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Why We Love L.A. Summers: Grand Performances At California Plaza

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By Matthew Bramlett

Summer has arrived, and we're ready to celebrate all that screams 'tis the season in Los Angeles. From sand to summit, from sips to snacks -- we love L.A. summers.

It's summertime in the city, which means outdoor events catering to any cultural palette will come out of the woodwork and entertain millions of Angelenos. Beneath the towering blue monoliths of Downtown L.A.'s California Plaza, the annual Grand Performances promises to be the City of Angels' premier free summer event.

Starting June 21—the first day of summer—the summer series will run throughout the season, promising a sophisticated showcase of arts and entertainment that is sure to please any persuasion. For their 27th year, Grand Performances will feature different themes for each weekend that highlight the many different cultural aspects that make L.A. so amazing.

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Kicking off the summer series Friday, June 21, at 8 p.m. will be local composer, producer and DJ Mark De Clive-Lowe, providing an improvised musical set to a montage of classic sci-fi scenes projected on the big screen. The Japanese-New Zealander Angeleno will be joined by fellow music makers Walter Smith III and Jamire Williams (aka "ERIMAJ") for a delightfully cosmic experience. In keeping with the cinema theme for week one, on Saturday, June 22, at 8:15 p.m. California Plaza will host the film Inequality For All, which chronicles the widening income gap in America. The film's director, Jacob Cornbluth, and the documentary’s main speaker, former Clinton economic advisor Robert Reich, will be on hand to present the film.

The second week, which focuses on electronic soundscapes, features Bangalore-bred choreographer Malathi Iyengar and world-class jazz violinist Michael White and his quintet performing the much-anticipated song "Orbit." The Friday, June 28, 8 p.m. performance is part of the The City of Los Angeles Cultural Grand Program. On Saturday, June 29, puppeteer Miwa Matreyek will perform "Brujerias de Papel," a blend of mysticism and Latin American culture told through her dazzling combination of animation and live performance. On Sunday, June 30, electronic artists from across the globe will converge for Green Galactic's 20th anniversary show. The showcase will feature UK-based artists Plaid, Berlin-based Pole and L.A.'s very own John Tejada for some sweet dub and techno sounds.

Other notable performances are as follows:

Fri., July 5, 8 p.m.: Young, Gifted, and Nina: A Tribute to Nina Simone

Sat., July 6, 7 p.m.: Adunni and Nefertiti | Martha Redbone | Dessy LiLauro

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Thurs., July 11, 8 p.m.: Soba Noodle Presentation with Sonno Sakai

Fri., July 12, 8 p.m.: Beth Lapides' Uncabaret

Sat., July 13, 8 p.m.: Songfest Sings America: Celebrating Leonard Bernstein

Sun., July 14, 3 p.m.: Bob Baker's Marionettes

Fri., July 19, 8 p.m.: Fanfare Ciocarlia | Mucca Pazza

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Sat., July 20, 8 p.m.: Rufus and Friends

Fri., July 26, 8 p.m.: University of Gnawa - Ethio Cali

Sat., July 27, 8 p.m.: Chico Trujillo | Las Cafeteras

Fri., Aug. 2, 8 p.m.: Songs in the Key of L.A. with Ozomatli and Friends

Sat., Aug. 3, 8 p.m.: Novalima | Palenke Soultribe

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Fri., Aug. 9, Noon: The Living Sisters

Fri, Aug. 9, 8 p.m.: Lux Boreal

Sat., Aug. 10, 8 p.m.: El Gusto Orchestra | Cantonese Opera Orchestra

Sun., Aug. 11, 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.: Sock Puppet Sitcom Theater presents Cinderella

Fri., Aug. 16, 8 p.m.: Halo-Halo, Sari-Sari: The Filipino Show Remixed!

Sat., Aug. 17, 8 p.m.: A Tale of Two Nations: Nacao Estrela Brilhante & Nation Beat

Fri, Aug. 23, 8 p.m.: Ian Krouse's Lorca: Child of the Moon

Sat. Aug. 24, 8 p.m.: Fared Shafinury

The massive courtyard hosts up to 800 people at a first-come, first-serve basis, so arrive early. Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition has volunteered to run a bike valet during each performance, but if four wheels are more your thing, parking at the California Plaza lot on 351 South Olive Street usually costs about $7.50 (cash only). Alternative parking is recommended, as daytime rates sometimes skyrocket to about $38.