March 2015 events calendar for Chicago

Plan out your March in Chicago with our calendar of the best things to do, including picks from theater, art and music

Photograph: Sara Mays
March 2014 events calendar: The South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade is one of the annual highlights of the March calendar.

The arrival of March means that drug stores are filled with green junk and St. Patrick's Day celebrations are imminent. There's the South Side Irish Parade, the Northwest Side Irish Parade, the St. Patrick's Day Fest at the Irish American Heritage Center and, of course, the St. Paddy's festivities in the Loop, with the ritual dyeing of the Chicago River. But proving there's more to March than just kelly green plastic hats and Guinness, the Chiditarod shopping cart race kicks off the month, and signs of spring pop up at the Chicago Botanic Garden's Orchid Show. Start planning your month with our March 2015 events calendar for Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2015

Featured events in March 2015

Chicago Polar Plunge

Critics' pick

If they did it just for kicks, we'd agree these plungers were a little crazy for wearing next to nothing and jumping into icy Lake Michigan during March's freezing temps. But they're taking a dip to raise money for the Special Olympics Chicago, too. Last year, Mayor Rahm and Jimmy Fallon showed up for the chilly festivities—perhaps this year Arnold Schwarzenegger will reprise his role as Mr. Freeze?

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North Avenue Beach 01 Mar 2015 Free

Tweedy

Critics' pick

Wilco bandleader Jeff Tweedy paired with his 18-year-old son Spencer on the recent Sukierae, a lovely distillation of everything the Wilco man does well, from spare folk to krautrock. Here, the duo plays with a band. The Minus Five opens the second night.

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Vic Theatre Until Sat Mar 7

Chiditarod X

Critics' pick

The mobile food drive–meets–bash and shopping cart race goes down in Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village where teams of five people (four pullers and one musher) decked out in clever and wacky costumes race carts of food between neighborhood bars. The starting line is Wolcott Avenue and Hubbard Street, and spectators are welcome to follow as the race progresses. All food donations go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository while monetary contributions are given to a local charitable entity.

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Wolcott Ave and Hubbard St Until Sat Mar 7 Free

Levitation Chicago

Critics' pick

Levitation, the psychedelic rock festival in Austin, shares some of its stash and sets up a Chicago branch. The Pop Group, one of the stranger post-punk acts to come out of England in the late '70s, headlines. It makes Public Image sound like the Sex Pistols. Also hopping over the pond is shoegazer stalwarts Swervedriver, who made a bid to be another Radiohead in the late '90s. Oren Ambarchi, Viet Cong, Lumerians, Vistion Fortune and more also play this nifty weekender.

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Thalia Hall Until Sat Mar 14

Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Critics' pick

Spring's imminent arrival takes the form of displays of flora at Navy Pier. Visitors can sit in on instructional seminars, walk through manicured gardens, purchase plant-related souvenirs at the market and obtain culinary tips from chefs at cooking demonstrations. The Kid's Activity Garden offers hands-on projects for kids, like learning how to plant seeds and grow vegetables.

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Navy Pier Until Sun Mar 22

St. Patrick's Day in Chicago guide

Celebrate this Irish holiday with the ritual dyeing of the Chicago River and many other St. Paddy's festivities happening in the Loop, South Side and North Side. Put on something green and take all look at our guide

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By: Zach Long

Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade

Critics' pick

After the Chicago river is dyed a murky shade of green, the city's big, noisy, fun-filled homage to the Irish makes its way through Grant Park on Columbus Drive, with plenty of bagpipes, drum corps, Irish dancers and other merrymakers in tow. Because St. Patrick's Day falls on a Tuesday this year, the parade will take place the Saturday before. Find the viewing stand filled with local dignitaries in front of Buckingham Fountain.

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Columbus Dr and Balbo Ave Until Sat Mar 14 Free

Benjamin Booker

Critics' pick

A 22-year-old with an opening slot on Jack White's tour under his belt, Booker melds blues-rock formalism with joyous garage rock rambunctiousness, like the Mississippi Delta gone Strokes. The New Orleans–based newcomer howls and sneers while maining a smile on his eponymous debut. He is the rare act that can dazzle fans of both Clapton and Ty Segall.

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Metro Chicago Saturday March 28 2015

Shamrock Shuffle

Critics' pick

Shake off winter with this 8K race through Grant Park. Participants receive a T-shirt, a medal that doubles as a bottle opener and access to the post-race party, featuring live music and refreshments.

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Grant Park Sunday March 29 2015

Concerts in March 2015

Cashmere Cat

Critics' pick

Cashmere Cat offers a futuristic take on hip-hop and R&B, a sound that's led to remixes for Lana Del Rey and 2 Chainz as well as accolades from Rustie and Hudson Mohawke. He's also opened for Ariana Grande, but here, he's just by himself for a solo Lincoln Hall show.

