NEW YORK CITY — Summer is high season for outdoor concerts, and music lovers have plenty to choose from as big name rock acts, opera and classical performances can be heard at parks across the city.
But adults aren't the only ones with their ears open — the explosion in kids bands that play exclusively for the way-under-21 set means there are free, outdoor, child-friendly concerts in all five boroughs through September.
Though children's concerts might not be most adult's idea of a good, moms and dads sometimes find that kid rock can have them tapping their feet too, said Ashley Vitha, program manager at The Madison Square Park Conservancy which is hosting its 10th year of kids concerts this summer.
"Be open to the whole experience," advises Vitha. "Some parents aren't necessarily that excited to be seeing a kids band, but I think they would be surprised by how much they themselves can be entertained by the bands."
Great kid bands provide educational, interactive experiences that don't condescend to their young audience, Vitha said. Many of the more successful groups, like Recess Monkey of Seattle, have teachers for members, she said.
"Not only are they great musicians, but because they know how to interact with kids in that age bracket, the kids are automatically engaged with them," Vitha said. "They're not just playing to an audience, they're trying to get the kids to dance, to sing-along, to repeat certain phrases."
Though back-to-school season looms, there's still time to catch outdoor kids music concerts in all five boroughs this summer. All events are free unless otherwise noted.
When Madison Square Park started its summer concert series for kids 10 years ago, roughly 200 people showed up. A decade later audiences have swelled to close to 2,000, with camp groups and school groups flocking to the shows from across the city, Vitha said.
The park has two shows remaining this season: on Tuesday Aug. 7 the Suzi Shelton Band plays, followed by the finale show on Thursday Aug. 9 with Father Goose.
On the Upper West Side, Central Park gets most of the attention, but Riverside Park along the Hudson River has a long list of family programs called Summer on the Hudson.
On this year's line-up are The Funkey Monkeys, a self-described "supergroup" of musicians and comedians created by the composer for Nickelodeon's hit show "Dora the Explorer." They'll play at Pier I near West 70th Street in Riverside Park South on Thursday Aug. 9 at 10:30 a.m.
On the Lower East Side, catch the five-piece kids band Starfish at Seward Park on Wednesday Aug. 8. Part of the SummerStage Kids series, the show runs from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. On Thursday Aug. 9, clarinet player Oran Etkin performs for kids at Alfred E. Smith Park.
In Fort Greene, get your dose of girl-powered music on Wednesday Aug. 8 with Moey's Music Party, a one woman band fronted by "mommy rocker" Melissa Levis. The 10 a.m. show takes place at The Grove in Fort Greene Park.
Keep the summer concert party going until fall at the Carroll Park concert series in Carroll Gardens, which puts on concerts through September. Upcoming shows include Key Wilde and Mr. Clark on Saturday Aug. 25 and the Deedle Deedle Dees on Saturday Sept. 29. This year's concerts open with music by local middle school bands, parenting blog Mommy Poppins reported.
Dirty Sock Funtime Band, dubbed the arena rockers of New York's kids music scene, take their high-energy sound to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Brownsville on Tuesday Aug. 14 for a 10:30 a.m. show.
Every Tuesday night in August, Park Slope kids can enjoy the musical stylings of Rolie Polie Guacamole, a Brooklyn-based trio that sings about "nutritious food" in songs like "Time for Hummus." Shows are at 6 p.m. at Washington Park/J.J. Byrne Playground on Fifth Avenue and Fourth Street. Parents might want to stick around afterward for dancing under the stars from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
You can get an extra helping of Rolie Polie Guacamole every Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. Band member Frank leads a kids sing-along at Two Moon Cafe at 315 Fourth Avenue. The cost is $5.
On Thursday mornings, downtown Brooklyn's Albee Square hosts kids concerts. On Aug. 9, Fuzzy Lemons plays; the Aug. 23 show is Aly Sunshine and the Funkytown Playground.
Don't want to make the trek to Lincoln Center to see world-class music? Luckily Lincoln Center goes on tour. Jazz at Lincoln Center's Jazz for Young People concert series comes to the Bronx on Friday Aug. 10 with a 10:30 a.m. show at Ciccarone Park. The hour-long show aims to teach kids about "key musical concepts" and "jazz fundamentals," according to the Jazz at Lincoln Center website.
On Wednesday, Aug. 15, at Ciccarone Park, kids can groove to the musical group that's been called "the closest thing to arena rock that the New York kids music scene has got." Dirty Sock Funtime Band, known for anthemic songs presented with theatrical flare, has won fans with high-energy ditties such as "Donut Brain Aliens" and "Dino-Soaring."
On Friday Aug. 17, the one-man show Mr. Chris' Musical Experience hits Ciccarone Park for a one-hour program that combines singing, dancing, hip-hop, story telling and team building, according to the Parks Department website.
There's no better New York spot to teach your kids about Satchmo than the Louis Armstong House Museum at 34-56 107th Street. Celebrate Armstrong's legacy on Thursday Aug. 16 when the museum hosts a block party and Jazzmobile concert featuring pianist Arturo O'Farrill.
Also on the jazz tip, Queensbridge Park will host a concert by Metta Quintet, the kid-friendly jazz group that works with the nonprofit Jazz Reach, on Thursday Aug. 9.
Free outdoor concerts are great, but if you and your little ones need a break from the heat — and you're willing to pay $8 — head over to Waltz-Astoria at 23-41 Ditmars Boulevard for kids' sing-alongs every Monday and Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m. in August. The price includes snacks such as homemade chocolate milk and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. At night the coffe/wine bar hosts more adult-friendly events such as open mic nights and comedy shows.
If jazz is your bag, take the kids to see Metta Quintet at Tappen Park on Friday, Aug. 10. Part of the SummerStage Kids series, this concert promises to show kids as young as pre-school age the wonders of jazz. Metta Quintet is the resident ensemble of Jazz Reach, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing jazz to new audiences.
Get more jazz on Wednesday Aug. 15 when saxophonist Hayes Greenfield brings his Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz program to Faber Park. An interactive educational concert, Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz uses jazz to inspire kids to take risks and build self-confidence, according to Greenfield's website.
Staten Island will take "kids concerts" to a new level on Saturday Aug. 18 when the band FaZe4 Rockers performs at the Back to the Beach Celebration at Midland Beach's Sea Turtle Circle. Fronted by a 10-year-old lead singer, other members range from 8 to 11 years old. The pint-sized rockers might inspire children in the audience to practice piano more often, and adults should appreciate some of the classic song selections.
FaZe4 Rockers wowed the crowd at Staten Island's Beatlefest earlier this summer with a cover of "Come Together," and they've also tackled AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" — with lyrics cleaned up for a young singer and audience. Click here for more Staten Island family events.