With only a few months of warm weather in Western New York, outdoor concerts have become a popular way to enjoy the summer and be entertained with a free or cheap evening.
In Niagara County, the number of concerts being offered and the quality of the entertainment have been growing, with concerts bringing in tens of thousands of fans to enjoy the warm weather and music in Lewiston, Lockport and North Tonawanda.
With a rebel yell, the summer concert season will begin its 14th year at Artpark with internationally known rock star Billy Idol in First Niagara’s Tuesday in the Park series, starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Coors Light Wednesdays @ Artpark series begin June 12.
The long-standing summer concert series has been growing, attracting big names and thousands of music fans. Last summer the overwhelming popularity of the free concerts prompted Artpark to charge a fee of $5 to $10 for general admission tickets. The fees help to limit attendance while bringing much-needed revenue to the park.
“We didn’t envision what we had when we first started up there,” said Artpark President George Osborne. “Our goal was to bring more people to Artpark by bringing in programs that people want to see. We brought more people by raising the quality of the bands that we hired.”
Artpark also built decks with awnings over them to seat corporate sponsors. He said there were six sponsor decks in 2003 or 2004, and the number has increased every year.
“Now we have 21 VIP sponsor boxes. The decks in the sponsor boxes were completely sold out –100 percent – before the season started. We never had any available to the general public,” Osborne said. He said a VIP standing-room area in front of the stage, which goes for $25, also is sold out for several concerts.
Osborne said this year Artpark is bringing back two concerts that were incredibly popular two years ago: Lynyrd Skynyrd, on Aug. 13, and ZZ Top, who will close the season Aug. 27.
He said both bands caused traffic to back up for 4 miles in both directions before their concerts. He said limiting seating should alleviate that problem.
Other top acts for Tuesday in the Park will include:
June 13 – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
June 18 – REO Speedwagon
June 25 – Chicago
July 9 – The Doobie Brothers
July 16 – Bad Company with Paul Rodgers
July 23 – Blue Rodeo
July 30 – The Machine performs Pink Floyd
Aug. 6 – 38 Special with Blue Oyster Cult
Aug. 20 – Gladys Knight and the O’Jays
On Wednesdays @ Artpark, the Coors Light series will feature:
June 12 – Gov’t Mule
June 26 – Dispatch
July 10 – O.A.R. and Friends
July 17 - Flaming Lips
The concerts on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Artpark are just a slice of the music scene in Niagara County and beyond.
In North Tonawanda, free concerts take place at 6 p.m. Wednesdays, beginning June 19, in Gateway Harbor Park on Sweeney Street.
Here is the lineup:
June 19 – opening act Silver Xtreme; headliner Black Widow
June 26 – Soul Barons; Boys of Summer
July 3 – Impact; Diva Show Band
July 10 – All Star Project; Cock Robin
July 24 – Maniacs; Beatle Magic
July 31 – Common Ground; 90 West
Aug. 7 – Double Take; Joy Ride
Aug. 14 – Exit; Breakaway
Aug. 21 – Murphy’s Law; Strictly Hip
Aug. 28 – Ultra Violet; Hit’n Run
Also in North Tonawanda at 7 p.m. Thursdays, beginning June 20 in Klimek Veterans Park, the former Fishermen’s Park on River Road:
June 20 – Jim Beishline and Janice Mitchell, pop-jazz and American Song Book music
June 27 – Bar Room Buzzards
July 4 – Ralph Fava and Friends, featuring Cheryl Ferris
July 11 – Kathy Carr American Song Book
July 25 – Polish Night with the Pic A Polka Band
Aug. 1 – Italian Night with Fonzi and Grandi
Aug. 8 – Jim Sansone and Company
Aug. 15 – Greater Niagara Musicians Concert Band
And beginning June 9, the Cornerstone’s Niagara River Rocks Sunday concert series begins monthly shows at 5 p.m. in Gratwick Riverside Park:
June 9 – Primus and Beggar’s Best
July 14 – Tea Party
Aug. 25 – Rusted Root and Hypnotic Clambake
Lockport’s Labatt free outdoor Friday concert series begins June 20, moving this year from Ulrich City Centre on Main Street two blocks to the south to a larger city-owned lot on Chestnut and Elm streets. The series, in its sixth year, will feature big-name acts such as Kansas on July 12 and Kellie Pickler, country music headliner of “Dancing with the Stars” fame on Aug. 9.
Other performers include:
June 28 – Puddle of Mudd
July 5 – Theory of Deadman
July 19 – Pink Floyd Experience
July 26 – Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience
Aug. 2 – Jonny Lang
Aug. 16 – Rik Emmett
While the Lockport concerts are free, a VIP section in front of the stage is priced at $22 in advance and $27 on the day of the show.
Other free concerts include the Village of Youngstown concert series at 7 p.m. in Faulkner Park on Fridays from June 14 to Aug. 23, as well as the Lewiston Council on the Arts Blue Monday in the Hennepin Park Gazebo at the corner of Fourth and Center streets at 7 p.m. July 15 through Aug. 19.
Appropriately, the summer will wrap up with a free festival of music along Center Street in the Village of Lewiston at the Lewiston Jazz Festival on Aug. 23 and 24.
Headliner Bobby Militello will perform on the Center Street stage at 9 p.m. Aug. 23. And at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 24, the work of Lionel Hampton will be celebrated in a concert featuring Jason Marsalis, Kevin Mahogany, Jasey Falk and Sharp Radway.
The free outdoor festival will include other performers on the main stage beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday and noon Saturdays, as well as other musical performances up and down Center Street.
The street festival also includes food, wine, a jewelry show and classic cars. Parking is free. The schedule and information are available at www.lewistonjazz.com.