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Lincoln Hall Until Mon Mar 2

Ariana Grande

Critics' pick

Ariana Grande, pop music's latest superstar diva, headlines the Allstate Arena behind her hit second album, My Everything, a show for which the former Nickelodeon TV star surely won't have a "Problem" selling tickets as she continues to "Break Free" of her child performer image. [Stop us before we kill again.] English R&B act Rixton opens.

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Allstate Arena Until Tue Mar 3

Meghan Trainor

Critics' pick

Trainor has the stink of one-hit-wonder all over her. Wait, scratch that. She has the perfume of one-hit-wonder. There is no shame in being a zetigeisty viral sensation, and this Massachusetts pop student scored one of the biggest hits of 2014 before hitting legal drinking age. "All About That Bass" is G-rated booty music, a sort of squeaky clean Nicki Minaj for the American Girl set. The girl looks like a living Lego Friends set, but a satirical undercurrent suggests she could be the American Lily Allen. Still, how did she turn out?

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House of Blues Until Wed Mar 4

Taking Back Sunday

Pop-punk stalwart Taking Back Sunday is joined by letlive. and the Menzingers, tapping into an emo ouvre that stretches back to early 2000s. The band released its sixth album, Happiness Is, in 2014.

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Riviera Theatre Until Fri Mar 6

Lust for Youth

Critics' pick

Upbeat, coldwave-influenced synthpop, fresh from the Copenhagen punk scene, Lust for Youth bring the calculatingly beautiful Danish design approach to gothic synthpop. The band's latest, International, sounds off like Arne Jacobsen building chairs with New Order in his bedroom on a rainy day.

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Empty Bottle Until Sat Mar 7

Kindness

Critics' pick

World, You Need a Change of Mind—the exquisite debut album by Adam Bainbridge under his Kindness alias—was Time Out London's favorite LP of 2012. Now, like some modern-day Arthur Russell, he's back with his warm, luscious and eclectic mixture of disco, soul, funk, R&B and more besides. Catch him on stage, pulling lanky shapes and generally being a top showman, as he digs into album two: Otherness.

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Lincoln Hall Until Wed Mar 11

Echosmith

Critics' pick

Though the single was released in 2013, along with the debut album on which it appears, Talking Dreams, "Cool Kids" has become a sleeper pop–rock crossver hit more than year later. Thus the L.A.–based sibling quartet Echosmith has become popular with the type of crowd the protagonist in "Cool Kids" laments not being a part of. Oh, irony, you magnificent bastard.

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Metro Chicago Until Thu Mar 12

Of Montreal + Deerhoof

Critics' pick

Two of the more endearing and enduring indie acts of the last two decades team up for an evening of colorful and quirky rock. Of Montreal, the inside-out glam id of Kevin Barnes, has been cranking out albums steadily for ages. His latest psychosexual couch session with guitars is Aureate Gloom. Deerhoof may have shrunken in stature since palling about with Radiohead a decade back, but it's back-to-basics latest, La Isla Bonita, is a blast of savage twee.

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Metro Chicago Until Fri Mar 13

Alabama Shakes

Critics' pick

The Alabama neo-soul quartet return for more smokey old-time rock ’n’ soul, mixing up authentic and respectful R&B with what sounds like a half-secret love of the Black Keys and the White Stripes. Though singer Brittany Howard has been hinting at some experimental detours into punk, funk and spaghetti western.

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Chicago Theatre Until Sat Mar 14

Sylvan Esso

Critics' pick

Electronic duo Sylvan Esso, comprising vocalist Amelia Meath and electronic musician and Megafaun bassist Nick Sanborn, garnered attention last year with its hypnotic first single "Hey Mami." The pair performs here in support of its lovely self-titled debut album. Careful, for a couple of former folkies, their deep bass blasts near the brown note.

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Metro Chicago Until Sat Mar 14
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Theater in March 2015

Outside Mullingar

Kate Fry and Mark L. Montgomery star as oddball middle-aged neighbors in rural Ireland, stumbling their way toward a late chance at love in John Patrick Shanley's gentle 2014 dramedy. Northlight artistic director BJ Jones stages the Chicago premiere.

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Northlight Theatre, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts Until Sunday April 19 2015

Balm in Gilead

Critics' pick

Griffin Theatre Company stages a revival of Lanford Wilson's sprawling 1964 portrait of the hustlers, junkies, prostitutes and other denizens of a 24-hour diner on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Jonathan Berry directs.

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The Den Theatre Until Sunday April 19 2015

Title and Deed

Michael Patrick Thornton performs the Chicago premiere of this solo piece by Will Eno (Middletown, The Realistic Joneses), about a man on a journey from somewhere to somewhere else. Marti Lyons directs.

