Flavorwire’s All-Time Favorite Summer Concerts


A good concert experience isn’t hard to come by, especially for a devout music lover, but there’s something truly special about a good concert in the summertime. We shed layers as our good moods rise with the temperature, letting the truly sublime pervade the aeon. As a tribute to the perfect season for concert-viewing, we present a list of our favorite summer concerts to evoke our nostalgia for the festivals of years past. Come be nostalgic with us, and share your favorite summer concert experiences in the comments.

Falls Festival, 1997

Summer concerts are dime-a-dozen, but they say you always remember your first, so here’s the first proper summer festival I ever went to: the second-ever installment of the Falls Festival, now a hugely successful transnational franchise in Australia, but back then an endearingly disorganized gathering for surfers and reprobates in a coastal town two hours’ drive from Melbourne. It was New Year’s Eve, 1997, and my friend Jonno and I drove down with the express purpose of seeing headliner Iggy Pop. We took a crate of beer, a tent that neither of us had any idea how to pitch, and not enough clean socks. The rest of the bill was pretty uninspiring surf-punk and Australian indie, but boy was Iggy ever awesome. He did the New Year’s countdown (“10… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… FUCK!”), tore through a bunch of Stooges song and solo highlights, humped his amplifier, and demanded throughout that his band play faster (a demand they studiously ignored). At the end of his set, he invited a shitload of people up onto the stage, and one rather attractive girl stood right behind him and placed both of her hands down his jeans. He stood, arms raised, beaming at 1998. I thought to myself that it must be pretty great to be Iggy Pop. I still have the broadcast of the performance on a cassette tape somewhere. It doesn’t feel like 15 years ago. — Tom Hawking, Music Editor

LA Jazz and Reggae Festival, 2012

For me, the LA Jazz and Reggae Festival at UCLA epitomizes summer festivities: laying sun-drenched and prostrate on a grassy college lawn, shades on, best friend to my left, indulging in the sonic tidal wave that was the live set of electric-soul artist Thundercat of Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label, the synth-driven soulful tunes of Boston-based Sonnymoon, and rock and roller Gary Clark Jr.’s gauzy, washed-out melodies. The concert was as varied in genre as it was rapturous in its sound; at once submerging me in an hypnotic trance of bass-driven refrains and the verve of pulsating hooks, fusing the essence of jazz and reggae together with near-perfect synergy. Oh yeah, and there was horchata, too. — Marcus Hunter, Editorial Apprentice

Pictureplane show/Grimes DJ set, 2012

Last July, a good friend clued me in to a joint Pictureplane show and Grimes DJ set; tickets were going for a mere $10, and this was after “Oblivion” became a dorm-party staple. We showed up to Brooklyn’s 285 Kent ridiculously early, waited out a couple of mediocre opening acts… and then A$AP Rocky showed up, followed by a surprise set from AraabMuzik. By the time they wrapped up and Grimes took the stage, it was 2 a.m., turning a dirt-cheap, last-minute decision into a full night. It’s the only time I’ve ever forgiven 285 for being the disgusting, sweaty pit it becomes once the temperature tops 80. – Alison Herman, Editorial Apprentice

Sisters of Mercy

I saw Sisters of Mercy play one ’90s-era summer. It made all my teen goth dreams come true. Andrew Eldritch was already publicly expressing his disgust for the goth label. He kept shouting about the Sisters being a rock ‘n’ roll band to a room full of sweaty, black-clad, white-powdered goths, natch. When he wasn’t obscured by obnoxious amounts of stage smoke, Von Eldritch looked like David Bowie, since he had bleached his hair. He was wearing a Motörhead tee. Later, he introduced “First and Last and Always” as “Capricorn.” Despite his best attempts, it was a totally goth evening. Alison Nastasi

Jay Leno, 1989

The first concert I ever went to remains one of the best, and it’s odd now, considering what he became, to admit who the performer was. But back in 1989, there was no finer touring comedian than Jay Leno, and as a budding comedy nerd, I badly wanted to see him. So my dad and I got tickets to his show at Century II in Wichita, Kansas — center in the second to last row of the balcony. The squeaky-voiced, lantern-jawed comic did two full hours, and DESTROYED THE PLACE. His material was flawless, his timing was perfect, and by the end of the night, my voice was hoarse from laughter. No one has become a better representative of the laziness and mediocrity of modern television or of hacky stand-up comedy, but who he is now doesn’t diminish what he did then. And for those two hours in his pre-Tonight Show, pre-Conan-screwing days, Jay Leno ruled the world. —Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Class Actress and Metronomy at Pier 54, July 2011

It’s not as if the two bands have nothing in common, but I was still surprised to see them on the same ticket, and for a summer concert on the river at dusk, the pairing was perfect: sweet-hued, danceable, and melancholy. – Reid Singer, Art Editor

All Tomorrow’s Parties New York 2008-2010

I had dreamed of attending ATP, the small, artist-curated series of weekend music festivals that began in the UK in 1999, ever since I first learned about them, sometime towards the end of high school. But I could never get the money together to travel across the pond for one of the British events, so I was thrilled when ATP announced a New York festival in September 2008. Held at Kutscher’s Country Club, a crumbling Catskills Jewish resort several decades past its prime, the weekend of nonstop concerts, dance parties, movies, and just hanging out by the pond surrounded by legendary musicians felt like a record nerd’s dream summer camp. ATP returned to Kutscher’s for two more years before venue issues forced it to Asbury Park in 2011 and New York City in 2012, losing a bit of its magic with each move (the final British holiday camp events will take place this year). Between 2008 and 2010, I saw My Bloody Valentine, Iggy and the Stooges, The Breeders, and other bands I never thought I’d get to see live, and fell in love with countless acts I never would have discovered on my own. But it wasn’t just the performances that made ATP special; like summer camp, it was the totality of the experience. – Judy Berman, Editor In Chief

Sasquatch Music Festival

After my first year of college, I followed my sister and her friends to Washington for Sasquatch Music Festival. There was no one I knew — just a bunch of weird kids in the middle of nowhere. It was three days of music in the most beautiful venue I may ever see, a vast, picturesque canyon on the Columbia River. It could be really hard to focus on a band for all the dramatic scenery, especially if the sun was setting. This wasn’t the case for Massive Attack, whose flashy, apocalyptic setup would’ve been impossible to ignore even if it hadn’t been pitch dark. My sister and I had grown up listening to them, so it felt fitting to sit and freak out with her from a secluded corner of the hill. It proved to be 100% worth the freakout, with unsettling art direction and appearances from Horace Andy and Martina Topley-Bird (whose rendition of “Teardrop” made me cry). I frequently sounded a lot like the guy at 0:24 in the above video. It’s not only the best summer concert I’ve attended, but the best concert I’ve ever seen, period. – Sarah Fonder, Editorial Apprentice