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May 2015 events calendar for Chicago

Plan your May in Chicago with our events calendar of the best things to do, including concerts, theater openings and art exhibits

Photograph: John Lankford
Bike the Drive

For months this past winter, friends and loved ones asked us, "So why do you stay in Chicago?" Why do we put up with the weather? There are many reasons we love Chicago, and the arrival of May is near the top. May in Chicago is glorious. We can finally eat outside in patios and gardens. Music festival season kicks off with Do Division and Summer Camp. Street festivals get started with Maifest and Mayfest (yes, they are different!). Plus, there's everyone's favorite reason to drink margaritas (besides National Margarita Day, Feb 22), Cinco de Mayo.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2015

Featured events in May 2015

The Jesus and Mary Chain

Critics' pick

Brothers Jim and William Reid bury their animosity and take the JAMChain back on the road for a 30th anniversary tour of Psychocandy, the blisteringly loud and gorgeous debut that shook England's rock scene. Bring earplugs, unless you recently saw the heavily indebted My Bloody Valentine, in which case your hearing is already toast.

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Riviera Theatre Tuesday May 5 2015

Cinco de Mayo

Join the festivities by hitting a cocktail bar for a margarita or head to Pilsen to sample Mexican food, make sure you check out our guide to the food and events you need to experience on Cinco de Mayo.

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By: Zach Long

American Beer Classic

Enjoy the best of American beer and sample brews from the more than 30 participating breweries, including local standbys and national favorites, at this Solider Field beer festival. After sipping the 200 plus beers, you can be the judge for the event's best drink by downloading an app and voting for the MVB (Most Valuable Brew).

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Soldier Field Saturday May 9 2015

Mother's Day

Your mother brought you into the world; the least you can do is show her a good time on Mother's Day. From brunch to gifts to shopping and spa treatments, start planning out your day with the help of our guide to things to do on Mother's Day.

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By: Zach Long

The Who

Critics' pick

Keith Moon died in '78, John Entwhistle in 2002, but that hasn't stopped Daltrey and Townshend from singing about their generation. The Who, like Nike, turns 50 years old this year and so the hits are being wheeled out again, in addition to some new material. As long as Pete's arm can keep windmilling, there's life in them yet. Despite their age, and 50% survival rate, don't underestimate the live show.

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Allstate Arena Wednesday May 13 2015 - Thursday October 15 2015

Jeff Tweedy

Critics' pick

The local icon steps away from Wilco and Tweedy for his Annual Benefit for Education. At last year's charity gig, the singer-guitarist covered Nick Drake, the Beatles, Nat King Cole and Lennon, and dug into his catalog back to Uncle Tupelo. These are quite special shows.

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Vic Theatre Friday May 15 2015

Mayfest

This Lakeview neighborhood tradition typically kicks off street festival season, celebrating its 20th anniversary with food and music in a giant heated tent. Munch on pretzels, grab a brew from the outdoor beer garden or show up on Sunday at 11am for the Chicago Pet Pageant because who's a good boy, who's a good boy?

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3100 N Ashland Ave Friday May 15 2015 - Sunday May 17 2015

Summer Camp Music Festival

Sip on some bug juice and be your own counselor as you spend three days in an outdoor park with the jammy sounds of Umphrey's McGee, Moe and Widespread Panic more than a hundred other bands on six stages. Steve Miller Band and Paul Oakenfold also top the bill at this crunchiest of regional fests. Gates open for a pre-party at noon on Thursday and don't shut till the fest is over. Bean burritos and dank available in the parking lot (probably).

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Three Sisters Park Thursday May 21 2015 - Sunday May 24 2015

Memorial Day

Each summer, Chicago honors the men and women who died protecting our country with one of the nation's largest Memorial Day parades in the Loop. Prepare for the long weekend with our guide to downtown attractions, weekend getaways and more.

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By: Zach Long

Bike the Drive

Critics' pick

Have you ever dreamed of cruising down Lake Shore Drive on your bicycle? Bike and the Drive makes that dream a reality for one day this year, closing down the popular lakefront thoroughfare to cars early on a Sunday morning. Participants can bike from Byrn Mawr Ave to the Museum of Science industry (and back) during the five hours of car-free riding.

