It's hot already, we're getting cranky and we've got a lot of summer ahead of us. Fortunately, there's a bunch of free concerts to enjoy as the sun goes down. The next few months are packed with outdoor music events designed to make the hot summer nights a little more tolerable. Each have their own feel and personality so check them out to see what suits you best. — Susan Thurston [email protected]
First Friday St. Pete
Central Avenue in downtown St. Pete turns into a block party the first Friday of the month with food, drink, and live jazz and oldies. Bring a lawn chair but leave the cooler at home. Organizers sell water, soft drinks, beer and wine, and several bars and restaurants along Central sell food. This month's party is Friday featuring the swing band, the Venturas. It runs from 5:30 to 10 p.m. on Central between Second and Third streets. firstfridaystpete.com.
Hyde Park Village Live Music Series
Stores and restaurants have come and gone here in recent years, but one thing has held steady: the Live Music Series. Now in its 24th year, the party is held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. the final Wednesday of every month from May through October in Hyde Park Village. Each month a different charity benefits from the beer sales. Organizers wisely tweaked the event this year to add a rain date (the following Wednesday) and push back the start time to 6:30 p.m., when it's not quite as hot. They shifted the party to the main fountain area and added more food and drink vendors, including hard liquor by Opulent Vodka. The party still attracts South Tampa's pretty crowd and their dogs. Consider it a runway show for local favorite fashions this summer. The Shakes Society takes the stage next, on June 29. Quantum Leap Farm in Odessa benefits. 1621 W Snow Circle, Tampa; (813) 251-3500; hydeparkvillage.net.
Music Fest at the Pier
While city officials figure out what to with the Pier, the party goes on. The Pier hosts Music Fest from 1 to 4 p.m. every Sunday at the Courtyard by the Bay overlooking the water. Stacey Knights' band Forecast performs Sunday, followed by classic rock band Flashback on June 12, country/folk/southern rock band Bump in the Road on June 19 and cover duo White Hot Grill on June 25. The events will likely intensify after the opening of Jonny Reno's later this month. Jon La Budde, a partner in the new Pier restaurant who also owns the Reno Beach Surf on Fourth Street N, cited the concerts as one of the reasons he decided to open the surf-themed eatery. The Pier also hosts SaturDAY Salsa from 4 to 8 p.m. weekly with dancing and lessons. 800 Second Ave. NE, St. Pete, (727) 821-6443; stpetepier.com.
Music on the Beach
Tarpon Springs locals and visitors gather each month for sand, sunsets and music at Sunset Beach. A longstanding tradition, the concerts used to coincide with the full moon and recently got a boost with the completion of a new pavilion. Music ranges from jazz to country to classic rock. Shows are held from 7 to 9 p.m. one Thursday of the month, usually the third, from February to November at Sunset Beach on the western end of Gulf Boulevard. The city of Tarpon Springs hosts the show with help and donations from the Friends of Music on the Beach. Guests bring lawn chairs, blankets and a dish to share. The Little Big Show performs June 16. tarponspringsmusic.com.
Rock the Park
What started a year ago as live entertainment on the sidewalk outside the Tampa Museum of Art has evolved into a hip gathering of some of the hottest local musical acts. Rock the Park began the first Thursday of the month concerts to attract more people to the new Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Since then, the event has expanded considerably and shifted to the main lawn area to accommodate more picnickers and families, whose kids romp around the park's playground and fountains. Too bad if you missed Thursday's one-year anniversary show, which celebrated some of tbt*'s 2011 Ultimate Local Artists — Cope, 10th Concession, Jeremy Gloff and Friends of Giant. But not to worry. Rock the Park continues July 7 and Aug. 4. It runs from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Beer, wine and food for sale. 600 N Ashley Drive, downtown Tampa; rocktheparktampa.com.
Saturday Sunsets on the Trail
Music is just part of the lure of this sunset celebration, which also has 40 arts and crafts vendors, stilt walkers, magicians and other street performers. The family-friendly party along Treasure Island's beach trail takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. the first and third Saturdays of June, July and August and the first Saturday in September. The Pilot Brothers kick off the summer series on Saturday, followed by a beach showing of the movie, Despicable Me. Calamity Jane performs June 18. 10400 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island; mytreasureisland.org.