$0: Fourth of July Cleveland Orchestra Concert, Mall B
Since 1989, the Cleveland Orchestra has made it a point to light up downtown with wonderful music during the week of July Fourth. Not only is the holiday already very communal and neighborly, but the Cleveland Orchestra gives us all a chance to revisit the music that has come to define us as humans (see Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture, for example). Rock bands and Americana songwriting have become our soundtrack to summer in the U.S., but classical music — performed 'neath twilit skies in the greatest city in the world — gets us closer to the human condition. Fireworks accompany the concert too, which is just awesome. This year, the concert will take place at dusk on July 1 on Mall B. Admission is free, but space fills up fast! Also note that this concert will be live streamed at www.ideastream.org or at www.clevelandorchestra.com.
$0: Blues Jam, Parkview Nite Club
Wednesday nights at Parkview feature some truly stellar blues and rock music. The Bad Boys of Blues — guitarist Michael Bay, bassist Michael Barrick and drummer Jim Wall — host the evening's fun and perform the first set with a special guest on vocals. This is often a tremendous hour of music, with each musician taking time to present awe-inspiring solos. The special guests bring their own sense of style —-jazz, calypso, classic rock — so the jams may veer in all directions on any given night. The rest of the evening has bands forming on the spot and throwing down bluesy dance parties 'til the wee hours. Feel like trying your hand? Bring your instrument and talk to Bay. The first set starts at 10 p.m. Don't miss it!
1261 West 58th St., 216-961-1341, parkviewniteclub.com.
$0: Front Porch Concert Series, Lakewood Public Library
Architecturally, the front of Lakewood Public Library works really well as a small stage for bands. And practically speaking, LakewoodAlive's Front Porch Concert series has brought lively audiences to the library steps for several years now. This year's bands include Carlos Jones and the P.L.U.S. Band, the Clifton Beat, Cats on Holiday and plenty more. Bring a chair or a blanket and set up shop along the now-bustling Detroit Avenue. Pre-show, check out all the wonderful offerings inside the library. Post-show, well, you're now in the heart of a budding resto scene in one of the region's coolest cities. Dig in.
15425 Detroit Ave., 216-226-8275, lkwdpl.org.
$0: Sofar Sounds Concerts, Various Locations
You don't know where the show is until the day of the event, and you don't know who's performing until you get there. No matter, since Sofar Sounds has already established a great reputation in town for putting together fantastic mystery bills. The shows are free; you just have to sign up for their email blasts. "Cleveland is the best music city in the country. I really love Cleveland and I really love Cleveland's music scene," local organizer Jeanette Sangston told us. Scene first attended a show at a boat docked in Lake Erie, at the shared offices of Arras Keathley and LeanDog. Local bands TWINKIDS, Honeybucket, The Modern Electric and national band Beta Radio performed, and the mood of the evening was incredible. Highly recommended.
$0: Summertime on the Riverfront Concert Series, Music Box Supper Club
Since opening almost a year ago, Music Box Supper Club has brought plenty of great acts to town. Now, the newly rechristened restaurant, Rusty Anchor at the Music Box, will host a Summertime on the Riverfront concert series beginning on May 28 and continuing every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. through Labor Day weekend. The concerts are free, and most bands will perform outside on the riverfront dock. The oyster bar will include fresh oysters, and Great Lakes Brewing Co. will offer special craft beers. The local "swamp pop" band Cats on Holiday will host Thursdays, and Fridays will feature a world music theme and include local jazz, funk and soul acts with accompaniment from local drummer, percussionist and producer DJ Neil Chastain. Local singer-songwriter Chris Hatton hosts a Yacht Rock theme on Saturdays, and Sunday will be devoted to traditional Irish music.
1148 Main Ave., 216-242-1250, musicboxcle.com.
$0: Concerts at U.S. Bank Plaza
One of the great things about U.S. Bank Plaza, a tiny bit of real estate across the street from Playhouse Square, is that it has a liquor license. That makes it a good spot to party, especially during the summer months. Throughout the summer, the folks at Playhouse Square have teamed up with Labatt Blue Light Lime to present the Labatt Blue Light Lime Concert Series, a series of free concerts that take place in the plaza. The music starts at 5 p.m. and the bands generally play until about 7. With the newly opened Zack Bruell burger joint Dynomite now in the plaza, you can grab a beer and burger while you check out some of the city's best local bands. Concerts take place May 21, June 4, June 18, July 23, August 6, August 27 and Sept. 3. A singer-songwriter series also takes place at the plaza. Those concerts are scheduled for Wednesdays in June. Classical guitar concerts are scheduled for Mondays in June, and salsa lessons are slated for Wednesdays in July. And finally, jazz concerts take place on Wednesdays in August. The concerts are all free.
East 14th Street and Euclid Avenue, playhousesquare.org.
$0: Concerts, The Barking Spider
Tucked away in a carriage house on a backstreet of Case Western Reserve University's campus, the Barking Spider is a legendary venue for free music and super cheap booze. Stop by any night and you'll catch something different, whether that's folk, reggae, world music, or any other genre you can think of. Get there on a nice night and enjoy the fresh air as they throw the big doors open. Sure, the shows are free, but tipping is always encouraged.
11310 Juniper Rd., 216-421-2863, barkingspidertavern.com.
$0: Sweaty Dance Party, Secret Soul Club
DJs Antoine Henderson, Tom Dechristofaro and David Petrovich get together once a month to throw what's become the best curated vinyl selection/dance party in Cleveland. Secret Soul Club usually runs from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and it circulates amongst a couple venues, including the Five O'Clock Lounge in Lakewood. What will you find? Oh, just buried treasures from records you never knew existed that somehow will become your new favorites. If you're going to get sweaty, you might as well get sweaty getting down to some great tunes.