Our guide to the best al fresco music venues the Boston area has to offer
For some, taking advantage of the warm weather has nothing to do with hiking, biking, boating or even patio dining. For diehard music fans, it’s all about taking in the sounds of summer by visiting one of the many places in Greater Boston that host live music in the great outdoors. Venues small or large, acts international or super-local, it doesn’t matter—as long as you want to feel the sun, the breeze and the rhythm, there’s no better place to be over the next few months than right here.
The summer unofficially kicks off with Memorial Day weekend, of course, and so does summer music season. Taking place May 27–29 at the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston, Boston Calling (pictured) is one of the best multi-day festivals in the country. Some of the biggest acts in the world—including headliners Nine Inch Nails, The Strokes and Metallica—perform this year across four stages along with dozens of other bands and artists. For music with a view, the Leader Bank Pavilion in the Seaport right on Boston Harbor is a popular destination. Season highlights at this tented, open-air gathering spot include The Head and the Heart (June 11), Bonnie Raitt (June 17), Tears for Fears (June 22), ZZ Top (July 22) and Norah Jones (August 2). Historic Fenway Park, home to the beloved Boston Red Sox, has hosted some of the biggest summer shows in town for several years now, and this year is no different. Check out the iconic Paul McCartney on June 7 & 8, country music stars the Zac Brown Band on July 15, throwback hair metal with Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe on August 5 & 6, Latin music star Bad Bunny on August 18, pop superstar/actor Lady Gaga on August 19, rockers Imagine Dragons on August 20, classic Boston faves Aerosmith on September 8 and California alt-rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers on September 10. For those that want to just chill and listen to some local bands with a beverage and some friends, there’s the Lawn on D next to the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in the Seaport, which hosts free live music most weekend nights.
And speaking of free music: The Boston Pops, as Bostonians well know, are no strangers to outdoor shows, as its annual Fourth of July concert is held every year at the Hatch Memorial Shell along the picturesque Charles River. The Pops aren’t the only act to play there, however, as the stage also hosts the Longwood Symphony Orchestra on August 18, with many more shows yet to be announced throughout the summer.
For those that don’t mind wandering a bit farther afield, two of the largest summer venues in the area lie less than an hour south of the city. The Xfinity Center, a classic “shed” style amphitheater with covered seating as well as a large general admission lawn area, resides in Mansfield and presents such familiar acts as The Lumineers (June 3), Dave Matthews Band (June 17), The Doobie Brothers (June 25), Chicago (July 10), Phish (July 14 & 15) and The Black Keys (July 30). For an even grander outdoor show experience, nearby Gillette Stadium, fall home to the New England Patriots, welcomes all the giant summer touring artists, including Dead & Company (July 2), The Weeknd (July 21), the never-ending Elton John farewell tour (July 27 & 28) and country mega-star Kenny Chesney (August 26 & 27).