Summer Sounds: Eight Concerts to Catch in NYC


Lone Star

A boyband means the same thing to most people: Boyz II Men, *NSync, One Direction; groups formed to woo young, mostly female audiences with cookie-cutter songs and interchangeable members. But to the nineteen-year-old Texas-born rapper Kevin Abstract (playing June 15 at Terminal 5, 610 West 56th Street,, the concept is malleable. He recently introduced the world to Brockhampton, a hip-hop boyband of which he is the de facto leader. They emerged seemingly fully formed, and though the group has elevated his profile, Abstract is stepping away this summer for a solo tour. He boasts a cult following of peers who have flocked to his SoundCloud page, where he released his first major project, MTV1987, in 2014. Speaking to and for his generation on “I Wish I Didn’t Think About You,” he raps in his leisurely, syncopated style over a sparse beat: “But it’s hard when I’m addicted to scrolling through Tumblr and getting on Twitter/Browsing through porn sending links to my niggas/I’m weird.” If you don’t get it, don’t worry — he’s not talking to you, but you’re welcome to enjoy his talents anyway. Reflecting the infinitely flexible preferences of online culture, Abstract’s is an uncommonly supple form of hip-hop; catchy hooks are common, but as an experimentalist, he navigates multiple planes: EDM, trap, sometimes soul and r&b. This versatility places him smack dab at the zenith of modern rap, which sources its depth and strength in variety, favoring MCs who can just as easily spit a keen sixteen bars as engineer a poignant melody. When Abstract brings his formidable e-presence to the stage, he does it with a lot of swagger; it won’t be surprising if the stages just keep getting bigger. — Tara Mahadevan

Prism + Partch

June 12

Saxophone quartet Prism bring an installment of their “Color Theory” concerts, which are devoted to exploring exotic tonal spectra, to this show. Appearing alongside them are the Los Angeles–based Partch, here making their East Coast debut. The ensemble plays instruments invented by the great, weird American maverick composer Harry Partch, who died in 1974; their oeuvre includes cloud-chamber bowls, chromolodeon, and eucal blossom. Alone and together, the ensembles perform world premieres by Ken Ueno (who uses architectural theory to inform his musical structures) and Greek composer Stratis Minakakis, along with Partch’s Castor & Pollux, Iannis Xenakis’s Xas, and “Radical Alignment,” from Steve Lehman’s 15 Places at the Same Time. Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn,  — Richard Gehr

Dolly Parton

June 25

Though she’s now a music legend, Dolly Parton came from humble origins: She and her eleven siblings grew up “dirt-poor” in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains before she moved to Nashville as a teenager and broke into songwriting. Those down-home roots show on her latest release, Pure & Simple, a double-disc compilation of classics new and old, showing the full range of her career and talents. Her tour in support of the record is the biggest she’s staged in the last two decades; here, she visits Forest Hills Stadium to grace us with her shining light. Forest Hills Stadium, 1 Tennis Place, Queens, — Lindsey Rhoades

Paul de Jong

June 30

Until they parted ways in 2012, Paul de Jong and collaborator Nick Zammuto were the Books, a beloved duo that collaged cello, banjo, and audio snippets from a treasure trove of found material to create four albums — and, arguably, their own genre. As a solo artist, de Jong has shown himself to be the curatorial mastermind of the folktronica duo, resurfacing from a reclusive period with last year’s moving, whimsical LP IF. Its enigmatic title indicates both endless possibility and the begrudging rarity with which de Jong performs the material; his show with a four-piece at Joe’s Pub last January was his first in a long while. But this summer, he’ll appear solo at National Sawdust with fresh, improvisational takes on IF, against his usual backdrop of videographic oddities. National Sawdust, 80 North 6th Street, Brooklyn,  — L.R.

King Sunny Adé + Orlando Julius

July 3

Has it really been seven years since West African music’s last giant standing performed in North America? All the more reason not to miss the man who introduced the jùjú sound to the world and the pedal steel guitar to Afropop. With less emphasis on strings than in the past, King Sunny Adé, now 69, travels with a large ensemble of dancing singers and percussionists who enchant audiences with gently powerful vocals and polyrhythmic latticework. They are well paired with charismatic Afrobeat star Orlando Julius, whose career — which dates back to the Sixties — has carried on the ethos of Fela Kuti, minimizing horns in favor of guitars, organ, and percussion. Central Park, SummerStage, Rumsey Playfield (enter on the east side at 71st Street), — R.G.

Ragas Live

July 23

Indian classical music being a long-form proposition, immersion is highly recommended. The diving doesn’t get much deeper than this 24-hour festival, which has been produced since 2012 as a radio program by NYC Radio Live and Brooklyn Raga Massive. Last time, they added a post-marathon afternoon concert in Central Park, but this year the full event is open to the public and live-streamed from the charming Red Hook arts space Pioneer Works. With some seventy musicians expected, the event will linger on Northern and Southern classical styles performed by senior and junior maestros, with a festival-culminating performance of Terry Riley’s minimalist classic In C for Indian instruments. Pioneer Works, 159 Pioneer Street, Brooklyn, — R.G.

James Chance and the Contortions

July 28

In tracing the history of New York’s late-Seventies no-wave movement, many roads lead back to James Chance and the Contortions, whose unusual blend of jazz and punk ignited the downtown scene and made them a cornerstone act of influential label ZE Records. No wave was marked by anything-goes experimentation and a de-emphasizing of prowess, so the Contortions stood out for their raw musical talent, tight compositions, and confrontational demand for audience participation. Although his band suffered tumultuous lineup shifts throughout the Eighties, recent shows — namely, a raucous, sold-out gig at Market Hotel last April — prove that nothing has changed for Chance, who still holds himself, and the crowd, to high standards. The Bowery Electric, 327 Bowery, — L.R.


August 5

It took a decade for Japanese experimental metal trio Boris to find an American audience, but in 2006, when Southern Lord Records reissued their tenth album, Pink, the band earned immediate and widespread praise for their blistering blend of doom, drone, shoegaze, and stoner-rock. While subsequent releases (and the group’s reputation as a must-see live act) have cemented their status as metal trailblazers, the ten-year anniversary of Pink‘s U.S. release still warrants celebration. For Boris, that means a deluxe reissue of the LP and a North American tour playing it back to front — including this stop at the resonant, drone-friendly dance hall Warsaw. Warsaw, 261 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn, — L.R.