Folk singer/songwriter Dar Williams in performance (credit: Ray Houde)
LOWELL, MA - The “where” can nearly be as important as the “what” when it comes to a concert, and summer opens up an array of interesting options for music fans. We’ll aim to highlight a few seasonal locales perhaps not as well known as Tanglewood but enticing nonetheless.
Let’s start with Boarding House Park in Lowell. The Lowell Summer Music Series began humbly in 1990 with a handful of ethnic-folk concerts with some contemporary acoustic and blues acts sprinkled in.
“It was quality programming but attracted a limited audience,” recalls Peter Aucella, assistant superintendent of the Lowell National Historical Park, who has been part of the concert series since its inception.
And if any concert pavilion deserves to be seen, it is the one at Boarding House Park. The French Street enclave is a picturesque urban-renewal and preservation success story. The stage is sleek and modern but fits in with the architecture of its neighbors from the 1800s.Trees line and dot the general admission seating area, but not so much that the nighttime canopy of stars can’t be viewed as concerts progress from their 7:30 start times.
The series this year is what we’ve come to expect: a mix of seasoned vets and rising stars, plus plenty of genre hopping, so nobody should feel left out of the experience.
Concerts run most Fridays and Saturdays until Sept. 8. Highlights include folk-rock stalwarts John Sebastian and the Pousette-Dart Band on Saturday, June 30; blues master John Mayall , July 14; jazz virtuoso Pat Metheny with his Unity Band, Aug 3; singer-songwriter gems Lyle Lovett, Aug. 10 and k.d. lang, Aug. 18; the indie-rock pairing of The Brew and Air Traffic Controller, Aug. 31; and new reggae sensation Collie Budz, Sept. 1.
The Lowell series is family friendly to the extent that kids under 12 get in for free and the park cannot serve alcohol, so crowds are generally pretty well behaved (Here’s another buck-saving tip: free parking abounds in Lowell if you’re willing to poke around the streets near the park. A city garage is located diagonally across from the park for those who want the convenience).
The park also has a free morning program of entertainment and activities for kids on most Wednesdays and Thursdays starting at 10 a.m.