The weather is so idyllic here in Southern California that there really isn't ever a bad time to catch an outdoor show. That said, when summer rolls around there are plenty to choose from. Here are 10 that we feel are worth highlighting.
1. Post Malone at Hollywood Bowl, June 27
Texas-raised rebel Post Malone must be one of the most unpredictable (and, surely, at 22 one of the youngest) performers to ever headline the storied but often safe Hollywood Bowl. His innately maverick persona and carefree skipping through hip-hop, R&B, country and grunge — plus an AutoTune-augmented vocal style that warbles intriguingly between rapping and singing — have made his live performances even more of a melting-pot middle finger than his “ft.”-heavy recordings. With listeners more promiscuous than ever in an era of free, instantly accessible music, Malone is perhaps the loudest voice of his genre-less generation.
2. Dead & Company at Dodger Stadium, July 7
While veteran Deadheads may bridle at this latest Grateful Dead spinoff, recent converts who’ve known mostly the band’s diluted post–Jerry Garcia incarnations — The Other Ones, The Dead, Furthur — have taken Dead & Company in stride. There’s an undeniable multigenerational chemistry between core Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann and their “Company,” comprising Oteil Burbridge, Jeff Chimenti and the incongruously clean-cut John Mayer. Chart-topper Mayer has introduced a fresh generation of fans to the Dead, evidenced by this living legacy headlining the 56,000-capacity Dodger Stadium.
3. Lola Kirke at the Getty Center, July 28
It’s amazing how many Angelenos say they’ve never visited the Getty, or do so only when entertaining out-of-town guests. In addition to world-class art collections, the Getty Museum hosts Off the 405, a carefully curated outdoor summer music series, in its elegant courtyard. A highlight of this year’s five-show lineup should be actress and singer-songwriter Lola Kirke (daughter of Free/Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke), whose desert-y, oft heartbroken country rock belies her English and East Coast upbringing, breezing as it does around Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Gram Parsons with a wistful yet quietly defiant air.
4. Bush, Stone Temple Pilots & The Cult at Glen Helen Amphitheater, Sept. 1
This package-tour gathering of the goateed promises an evening of ’90s alt-rock anthems, with three of the era’s finest returning to remind us that quality songcraft always transcends fashion (and lineup changes). After losing some creative mojo following 1989’s platinum-selling Sonic Temple, and the departure of original bassist Jamie Stewart, The Cult have rediscovered their songwriting spark of late. Perennially underrated grunge-lite Brits Bush boast some of the most masterfully melodramatic hits of the CD era. And while faced with perpetual comparisons to late former frontman Scott Weiland, STP newbie Jeff Gutt has stood his ground and been deservedly well received.
5. Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle & Dwight Yoakam at the Greek Theatre, Aug. 2
Nestled into Griffith Park, the 5,870-seat Greek offers all of the serenity and history of the Hollywood Bowl but, at just one-third the size, skips the latter’s shuttle-bus/stacked-parking/ludicrous-lines headaches. On what will doubtless be another reliably balmy Los Feliz evening, this triple bill ripples with rootsy cred, all three performers having enjoyed considerable commercial success with barely a waft of compromise. Collectively, they traverse rock, blues, folk and country, plus — to judge by his latest album, 2016’s Swimmin' Pools, Movie Stars — Yoakam bringing an appropriately rustic warble of bluegrass to the Greek’s famously bucolic surrounds.
6. The Psychedelic Furs & She Wants Revenge at Pershing Square, July 21
Downtown’s Pershing Square throws a string of free Saturday concerts each summer, which traditionally feature well-established headliners. Airwaves-ubiquitous for much of the 1980s, polished English post-punkers The Psychedelic Furs have persisted as a solid club draw since reuniting in 2000. Built around brothers Richard (vocals) and Tim Butler (bass), the current incarnation convincingly maintain their sax-infected “Pretty in Pink” heyday sound, with Richard Butler’s weathered incantations and elegant presence both firmly intact. Apt support comes from local new wave revivalists She Wants Revenge, whose alienated, Joy Division–informed “Tear You Apart” was a 2006 radio hit.
7. Ed Sheeran at the Rose Bowl, Aug. 18
Gloriously disheveled Brit phenom Ed Sheeran was a full-blown pop star before he could even legally down a beer stateside, and has sold a million albums for every one of his 27 years. Like so many new-gen performers, he skips through eras and styles like a bored teen on Spotify, apparently respecting obligations to nothing but the songs themselves. His disarmingly awkward and oblivious aura may or may not be an affectation, but this pick-’n’-mix plunderer has soared to headlining the 90,000-capacity Rose Bowl while his wannabe competition were posting selfies, working out and waiting to be “discovered.”
8. Bootsy Collins at California Plaza, July 7
Another free outdoor concert series downtown, Grand Performances’ stated goal is to “inspire community, celebrate diversity and unite Los Angeles through free access to global performing arts.” This year’s typically eclectic schedule includes eccentrically brilliant former James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic bassist/vocalist Bootsy Collins, whose 50-year career has made him almost a byword for psychedelic funkiness. Collins’ live performances tend to be glittery, larger-than-life presentations, including the man’s signature star-shaped bass guitar and appropriately outlandish attire. Drawing from both his special guest–speckled solo recordings and P-Funk classics, Collins’ sets remain uniquely escapist, relentless boot(s)y-shakin’ good times.
9. Omar Offendum at Ford Theatres, Aug. 16
Cradled by the Hollywood Hills above Cahuenga Boulevard, the 1,200-seat Ford is L.A.’s most cozy and easygoing outdoor amphitheater, hosting a diverse program of jazz, opera, dance, electro-soul and rock & roll from June through October. Syrian-American poet/musician Omar Offendum will be accompanied by oud virtuoso Ronnie Malley, percussionists and a DJ for his one-of-a-kind Ford performance, fusing contemporary hip-hop and spoken word with time-honored North African and Middle Eastern oral and musical traditions. For this unusually up-close event, listeners will be seated onstage with the performers.
10. Kishi Bashi at Skirball Cultural Center, Aug. 23
For more than 20 years, Skirball Cultural Center has presented outdoor summer concerts in its scenic hillside setting. An intriguing prospect among its free sunset happenings this season is multi-instrumentalist composer Kishi Bashi performing selections from his work-in-progress songfilm Omoiyari, a personal quest to come to terms with the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, alongside tracks from his existing repertoire of soaring and kaleidoscopic avant-pop soundscapes. Named “Favorite Discovery of 2012” by NPR, Kishi Bashi has lent his violin talents to Of Montreal, Sondre Lerche and Regina Spektor.