Reggae star Burning Spear, a beer garden and food trucks launch the Hartford Live! concert series this Thursday

A free concert by an international reggae star, a beer garden and food trucks will liven up the area outside the Old State House on Main Street Thursday evening, and the party continues every Thursday through mid-September.

Mayor Luke Bronin appeared outside the Old State House Tuesday afternoon to describe what people can expect from the big new Hartford Live! concert series beginning Aug. 4.


“The Old State House is such a great space,” Bronin said. “You’ve got the lawn behind here, plus the brick patio area, which is great for food trucks and a beer garden, and we want to make sure we’re bringing people right into the heart of downtown and helping people rediscover places they may not have spent time in lately.”

The beer garden was not part of the original Hartford Live! announcement made a month ago. The food trucks and beer garden will start serving around 5 p.m. and the live music will start at 6:30 p.m.


This Thursday the performer is Jamaican roots reggae star Burning Spear, whose career began in the 1970s and whose hits include “Slavery Days,” “Marcus Garvey” and “Jordan River.”

Burning Spear is the only act announced for Aug. 4, but other shows in the “Hartford Live!” series will pair a popular local or regional band with a nationally known headliner. On Aug. 11, funk/soul party band West End Blend (named for Hartford’s West End neighborhood) will open for Bella’s Bartok. On Aug. 18 the attractions will be Massachusetts-based jam band Neighbor and midwestern funk/soul singer/songwriter Neal Francis. The performers for the other three concerts in the series, scheduled to run through Sept. 15, have yet to be announced.

Bronin linked the new “Hartford Live!” series to other large outdoor public events happening around the city this summer, including Taste of the Caribbean and Jerk Festival in Mortensen Riverfront Plaza on Aug. 6 and the West Indian Independence Celebration on Aug. 13.

The area outside the Old State House is regularly used for other events, including a farmer’s market and a local jazz series, both on Fridays.

With the Hartford Live! series, “we wanted to make sure we were doing stuff on weeknights as well,” Bronin said.

Christopher Arnott can be reached at