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Lookingglass Theatre Until Sunday May 3 2015

The Good Book

A teenage would-be priest and a middle-aged Biblical scholar, both struggling with doubt, lead us on an exploration of the creation of the Bible. An Iliad authors Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare bring the world premiere of their new work to Court Theatre.

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Court Theatre Until Sunday April 19 2015

Festivals in March 2015

Chicago Irish Film Festival

Lads and lassies can celebrate Irish heritage a couple of weeks before St. Patrick's Day at this film festival. Film are screened at the Music Box and the Gallery Theatre during the fest, which includes an opening reception. Visit the festival's website for a schedule of screenings.

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Music Box Theatre Until Sat Mar 7

Wizard World Comic Con Presents Fan Fest Chicago

Wizard World brings a new convention called Fan Fest to Rosemont, ahead of the company's annual Chicago Comic Con in August. The two-day event will feature comics, toys, video games and collectibles as well as a lineup of guests that includes Karen Gillan of Doctor Who and True Blood's Kristin Bauer. Prepare to bask in the glow of pop culture ephemera.

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Donald E. Stephens Convention Center Until Sun Mar 8

Thaw: A Night of Hot Ballyhoo

Critics' pick

Links Hall's annual benefit party takes over Block 37, bringing art and live theater to the downtown mall. Guests will be treated to food and refreshments include dishes from Dutch-Indonesian pop-up restaurant The Rice Table and craft cocktails featuring CH Distillery, Koval, Rhine Hall Distillery and Tito's Vodka.

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Block 37 Until Thu Mar 19

Chi-Fi Convention

Let you geek flag fly at Chi-Fi, a convention devoted to cosplay, comics, podcasting, popular culture and all things nerdy. Following a successful first year, the 2015 edition expands to a full weekend and will take place at the Palmer House Hilton.

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Palmer House Hilton Until Sun Mar 22

Chicago Beer Festival

The brew fest returns to Union Station's Great Hall for two sessions of beer tasting. Attendees will receive 40 taste vouchers to sample spring seasonal beers from brewers like Moody Tongue, Local Option and Bucket List. Tickets won't be sold at the door, so be sure to buy one in advance.

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Union Station Until Sat Mar 21

Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention

Celebrate your tattoos or plan out a few new ones at the annual Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention in Rosemont. The three-day convention is a paradise for hundreds of ink-stained artists from across the nation, who come to town to show off their skills.

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Hyatt Regency O'Hare Until Sun Mar 22

Macy's Flower Show

The first-floor fragrance department takes a backseat to the aroma of spring.

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Macy's Until Saturday April 4 2015 Free

International Quilt Festival

Hundreds of vendors selling hundreds of quilts, fabrics, supplies, gifts, and anything else related to quilting can be found at the International Quilt Festival. The fest sets down for a three-day run that also includes mixed-media classes and an open studio where four artists will be working on individual projects simulanteously for observation.

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Donald E. Stephens Convention Center Until Saturday March 28 2015

The Devil's Cabaret

Critics' pick

Indulge in a celebration of the Seven Deadly Sins at Redmoon Theater's latest spectacle, the Devil's Cabaret. The event will feature a variety of death-defying performances, a hosted craft beer bar and bands playing atop a 30-foot tall crane in the middle of Redmoon's expansive Pilsen warehouse.

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Redmoon Central Until Friday April 10 2015

Art and dance in March 2015

"Alonzo King LINES Ballet"

Alonzo King LINES Ballet brings a program hand-picked by the company’s founder and choreographer, Alonzo King, to the Harris Theater. The performance features two Chicago premieres: "Meyer", a new piece with music composed by Grammy Award winner Edgar Meyer and the Chicago premiere of "Writing Ground".

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Harris Theater Until Thu Mar 5

"Thodos Dance: Chicago Inspired"

Critics' pick

For Thodos Dance's 23rd winter concert, the group explores a variety of dances inspired by the city of Chicago. The program includes a revival of the Fosse Trilogy, a trio of dances created by Chicago native and Broadway legend Bob Fosse as well as various other pieces with local roots.

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Harris Theater Until Sat Mar 7

"Joffrey Academy of Dance Winning Works: Choreographers of Color"

The Joffrey Academy of Dance presents its fifth annual program of premieres by choreographers of color, including competition winners Stephanie Martinez (Chicago), Jennifer Archibald (New York) and Abdul Latif (New York). The performances will be accompanied by a performance of "Windy Sand", a new work from Joffrey Academy Artistic Director Alexei Kremnev.

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Museum of Contemporary Art Theater Until Sun Mar 8

"Chicago Works: Faheem Majeed"

Critics' pick

The MCA's local series continues as South Shore artist Faheem Majeed presents his first solo museum exhibition, breathing new life into discarded objects like old billboards, particleboard and scrap metal. Visitors will be able to view Majeed's sculptures and a room-sized installation in addition to events and performances that will take place within the space.

