Free Summer Music As an Economic Engine

Punk legends X performing at Pershing Square.


DTLA—Last month, this page touched on Downtown’s role as a free visual arts center in the region, thanks to a collection of major institutions — soon to include the Museum of Contemporary Art — that offer gratis admission. It’s a unique and attention-worthy achievement, but it’s not the only way the community stands out on a no-cost cultural basis. 

Downtown Los Angeles is also the prime place in Southern California for free music. The area has long had a lineup of free outdoor concert series, but this summer the offerings are bigger than ever.

Downtown Is L.A.'s Free Art Center

This provides benefits beyond the music. The performances will cumulatively draw tens if not hundreds of thousands of people to the Central City in the coming months. This will function as an economic engine for area bars, restaurants and shops, and the opportunity to catch a favored act will expose the community to people who otherwise might not venture here. If they like what they see, they’re prone to return.

The lineup starts this week with two big events, including the Fourth of July Block Party at Grand Park. Although the highlight is the 9 p.m. Independence Day pyrotechnics display, the activity starts at 3 p.m., and a bevy of bands and DJs will fill two stages.

Meanwhile, Saturday, July 6, brings the Audacity of Sound street festival to Grand Avenue in front of the Cal Plaza towers. Arts programmer Grand Performances is unable to offer its regular lineup of a few dozen free shows this summer due to construction, but is making up for that in part with a seven-hour al fresco event featuring artists that work in multiple genres.

The summer’s biggest concert draw is always the Pershing Square Downtown Stage series, and that continues again, with six Saturday night shows at the park in the heart of the Financial District. The city Department of Recreation and Parks also stages free lunchtime concerts on Wednesdays and jazz acts at the Spring Street Park on Thursday nights.

Pershing Square Is Ready to Rock

Some corporate entities get in on the act. Arts Brookfield, the cultural arm of behemoth landowner Brookfield Properties, just concluded a four-week run of free outdoor Friday night concerts at the FIGat7th mall. Nearby, the operators of The Bloc shopping center have a monthly outdoor music series where those who reserve in advance can get free admission.

There are other events. The Natural History Museum has a monthly outdoor party, complete with music, in its gardens. Union Station hosts a one-off free salsa festival with three bands this Friday night. There are musical stages at the monthly Chinatown Summer Nights events. The list goes on and on.

There’s nothing unique about hosting free outdoor summer concerts, and Downtown by no means has cornered the market — MacArthur Park boasts a stellar lineup of seasonal shows, and free concerts on the Santa Monica Pier draw massive crowds. LACMA has a popular free Friday night jazz series.

Still, no community packs quite as much activity into such a compact area as Downtown. This summer the Central City is a musical center point. That can pay off for the entire community.

Copyright 2019 Los Angeles Downtown News