Bettye LaVette plays the Museum of Fine Arts on June 24
The best summer music festivals take something from the season: the smell of the surf, the sight of the mountains, fireworks, lawn seating — or, at least, fried dough. Perhaps because of the brevity of the season here in New England, our region abounds in such festivals. Here's a smattering of regional favorites.
MFA CONCERTS IN THE COURTYARD | JUNE 24 THROUGH AUGUST 26 | Boston's own Museum of Fine Arts brings the world to its lovely Calderwood Courtyard, Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. The series kicks off June 24 with soul great Bettye LaVette and closes August 26 with Cajun innovators Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, with lots of Cuban, African, and even flamenco in between.
465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts | 617.369.3306 | mfa.org
GREEN RIVER FESTIVAL | JULY 17 AND 18 | Celebrating its 23rd year, the Green River Festival will present a full range of roots music on the grounds of Greenfield Community College, with headliners ranging from the soul/R&B of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings to zydeco's CJ Chenier, folk star Chris Smither, and singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards. The festival features two stages and a wide variety of other activities, including hot-air-balloon rides.
One College Drive, Greenfield, Massachusetts | 413.773.5463 | greenriverfestival.com
LOWELL FOLK FESTIVAL | JULY 24 THROUGH 26 | Close enough to home to be taken for granted, the Lowell Folk Festival is still the largest free folk festival in the country, offering concerts on six stages throughout downtown, night-time dance concerts, and a parade to boot. Lowell always pulls a good variety of international acts under its folk banner. This year, that means that indigenous genres, such as bluegrass (Sierra Hull and Highway 111) and zydeco (Rosie Ledet), are joined by the utterly weird sounds of Tuvan throat singing (Alash) and Congolese dance music (Samba Ngo).
Various locations in Lowell, Massachusetts | 978.970.5000 | lowellfolkfestival.org
LITCHFIELD JAZZ FESTIVAL | JULY 31 THROUGH AUGUST 2 | Now in 13th year, this festival brings performers such as singer Jane Monheit, guitarist Lionel Loueke, and traditionalists the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to the main tent on the grounds of the Kent School for a weekend of music in bucolic surroundings. Starting with an opening night "friends" gala, and continuing with daytime concerts, the festival concludes with an "after party and open jam," at the nearby Fife 'n Drum Restaurant. A student stage features the students of the Litchfield Jazz Camp, who have spent the last month practicing their art.
One Macedonia Road, Kent, Connecticut | 860.567.4162 | litchfieldjazzfest.com | after party at Fife 'n Drum, 53 North Main Street, Kent, Connecticut | 860.927.3509 | fifendrum.com
NORTH ATLANTIC BLUES FESTIVAL | JULY 11 AND 12 | Featuring two days of all-ages blues, with the Saturday night "club crawl" for 21-plus blues fans in between, this 16-year-old festival brings artists from Bobby Rush to Super Chiken to the Public Landing, overlooking Rockland Harbor.
Public Landing, Rockland, Maine | 207.593.1189 | northatlanticbluesfestival.com
AMERICAN FOLK FESTIVAL | AUGUST 28 THROUGH 30 | The American Folk Festival, located on the Bangor waterfront, roots its sound in groups with at least a partial US base (Forro for All, for example, hails from New York City as well as Brazil). But this free festival, the outgrowth of the National Folk Festival, which was held here from 2002 to 2004, aims to "present music, dance, and other performing arts representing cultural traditions from across America and the world." That means Delta blues meets Puerto Rican cuatro, Andean pipes, and Tejano blues on five stages by the Bangor waterfront (and a children's area as well). And just so you know where you are, there's a "Taste of Maine" food area, too.
40 Harlow Street, Bangor, Maine | 207.992.2630 | americanfolkfestival.com
WHITE MOUNTAIN BOOGIE N' BLUES FESTIVAL | AUGUST 14 THROUGH 16 | Blues is a big enough bucket to hold almost anything. At the 13th annual Boogie N' Blues Festival, in New Hampshire's White Mountains, that range will be celebrated by setting Louisiana guitar great Sonny Landreth up against the acoustic blues of the Saffire Uppity Blues Women (a farewell performance from the 25-year-old group), with ringers like Candye Kane adding some rockabilly sass to the mix. Fireworks on Saturday night bring additional sparks, and a new-this-year children's section promises to be a "quiet area."
2010 Route 175, North Thornton, New Hampshire | 603.726.3867 | nhblues.com
Fleet Foxes play the Newport Folk Festival on August 1
NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL | AUGUST 1 AND 2 | Money troubles threatened Newport's summer festivals earlier this year. And when founder George Wein announced his plans to host a jazz and a folk festival on the beautiful seaside site this spring, some worried that it was too little, too late. But you don't get to Wein's age without having connections. This year's George Wein's Folk Festival 50 brings together old school (Pete Seeger, Billy Bragg, Joan Baez) with such pop-rock crossovers as the Decemberists and Fleet Foxes to gorgeous Fort Adams State Park.