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Museum of Contemporary Art Until Sunday August 16 2015

"Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690–1840"

Critics' pick

Explore the art and culture of the Emerald Isle during the long 18th century at this new exhibit featuring 300 objects drawn from public and private collections across North America. "Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690–1840" features paintings, sculpture and architecture as well as bookbindings, ceramics, glass, furniture, metalwork, musical instruments and textiles by Irish artists.

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Art Institute of Chicago Until Sunday June 7 2015

"The Seldoms: Power Goes"

Critics' pick

Multidisciplinary dance group the Seldoms bring a new work about the nature of political power and its relationship to social action and change to the MCA stage. "Power Goes" is inspired by a biography of President Lyndon B. Johnson, using his life as a lens to examine the influence that those in a position of power can exert on the world around them.

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Museum of Contemporary Art Theater Until Sunday March 29 2015

"Keren Cytter"

Critics' pick

Fan of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show will enjoy New York–based multidisciplinary artist Keren Cytter's intentionally low-budget videos featuring intentionally kitschy, lo-fi effects that wouldn't seem out of place on late night Adult Swim broadcast. The MCA's exhibition of Cytter's work features eight videos from the past decade, as well as drawings inspired by the artist's attempts to re-create the atmosphere of film noir, horror movies and soap operas.

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Museum of Contemporary Art Saturday March 28 2015 - Sunday October 4 2015

Free events in March 2015

"Toulouse-Lautrec Prints: Art at the Edges of Modernity"

Brightly colored posters filled the streets of Paris during the late 19th century, setting the stage for French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who created a five-foot tall, color advertisement for Le Moulin Rouge in 1981. A new exhibition at the Block explores Lautrec's career, displaying public works and private lithographs that solidified his status as a modern artist.

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Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art Until Sunday April 19 2015 Free

Kick Punch Stand Up

Pencil this in, and then add inks and colors: This new weekly joint turns Logan Square's G-Mart Comics into a stand-up showcase. It's free and BYOB.

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G-Mart Comics Until Fri Feb 27 Free

"Objects and Voices: A Collection of Stories"

The Smart Museum continues its celebration of its 40th anniversary with a museum-wide display of collection-based exhibitions assembled by professors, artists, museum professionals, University of Chicago students and Smart alumni. Drawing from the museum's diverse collection of Modern, Asian, European and Contemporary art, "Objects and Voices" explores how pieces are reinterpeted, providing inspiration for future generations of artists and patrons.

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Smart Museum of Art Until Sunday June 14 2015 Free

Jaime Rojo + Santah + Shiloh

A stacked local bill includes Jamie Rojo (celebrating the release of its new record), the glimmering pop of Santah and noisy rockers Shiloh.

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Empty Bottle Until Mon Mar 9

"Erró: American Comics"

Critics' pick

Inspired by the pop art of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Icelandic artist Erró became fascinated with the imagery found in comic books. "Erró: American Comics" presents eleven of his large-scale paintings, created between 1979 and 2009, which feature collages of images found in comics, magazines and newspapers. The touring exhibit explores the artist's mission to bridge the gap between disparate forms of culture and art.

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Mana Contemporary Until Thursday April 30 2015 Free

Dyeing of the Chicago River

Critics' pick

The Journeymen Plumber’s Local Union 130 has the honor of dyeing the Chicago River before the downtown St. Patrick's Day Parade. The dye is fish-friendly, and the river returns to its usual murky shade by nightfall. Arrive early to get a good view of the urban recreation of the Emerald Isle.

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Chicago River at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive Until Sat Mar 14 Free

Hyde Park Handmade

Critics' pick

A farmers' market and artisan bazaar, Hyde Park Handmade showcases the South Side's best farmers and the unique local goods made from neighborhood artists. Local DJs spin jazz and soul records to help make your browsing a cool, collected experience.

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The Promontory Sunday April 19 2015 Free

Soul Summit

Critics' pick

This killer monthly of dusty grooves and rare soul has been going strong for five years. The dance party is so popular it has its own line of apparel. Resident DJs Dave Matta, Duke Grip and Sloppy White regularly invite crate-digging experts like the Numero Group guys to spin dirty, deep 45s. Get down to vintage rhythms every third Saturday at Double Door.

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Double Door Saturday April 18 2015 - Saturday December 19 2015 Free

"Red & Cyan: 3D Anaglyph"

Critics' pick

In the days before Avatar and 3D televisions, sharks and bullets leaped out of silver screens with the aid of red and cyan glasses. The old-school optical illusion is the centerpiece of Degenerate Art Gallery's latest exhibition, which features works that utilize the stereoscopic effect achieved through anaglyph images. Don't worry about bringing your own glasses—you'll get a pair when you arrive.

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Degenerate Art Gallery‎ Until Friday April 10 2015 Free

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