Summer music preview: New York City |


Summer music preview: New York City

This year, the Big Apple is the place to see the summer's biggest extravaganzas like Garth Brooks and the Tibetan Freedom Concert

Music fans in search of Buddhists, brewskis, and cowboy boots might want to swing through New York City, the site of three of this summer’s biggest — and most eclectic — extravaganzas:

TIBETAN FREEDOM CONCERT, Randall’s Island (June 7 and 8) Intended to raise awareness of the Tibetan struggle against Chinese occupation and oppression, last year’s Freedom Concert in San Francisco was — in numbers at least — a huge success, attracting more than 100,000 people and raising $800,000 for the cause. Just how much fans care about the Dalai Lama is another question, of course, and with a lineup that includes Beastie Boys (who helped organize both concerts), R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Mike Mills, Bjork, Patti Smith, Foo Fighters, Porno for Pyros, Sonic Youth, and Pavement, this year’s event will undoubtedly attract more than just the boyz in the Buddhahood. “I think it’s okay to have a good time,” says Beastie Adam Yauch. “But [we want to] keep the real issues up front and hope they’re not overshadowed by a bunch of stars.”

THE GUINNESS FLEADH, Randall’s Island (June 14 and 15) From Tibet to Brigadoon. What happens when you gather thousands of Celtic-music fans together on a small island for a huge festival sponsored by a beer company? “It’ll be pretty nuts,” predicts Steve Earle, who, along with Van Morrison, the chieftains, Sinead O’Connor, and over 40 other performers ranging from Paula Cole to Wilco will perform in front of what promises to be one of the summer’s rowdier crowds. “The more people, the better,” says Ashley MacIsaac, the hell-raising Canadian fiddler whose previous New York appearance in January found him exposing himself on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. “The whole thing will be done in great spirits, but I’m sure there will be lots of spirits involved. It’ll be quite an affair.” Earle, a reformed wild man who says he now prefers sober audiences, knows what to expect from playing similar Fleadh (pronounced flah) festivals in Europe: “It’ll probably be a fairly drunk audience,” he predicts. “But the Irish are the most attentive drunk audiences in the world.”

GARTH BROOKS, Central Park (Aug. 7) There’s a long tradition of free concerts in Central Park, with performances by Simon and Garfunkel, Barbra Streisand, and Diana Ross firmly lodged in pop-music history. But how will country superstar Brooks — who, amazingly, has never staged a concert in Manhattan — go over in the heart of Yankee country? “There’s something going on between us and New York City,” says Brooks. “It’s always in our top three retail cities. We move tons of product. It makes you feel like maybe you’re welcome. We’ll see when we get there.”