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Free and Local Outdoor Summer Music

Barika at Parkapalooza in September 2021. Photo by Ashley Guest
By Carolyn Grodinsky

Summer officially kicked off last week and we’re lucky to have a vibrant music scene in central Vermont … and so much of it is free! 

Thursdays feature both a noontime concert and an evening concert this summer in Montpelier, starting July 13 with the return of the popular Hunger Mountain Coop Brown Bag Concert Series and Parkpalooza with an incredible mix of genres and musicians. 

Fred Wilber coordinated the Hunger Mountain Coop Brown Bag Concert Series for many years, and while he didn’t know when the series started, he knew they had gone on for years. Initially the music centered on folk musicians and singer-songwriters, but he worked to stretch the boundaries of what was considered lunchtime music and added jazz, hip hop, and other genres. He noted that as he diversified the music, people were listening more. 

Montpelier Alive’s current director, Katie Trautz, a well-known local musician, chose this year’s lineup, with music including African, Cajun, jazz, indie, and swing. Enjoy lunch from a downtown restaurant or bring your own lunches each Thursday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. from July 13 through August 24 in the courtyard of Christ Church (64 State Street). See the lineup here: montpelieralive.com/brownbag

Hubbard Park’s evening Parkpalooza returns on Thursdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Tuning Forks Stage, next to the Old Shelter. The concert series runs from July 13 to August 24. Alec Ellsworth, Montpelier’s Parks and Trees Director, launched the series six years ago to give people another reason to enjoy Hubbard Park. Over the years park staff have made improvements to the event, including building a beautiful stage (using wood from the park), setting up a 100-foot slip ‘n slide, and adding food vendors to every event. Park management requests concert-goers to walk or carpool whenever possible, as parking is limited. See the lineup at bit.ly/Parkapalooza.

The Capital City Band performs weekly concerts in front of the Supreme Court building on Wednesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. June 21 through August 16. Band members range in age from middle school students to retired folks. Some are professionals, others have only been playing for a couple of years. According to a 2017 Vermont Digger article by Paul Heller, the band goes back all the way to 1837, playing concerts on the Statehouse lawn since about 1876. Bring chairs, picnic blankets, kids, snacks, frisbees or croquet sets, even dancing shoes! All who are interested in playing are welcome, bring an instrument, chair, and music stand. You can reach the band at capitalcitybandvt@gmail.com.

The Montpelier Jazz Project plays a backyard concert each Wednesday at the corner of Loomis and Liberty streets. The music started in 2017 when organizer Rollin Tait moved back from Britain and put an ad on Craig’s list and Front Porch Forum. The group has been playing together for about four years (now with six musicians). Concerts were originally inside, however when COVID-19 hit, they moved outside in Rollin’s backyard. Bring a picnic dinner and enjoy jazz music on Wednesdays from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. Music continues into September, up until the cooler weather returns.

Keep your ears tuned on your evening walk as informal porch concerts pop up throughout the city all summer long. 

Carolyn Grodinsky is the events and marketing coordinator for Montpelier Alive.

Stepping out of the capital city? Check out these venues for free outdoor summer concerts:

Camp Meade, Middlesex — Fridays and Sundays, mostly 5 to 8 p.m., next event is Mikahely on June 20: campmeade.today/events

Middlesex Bandstand — Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. starting July 5 with Myra Flynn: middlesexbandstand.com

Currier Park, Barre — Concerts start at 6 p.m., series runs on Thursdays from July to September (concerts start at 5:30 p.m. in September) starting with The Rustics on July 6: thebarrepartnership.com/currier-park-concerts

The Landing VT, Worcester, two concerts left in the summer series; coming soon is Tim Brick July 7: thelandingvt.com/concertseries-1

Old Schoolhouse Common Gazebo, Marshfield, concert series Thursdays 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.