One absolutely wonderful thing about this time of year is the return of free outdoor concerts. The "Alive After Five" series is particularly nice because shows start and end early enough that parents with musically inclined kids can take their whole families to see the performances without having to worry about wrestling with too many drunks along the way.
The highlight of this week's "Alive After Five" concerts is the performance of bluegrass-Celtic band The Clumsy Lovers. The Canadian quintet mix banjo and mandolin folk riffs with speed-of-light rock percussion and raucous sing-a-long choruses. Pack a picnic, grab your family and plan to stay for the entire set.
Thursday, June 17, 5 p.m., Peavey Plaza, 1111 Nicollet Mall., Free.
The last time I saw Ken Vandermark and the Vandermark 5 perform was also the night my then-5-year-old son discovered free jazz. Vandermark was playing a free concert at Loring Park, 1382 Willow St., prior to a showing of Vincent Price's classic "Fall of the House of Usher," so we packed up our picnic gear and headed out to the park for a rare family night out.
Wolfegang (my son) was hooked from minute-one: he spent the entire set bouncing up and down, pounding on his lap along with the percussionist and shaking his head back and forth sort of in-time with the music.
"I love free free jazz!" he kept saying. "Free free jazz is cool!"
All these years later, my husband and I still repeat these phrases in a high, frenzied tone whenever free jazz comes up, which is more often than you might think. Poor kid.
Monday, June 14, 9 p.m., First Avenue's 7th Street Entry, 701 1st. Ave. N., $8 in advance, $10 at the door. 332-1775.