By By Nancye Tuttle, Lowell Sun
Summer's soft, warm nights are here, perfect for music under the stars. If it's free, that's even better. Here are a few top choices. Enjoy them and welcome summer.
Backyard Music Series, Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell
It's one of the greatest views in downtown Lowell -- the grassy expanse overlooking the rolling Merrimack River from behind the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.
But the ambiance had been overlooked for a while until the center's new management decided to tap into it.
"It made sense to do some summer music back there," said Mike Soriano, the center's marketing director. "It has so much potential."
Next week, the Tsongas Center launches the Backyard Music Series, a series of free weekly Thursday concerts.
The series will showcase local bands and won't interfere with other outdoor music at Boarding House Park on Fridays and Saturdays.
"It made sense to create a backyard scene here. We'll have grilled food, beer and non-alcoholic drinks for sale. Bring lawn chairs, blankets and the family to the Tsongas Center," Soriano said.
The series kicks off on June 30 with Island Castaways, a Jimmy Buffett tribute band.
"They formed in 2008 as a Jimmy Buffett tribute, but the band has evolved into one of New England's most popular Trop-Rock groups," Soriano said. "Their live show features a mix of classics and originals with their signature tropical touch of fun."
Local favorite Jen Kearney & The Lost Onion play July 14.
"Jen and the Onion take you into the kitchen to find that sweetness in the soul food you crave," Soriano said, noting that Kearney is a product of UML's music performance program.
Yanni Batteau and the Styles, a Somerville band, perform on July 21, bringing a blend of folk and bluegrass, something Batteau calls "vintage country."
Richard James and the Name Changers perform Aug. 4, in a style that "takes the jammy aspects of the Allman Brothers and mixes it with songwriting reminiscent of the Beatles," Soriano said.
The Flip plays on Aug. 11. Formed in the summer of 2008 over a shared passion for live performance, the band covers everything from CCR to Lady Gaga.
"The band has become a staple on the Lowell music scene, with a chemistry that evolved as it became more mature and developed original music," Soriano said.
Melvern Taylor and his Fabulous Meltones, which has a strong local following, closes the inaugural season on Aug. 18.
"Taylor's instrument of choice is the ukulele," Soriano said. "He's a Lowell resident who's been writing songs since 7th grade and has four albums to date."
The bands play from 6-8 p.m. Rain location in the lobby of the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. Visit www.TsongasCenter.com