Summertime St. Louis: Sweet Music, Sweet Prices. A summer's worth of concerts that won't put you in the poorhouse.

For years we've filled this space with concert suggestions, exhorted you to peel yourself out of the lawn chair and go hear some tunes. But there's something different this time around.

Yes, we all know it by now: The Dow keeps dipping to levels that make investors tremble and hedge-fund managers hide under their fancy desks. With this in mind, we sought out shows that won't run you any more than $12 per ticket (and many are absolutely free). And a funny thing happened on the way to the poorhouse: We found that some of the cheapest shows are also some of the coolest. Consider that St. Louis' gift to you — we're just paying it forward.

Music in Full Bloom

The Whitaker Music Festival returns to the Missouri Botanical Garden for another full season of terrific tunes. Every Wednesday evening (June 3 through August 5), the garden comes alive with jazz, folk-rock, swing and world music. Admission is free after 5 p.m.; the concerts, which are performed in the Cohen Amphitheater, begin at 7:30 p.m. Food and beverages are available for purchase, or you can save a few bucks by bringing in your own picnic supper (our favorite economic-downturn pairing is Three-Buck Chuck and ham pinwheels, but you are probably classier than we are). This year's stellar lineup includes Grammy-winning jazz pianist Peter Martin (June 3), charming swingsters Dizzy Atmosphere (July 1), world-music faves Farshid Etniko (July 22) and more. Call 314-577-9400 or visit www.mobot.org for more information.

Keep on Rockin' in the Free World
We've always loved Off Broadway, and it just keeps doing more and more to secure our undying affection. First, there was the whole going-smoke-free thing (both our lungs and our dry-cleaning budget say thanks). Now, there's the PBR Music Series. That's Pabst Blue Ribbon, of course — although it could also stand for People Bringin' the Rock, as hot indie band Exercise will do on June 1. Nominated in the Best New Band category in this year's RFT Music Awards, this promising trio plays lo-fi gems with an early Animal Collective feel. The show is free, which leaves you money for beer and merch. Win-win!

And, less than two weeks later, you can see three more great bands at another great venue: White Rabbits, the Subjects and John Hardy & the Public play the Firebird on June 10. This show is $10, but are you really going to complain about paying $3.33 per band? We didn't think so. Do more fun price-per-band math on June 18, when Gentleman Auction House, the Mhurs (another RFT Best New Band nominee), Mayola and Van Gloria tear it up at Off Broadway. And — as if you needed an excuse to attend something called Zombie Party! — the Firebird welcomes Time Again, Opposites Attack, Suburban Disturbance and the Four Flushers on June 30 for just $10. (Save $2 by wearing a zombie-themed costume, but try not to shout "Braaaaaains!" in the middle of a set, which is bad zombietiquette.)

For more information about Off Broadway's shows, call 314-773-3363 or visit its site at www.offbroadwaystl.com. And for details about the Firebird shows (and a full schedule of other great, super-affordable concerts), call 314-535-0353 or visit www.firebirdstl.com.

Motown in the Gateway City
Hey, looky here. You have a five-dollar bill. What to do? You could get a fast-food hamburger with enough saturated fat to take out a rhino. Bleh. You could rent a couple lackluster DVDs. Feh. Or: You could head to the Gramophone, where the Right Now is laying down funky grooves. Praised in music mags nationwide, the Right Now calls Chicago home — but its sound is pure Motown cool. You won't find a better way to spend five bucks than in the hip confines of the Gramophone, listening to the amazing pipes on vocalist Stefanie Berecz. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the show starts at 10 p.m. (We recommend getting there on the early side, so that you can sample the Gramophone's inventive cocktails, such as the Sunshine Superman or — our favorite — the Dignified Jalapeño.) For more information, call 314-531-5700 or visit www.thegramophonelive.com. Lions, Tigers and Live Music
Oh my: The Saint Louis Zoo is offering a whole summer's worth of concerts! These family-friendly events are the perfect way to spend a beautiful evening. Some of the area's most talented, most fun musicians perform in the lovely confines of the nation's finest zoo. All concerts in the "Jungle Boogie Friday Night Concert Series" take place between 5 and 8 p.m. Jam to zydeco tunes with Gumbohead on June 5, enjoy the blues songs of the inimitable Kim Massie on July 3, reminisce with Ticket to the Beatles on July 10, tap your toes to the Mighty Big Band on July 24 and more. Oh, and did we mention that all of these concerts are free? 'Cause they are. Check out the zoo's website at www.stlzoo.org or call 314-781-0900.  Click here to return to the Summertime St. Louis homepage
 
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