Credit: Illustration by Andrew Roberts

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There’s plenty of music you won’t need a guide to this summer:

Jazz at the National Gallery; blues at Carter Barron; aging punks at Fort Reno; aging R&B giants at Fort Dupont. It doesn’t matter who’s playing there—and invariably, some of those schedules emerge way later than you’d like them to—because you’ll go anyway. Music in the summer is about the vibe. It’s about the ritual.

But it’s also about having lots of choices. And sometimes about shaking comfortable habits.

If you use this guide to insulate your butt from grass stains at Fort Reno, so be it. But inside you’ll find not only an insanely thorough accounting of music to experience this summer—including some of those pesky outdoor concert series—but also our picks for the best and strangest options. In the calendar at the center of this issue, we’ve picked one show for almost every day of the summer.

You’ll also find stories about this summer’s more unusual concerts (from DIY Christian rock to upscale indie) and about the lesser-known dynamics of live music (from merchandise sales to cantankerous neighbors). And we’ve singled out one easily dismissible summer ritual—crassly commercial classical programs at Wolf Trap—that we think shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly.

Remember, though: Wolf Trap never cancels its shows for rain. But our guide should be thick enough to briefly double as an umbrella. —Jonathan L. Fischer