13 Bands To See For Free At Outside The Box Fest

This article is more than 8 years old.

With more than 200 events lined up for the first Outside the Box festival, philanthropist Ted Cutler’s free music and performing arts extravaganza at Boston Common and City Hall Plaza from July 13 to 21, it’s hard to keep track of it all. Just looking at the music, it ranges from rock to opera to hip-hop. Here are 13 bands to keep on your radar:

Los Lobos: Saturday, July 13, 3:45 p.m., Boston Common The Beacon

The Chicano wolves have been racking up Grammys with their mix of rock and Mexican folk (plus, you know, a hit cover of the Richie Valens tune “La Bamba” in 1987) since they formed in East L.A. in 1973.

Air Traffic Controller: Monday, July 15, 2 p.m., Boston Common The Beacon

A former Navy air traffic controller, Dave Munro returned home to Boston after his service and formed this indie outfit. Nominated for an MTV best break-out artist Video Music Award in 2009 and winner of best indie rock act at the 2010 Boston Music Conference, their sunny melodies on tunes like “Hurry Hurry” make you want to clap and stomp along. (Check out their 2012 interview with WBUR’s Radio Boston.)

The Urban Nerdz: Tuesday, July 16, 4 p.m., Boston Common Commonwealth Stage

The Boston duo stresses the alternative in their alternative hip-hop. Named hip-hop act of the year at the New England Music Awards in April, sometimes they straight-up rap, sometimes they offer soul crooning, sometimes comic party tracks are on the agenda, and sometimes they sound like a couple dudes who just emerged after being trapped for a couple decades in the evil computer in “Tron.”

Shea Rose: Thursday, July 18, 1 p.m., City Hall Plaza Main Stage

The Boston native’s classic soul singing plus hip-hop beats plus a powerhouse funk band won her 2012 pop/R&B artist of the year and 2011 R&B/soul/urban contemporary artist of the year prizes at the Boston Music Awards. (Check out her 2012 interview with Radio Boston.)

Bearstronaut: Thursday, July 18, 3 p.m., City Hall Plaza Main Stage

The Boston quartet—whose sound mixes 1970s disco with 1980s New Wave dance party tracks—wants you to move. Bearstronaut’s Dave Martineau told Interview magazine last year, “It's a better show if people aren't looking at us, just hearing the song while they interact with other people in the room while we're playing, if people are using it more as soundtrack to dancing.”

Abadabad: Thursday, July 18, 5 p.m., City Hall Plaza Main Stage

Allston’s Abadabad serves up spacey (lots of reverb) and surf tunes suffused with echoes of 1960s psychedelic rock. As they describe themselves on their website: “dangerous, tape relic'd, guitar rock from a land of perpetual summers of dreamy ladies.”

David Wax Museum: Thursday, July 18, 6:30 p.m., City Hall Plaza Main Stage

With their fusion of Mexican folk, American roots and indie rock, the Boston duo “kicks up a cloud of excitement with its high-energy border-crossing sensibility,” according to The New Yorker. (Check out their 2011 appearance on Radio Boston.)

Gentlemen Hall: Thursday, July 18, 8 p.m., City Hall Plaza Main Stage

Named MTV’s best breakout band in 2009, the Boston group may be most familiar right now for its infectious, twinkling, dreamy pop anthem “Sail into the Sun,” which has been in rotation in Samsung and Target commercials in recent months.

Adam Ezra Group: Friday, July 19, 7:30 p.m., City Hall Plaza Main Stage

[Warning: Strong language]

Just named band of the year at the New England Music Awards in April, the Boston group serves up roots rock with a 1990s indie and grunge vibe. Their music usually seems earnest, but on YouTube they just released “The Devil Came Up to Boston,” their salty rendition of the Charlie Daniels Band's country classic “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” now chockablock with local shout-outs—including Irish step dancing. How do you recognize the devil? Yankees cap, of course.

Jaggery and Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys: Friday, July 19, 8:30 p.m., Boston Common Spiegeltent

“The Looking Glass Revival” features two Boston theatrical bands performing together—the ethereal darkwave of Jaggery and the apocalyptic devil’s music and, as they say, “steamcrunk served with love and tentacles” of Walter Sickert &; the Army of Broken Toys. Did we mention that Sickert has also been known to sing about ponies and unicorns?

Mighty Mighty Bosstones: Saturday, July 20, 8 p.m., Boston Common The Beacon

The Boston ska-core (think ska, punk and hardcore rock) band formed in 1983, made it big in the 1990s with ubiquitous hits like “The Impression That I Get.” After a hiatus beginning in 2004, the band reunited in 2007 because, really, can you ever get enough of those horns? At Boston Common July 20, they anchor a lineup of Boston bands that emerged in the 1990s, including Buffalo Tom and the Lemonheads.

Shye Ben Tzur and the Rajasthan Gypsies: Sunday, July 21, 4 p.m., City Hall Plaza Main Stage

Outside the Box marks the U.S. debut of this Israeli-raised, India-based musician who fuses Hebrew lyrics and sinuous Qawwali grooves. They’re the final act in a world music showcase at City Hall on July 21.

More Outside The Box:A Winning Bet: Shakespeare On The Common Goes Vegas
'Magic Camp' Allows Kids To Discover Tricks — And Themselves

This article was originally published on July 10, 2013.

This program aired on July 10, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Greg Cook Twitter Arts Reporter
Greg Cook was an arts reporter and critic for WBUR's The ARTery.