One of the best ways to get to know a city is through its music. While most cities in the U.S. can boast a club, concert venue, or local music scene worth checking out, few cultivate new scenes while keeping an eye on their past. We found six cities for summer music that stand at the forefront of exciting new waves while staying passionate about their music history. The best part? Each is packed with outdoor venues and park concerts perfect for summertime jams.
Chicago was a nexus of early jazz and blues scenes. Today, The Windy City continues its rich history of rock, soul, jazz, and house with a slew of intimate venues perfect for catching new and upcoming acts. Chicago was also the birthplace of hip-hop acts including Common, Lupe Fiasco, and Kanye West, along with iconic musicians like Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, and Miles Davis. During the summer, Chicago boasts gorgeous walks by the water and summer festivals like Pitchfork in Union Park and Lollapalooza in Millennium Park.
Located in the heart of Texas, Austin is the music mecca best known for the South-By-South-West, a days-long music and tech festival. Today, SXSW is a showcase for new talent as well as a showcase for major acts from Prince and Justin Timberlake to the Strokes. And while SXSW is a spring festival, Austin is an incredible music city every day of the year thanks to a history that includes acts like Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The city is home to venues like the Paramount Theater, Hole in the Wall, and the country-focused Continental Club Gallery. The summer scene picks up at the lively outdoor venues including Buda City Park, Auditorium Shores, and Zilker Park.
The country music capital of the world has a lot to offer fans of any genre. Nashville gained its country reputation thanks to historic venues like the Grand Ol’ Opry and a string of clubs that helped launch Jimi Hendrix and Etta James. But Nashville isn’t all history. Newer acts like Kings of Leon, Jack White, and the Black Keys can all claim Nashville as a home away from home. Venues like Mercy Lounge, Ryman Auditorium, or the Station Inn help balance a rich tradition with new and exciting groups. For outdoor fun, check out The Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel, or the CMA Music Festival, hosted by the Country Music Association in Riverfront Park and LP Field.
Relatively new to the music scene, Atlanta has increasingly become a go-to stop for music lovers. Once best-known for rock groups like R.E.M. or the B-52s, it has since produced a slew of forward-thinking hip-hop artists including OutKast, Usher, and producers Jermaine Dupri and L.A. Reid, to name a few. Great summertime venues include Blind Willies, Eddie’s Attic, or the Tabernacle.
Miami has a rich music history thanks to a variety of influences including the Latin music of Mexico and Cuba; Florida rappers like Rick Ross, Flo Rida, and T Pain; and huge EDM and electronic music festivals like Ultra. Miami is still a city where visitors can find all of these influences, whether it’s in modern venues like Bardot and The Stage, or older stalwarts like Churchill’s Pub in the Little Haiti neighborhood. Every day can feel like summer in subtropical South Florida, especially with great outdoor venues like the New World Center, the Klipsch Amphitheater at Bayfront Park, and any number of clubs along the Miami Beach strip.
Music lovers are sure to enjoy a trip to Detroit, MI, one of America’s most established and influential music cities. Detroit was home to Motown Records, rockers like Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, and the White Stripes, and hip hop artists Eminem and J Dilla. Summer in Detroit brings a slew of festivals, both large and small, at venues like the DTE Energy Music Theater, and the Chene Park Amphitheater along the riverfront.