma Hayes & the Hip (June 2); Joe Smith & the Spicy Pickles (June 9); Hazel Miller (June 16); Dotsero (June 23); Buckner FunkenJazz (June 30); Invisible Bird (July 7); Conjunto Colores (July 14); Brass Band Extravaganza (July 21); Freddy Rodriguez & the Jazz Connection (July 28); and the Heavy Heavies featuring Venus Cruz (Aug. 4). Sundays through Aug. 4 at the bandstand and pavilion at City Park, 1700 N. York St. 6-8 p.m. rain or shine. cityparkjazz.org
The free-music lineup for this nonprofit venue’s third year of shows looks packed, even by paid-attendance standards. Fifty family-friendly concerts May 24-Sept. 15 will bring a variety of genres to Ruby Hill Park in south Denver, ranging from rock, pop and jazz to folk, orchestral and norteña music. Highlights include Denver-bred indie singer-songwriters such as Esmé Patterson (June 1 with Carsie Blanton); Queen City’s Country & Western Showcase (June 16); circus startup Rainbow Militia (July 18 with Chimney Choir and DéCollage); Flor de Toloache (Aug. 2 with Flamenco Denver); the rockabilly double-shot of Reverend Horton Heat (Aug. 4 with the Delta Bombers and Lincoln Durham) and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club (Aug. 8 with Lost Walks); Grupo Fantasma (Sept. 1); and Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears (Sept. 15 with Robbie Peoples). All shows at 1380 W. Florida Ave. RSVPs encouraged at levittdenver.org.
Clyfford Still Museum Summer Lawn Series
Come for the world-class collection of abstract expressionist paintings, stay for the live music (or vice versa). Clyfford Still Museum will again host its free concert series outside of its Golden Triangle building on select Friday nights through September, with free museum admission from 5 to 8 p.m. This year’s lineup, presented with Swallow Hill Music, features Cha Wa (June 21); Don Chicharron (July 19); 3hattrio (Aug. 16); and Dressy Bessy (Sept. 6) starting at 5:30 p.m. on the lawn. Gourmet sausages from Biker Jim’s and vegetarian fare, beer, and wine from Leven Deli will be available at each event. 1250 Bannock St. clyffordstillmuseum.org
Riverfront Concert Series at Commons Park
Also from Swallow Hill: The south Denver folk-music institution has brought back its Commons Park series for a third year of shows on select Thursdays (formerly Sundays). The free concerts include Joe Smith & the Spicy Pickles (June 27); Ricky Earl Band featuring Cherise (July 11); Grown Ass Man Band (July 25); Freddy and Francine (Aug. 8); Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons (Aug. 22); and Roka Hueka (Sept. 12). All shows run 6-8 p.m. at 2101 15th St. in the fast-growing Platte Valley neighborhood. swallowhillmusic.org
Treble by Train at Union Station
Its free, monthly concert series won’t be returning from last year — the Terminal Bar patio will stay the same size most days — but Union Station is experimenting with a free, weekly jazz show from Denver-based gypsy-jazz group La Pompe to get butts in seats. Taking place 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays through September in the Great Hall, the shows will be joined by free dance lessons from Swingin’ Denver on the first Tuesday of each month. And if we need to tell you about the panoply of food, drink and urban scenery surrounding you at Union Station, you’re overdue for a visit anyway. unionstationindenver.com
Backyard Concert Series
Produced by Thornton’s Anythink Libraries, the Backyard Concert Series returns with three all-ages shows from Union Gray (June 14), Irie Still (July 12), and Mama Magnolia (Aug. 9). All shows run 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Anythink Wright Farms, 5877 E. 120th Ave. in Thornton. Dogs are welcome. Bring a picnic basket, but keep in mind that 10 percent of food-truck sales benefit the nonprofit Anythink Foundation, so consider grabbing something from Basecamp Provisions, Corner of Gourmet, Smoke Stack 70 BBQ or Taste of Texas BBQ. anythinklibraries.org
Discovery Park Concert Series
Parker Arts sponsors this free series, which takes place Thursday nights at the outdoor Discovery Park. The all-ages, 6 p.m. events include food trucks and performers such as Wash Park (May 30); Knot Rock (June 13); Nothing But Nineties (June 20); the Burroughs (June 27); Woodshed Red (July 11); Conjunto Colores (July 18); Buckstein (July 25); and Boogie Machine (Aug. 1). 20115 E. Mainstreet in Parker. parkerarts.org
Wednesdays on the Waterfront
In our dry, landlocked state, Broomfield has one of the few free summer concert series that takes place along water. Wednesdays on the Waterfront this year features “Born to Run, Live,” (June 12); 300 Days (June 19); Bobby Messano (June 26); Raising Cain (July 3); Richie Law (July 10); David Correa (July 17); Deja Blu (July 24); and Zoltan and the Fortune Tellers (July 31). 7 p.m. Wednesdays at Broomfield Amphitheater, 3 Community Park Road in Broomfield. broomfield.org
Aurora’s 33-year tradition of free summer concerts continues with this series running Thursdays in June and July. The 6:30-8:30 p.m. concerts at the Aurora Municipal Center will this year feature Soul School (June 20), Kutandara (June 27), El Javi (July 11) and 101st Army Dixieland Band (July 18), with a rotating selection of complementary food trucks. 15151 E. Alameda Parkway. auroragov.org
UNC Concerts Under the Stars
The Garden Theatre stage at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley packs this eclectic series into a short time frame, similar to a festival. The July 12-21 events, which begin at 8 p.m., include Colorado Jazz Orchestra (July 16) and the UNC Alumni Band (July 21), in addition to several ticketed options. Corner of 18th Street and 10th Avenue in Greeley. arts.unco.edu/concerts–under-stars
Snowmass Free Concert Series
The upscale ski village of Snowmass offers 10 consecutive Thursdays and a couple of Saturdays (June 8 and July 18) of free, live music on Fanny Hill. Now in its 28th year, 2019’s lineup is still mostly TBA, but the ones that have been announced are Brent Cowels & Heavy Diamond Ring (June 8, as part of the Snowmass Rendezvous Craft Beer Festival); Here Come the Mummies (July 4); Hazel Miller (July 11); and Faith McKenna (Aug. 1). gosnowmass.com
Evergreen Summer Concert Series
Evergreen Park & Recreation District’s annual concert series features free outdoor shows at Evergreen Lake Wednesdays 5-9 p.m., May 29-July 24. The picnic-friendly lineup at Evergreen Lake House, 29612 Upper Bear Creek Road, features the Long Run (May 29); Tenth Mountain Division (June 12); Ryan Chris & the Rough Cuts (June 26); Tierro with Bridget Law (July 10); and Tunisia (July 24). evergreenlakepresents.com