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Originally published Sunday, July 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Free lunchtime and after-hours concerts offer something for everyone

Slip on your sunglasses and head outside for free concerts around Seattle. The events include downtown Seattle's Out to Lunch concert series, the Summer Concert Series City Hall PlazaPark, Sounds Outside and more.

Seattle Times music critic

Now that summertime has finally arrived, it's time to get out and enjoy it — even if you're stuck in a downtown office all day.

Out to Lunch, the Downtown Seattle Association's annual summer series of free music events, is a beloved local tradition. Its shows run from noon to 1:30 p.m. at various locations. They're an opportunity to get out of the office, enjoy lunch in the sun and share a good time with co-workers, fellow music-lovers, tourists and passers-by.

The concert series, which starts Monday and continues through Aug. 22, boasts a strong, eclectic lineup of local stars, including "American Idol" finalist Blake Lewis, playing Aug. 19 at Westlake Park.

Other Out to Lunch favorites include jazz pianist Deems Tsutakawa, guitarist Michael Powers, gospel legend Pat Wright, rock singer Carrie Akre and jazz vocalist Greta Matassa.

In addition to Westlake Park, shows are set for Occidental Park, Freeway Park, Victor Steinbrueck Park, Harbor Steps and Starbucks HQ.

Also free this month and next, on Thursdays from noon to 1:30 p.m., is the Summer Concert Series City Hall Plaza. The lineup highlights international music, including the Cuban rhythms of Orchestra Zarabanda, the salsa of Cambalache, the hip-hop soul of Choklate, the international percussion of the Global Drum Masters, the swing music and dance of the Century Masters of Lindy Hop & Tap, and the rock of drummer Michael Shrieve, formerly of Santana, and his band, Spellbinder.

There's free music to enjoy after work, too. The University Village Sounds of Summer Concert series runs from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The music tends to be more lively than the generally laid-back Out to Lunch sounds, so bring the kids. They (and you) can dance to rockabilly, funk, disco and a Beatles tribute band. There's also a children's play area, with face-painting, balloon animals and other activities.

University Village merchants join in with sidewalk sales, so you can peruse the bargains while enjoying the music. Restaurants offer $4 "tastes" of their featured items, like Piatti's prosciutto-wrapped shrimp, The Ram's BBQ skewers, Zao Noodle Bar's Bangkok chicken salad and Delfino's spinach-stuffed pizza. And there's a wine and beer garden, hosted by The Ram.

Free music will fill Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill the afternoon and evening of July 19 and Aug. 23 at Sounds Outside 2008. The music, featuring challenging, contemporary jazz, fits the young, hip image of the Hill. It's a fun scene (probably helped by the many nearby bars) with kids, dog-walkers, Frisbee-throwers, cross-dressers and an interesting mix of folks from the new condos, vintage apartment buildings, businesses and old houses in the area.

Patrick MacDonald: 206-464-2312 or pmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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