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 26–28 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 Foo Fighters, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Lumineers, Alanis Morissette, Paramore and Queens of the Stone Age—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 Hippo Campus (June 2), Tori Amos (July 1), Barenaked Ladies (July 9), Billy Strings (July 25 & 26) and Hozier (September 22 & 23). 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 Kane Brown on June 23, Dead & Company on June 23 & 24, Pink on July 31 & August 1, Fall Out Boy on August 2, Morgan Wallen from August 16–18, Zac Brown Band on August 19 and Guns N' Roses on August 21. 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 beginning in June.
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 a variety of acts and organizations throughout the summer, including the Boston Landmarks Orchestra.
This summer, there's a new outdoor venue in the mix as The Stage at Suffolk Downs makes its debut at the former horse racing track in East Boston with the Re:Set Concert Series June 16–18. This three-day extravaganza features such hot bands and artists as Boygenius, LCD Soundsystem and Steve Lacy. Come back September 15 & 16 for the two-day Breakaway Festival, which features Griz, Lane 8 and a DJ set by Porter Robinson.
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 Janet Jackson (May 19), Chris Stapleton (June 9 & 10), The Cure (June 18), Shania Twain (July 9), Snoop Dogg (July 28) and Nickelback (August 22). 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 Taylor Swift (May 19–21), Ed Sheehan (June 30 & July 1), Luke Combs (July 22), Beyoncé (August 1), Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (August 24 & 26) and Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks (September 23).