The Beach Boys came and went, and so did Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival and the Dave Matthews Band, all at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Alive at Five, Freedom Park, Rockin’ On the River, Performing Arts at the Common, Guilderland Performing Arts Center, Halfmoon Celebrations and other free series have been rocking for weeks.
But it feels like summer for real now, as free concert series open this week at Music Haven in Schenectady, Riverlink Park in Amsterdam and Powers Park in Troy.
When I met Music Haven impresario Mona Golub in a food line at SPAC last Sunday, she said “We’ve cobbled together a season somehow.” She’s typically too modest: This season fills her long-standing goal of traveling the world, one concert at a time.
On Sunday, the series starts in Congo with Soukous guitarist Diblo Dibala, nicknamed “Machine Gun” and a stalwart of numerous central African bands before starting his own. Born in Kisingani, he moved with his family to Kinshasa when he was 6 and by 15 was playing in Franco’s L’Orchestre O.K. Jazz band and on recording sessions for more than 60 albums by other artists. On many of those, you can hear singers and bandleaders yell “Diblo!” to cue up his solos. Moving to Brussels, then Paris, he joined Kanda Bongo Man just in time to play on the albums and tours that made Kanda Bongo Man an international star, including a 1991 Music Haven show.
Kanda Bongo Man opened the door for Diblo Dibala’s explosive style by pioneering a more open form of Soukous than before, guitar solos alternating with verses rather than just as the coda of each song. Leaving Kanda Bongo Man with his style and musical goals fully formed, Diblo Dibala formed his own bands, first Loketo, then Matchatcha, his current group, named for “a flower that produces an itch.”
Percussionist Zorkie Nelson opens this 7 p.m. with an open drum circle. Music Haven shows are free on Sunday evenings in Schenectady’s Central Park.
MORE FREE MUSIC
The Powers Park free concert series in Troy (110th Street and 2nd Avenue) opens on Saturday with Funk Evolution, playing from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The series continues with favorite local artists through August.
The Riverlink Park series also opens on Saturday, with the Chandler Travis Philharmonic starting at 7 p.m. This evening show completes a dangerous double-header by this astounding band: a fractured fusion of high musical aspirations — to play whatever they want — and even higher hi-jinks. They also play the River Street Beat Shop’s Beat Fest on River Street in Troy on Saturday. They close the three-set Beat Fest starting at 2 p.m.; Big Creek plays at noon and Off the Record rocks at 1 p.m. Admission is free, but Beat Fest benefits Books for Troops, so monetary donations and comic books in good condition will be collected for servicemen and women overseas. Need more: The Chandler Travis Philharmonette (a scaled-down Philharmonic) plays Friday at 8 p.m. at Peint O’Gwrw (36 Main St., Chatham); then on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. they’re at the Lake George Summer Concert Series in Shepard Park, a free show.
If you haven’t seen the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, go: You’ve never heard or seen anything like them. If you have, you already know why you’re going.