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Bike the Drive Route Sunday May 24 2015
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Concerts in May 2015

Iggy Azalea

Critics' pick

Australian rapper Iggy Azalea brings her risqué rhymes to Chicago, backed by dirty beats and pop hooks. In 2014, she went from curiousity to tabloid queen, riding a string of formulaic hits from The New Classic and its deluxe reissue. The EDM-centric rap record features production from Diplo, Steve Aoki and local bros Flosstradamus. This ain't your daddy's MC Lyte. Nick Jonas opens with his career reviving soul-pop.

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Allstate Arena Friday October 2 2015

Paramore

What a difference a No. 10 single makes. After "Ain't It Fun" brightened up summer 2014, Paramore is now getting all grown-up with that inevitable 'an intimate night with' stage of its career, with steep tickets to match. Hayley Williams' Blondie-indebted pop-punk tunes will be accompanied by opening act Copeland.

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Rosemont Theatre Sunday May 3 2015

Crosby, Stills + Nash

Crosby, Stills & Nash was the Lollapalooza headliner of its time, a festival youth-magnet ringer. But these days, the trio of counter-culture survivors serves as counter-programming, a simultaneous reminder of what once was and a blatant riposte to what currently is. Soak in their septuagenarian harmonies at the start of spring in the Chicago Theatre.

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Chicago Theatre Tuesday May 5 2015

Faith No More

Critics' pick

Faith No More remain one of the harder hard rock bands to classify. There's too much weirdness and pop in its DNA to peg it as heavy metal. Singer Mike Patton dabbles in jazz and carnival tunes with projects like Mr. Bungle and Fantomas. Keyboardist Roddy Bottum crafted one of the best indie pop album of the '90s with Imperial Teen. All those disparate influences came to the surface best on 1992's Angel Dust. You're most likely to know the band for its Chili Pepperish hit "Epic," which is nowhere near the group's new tunes, like the menacing and swinging "Motherfucker." It appeals to Frank Zappa heads as much as headbangers.

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Concord Music Hall Thursday May 7 2015

ILoveMakonnen

Critics' pick

Makonnen Sheran's greatet talent is his remarkable lack of skill. The 25-year-old rapper struggles at rapping and singing with utmost confidence, mutanting his club bangers into some new DIY subgenre with his slow, dorky drawl. He is weird and fearless, which is a sort of trademark of the Atlanta scene. Turn off your critical filters. So his self-titled EP is more of a Snapchat feed than a novel—that's the point.

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Metro Chicago Saturday May 9 2015

Passion Pit

Critics' pick

Michael Angelakos returns with the third iteration of his Passion Pit project, Kindred, an album that streamlines his maximalist giddy-sad synth-pop into radio gems. There's a new lineup of musicians backing him this time to help recreate lush love numbers like "All I Want." Upbeat cuts like "Five-Foot Ten" and "Whole Life Story" will get the masses sweaty and moving. Holychild, a cleaned-up take on Tune-Yards and Sleigh Bells, opens.

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Thalia Hall Wednesday May 13 2015 - Thursday May 14 2015

Jeff Tweedy

Critics' pick

The local icon steps away from Wilco and Tweedy for his Annual Benefit for Education. At last year's charity gig, the singer-guitarist covered Nick Drake, the Beatles, Nat King Cole and Lennon, and dug into his catalog back to Uncle Tupelo. These are quite special shows.

Read more
Vic Theatre Friday May 15 2015

Tame Impala

Critics' pick

The Aussie act makes an anticipated return with its third album in 2015, and judging by "Let It Happen," you might want to clear some space off near the top of your Year's Best list. The vintage psychedelic merchants delve into electronics on the eight-minute cut, pouring mushrooms on the dance floor, in what could pass for a Daft Punk remix of the Electric Prunes. It's starting to look like the Year of the Impala in rock.

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Riviera Theatre Friday May 15 2015

Azealia Banks

Critics' pick

After endless delays and a seemingly incurable case of Twitter Foot in Mouth Disease, Azealia Banks finally set things right and dropped Broke with Expensive Taste. It's a playful debut that cherry-picks ideas from M.I.A., Missy Elliott, Janelle Monae and, er, Ariel Pink to cook up a refreshing advancement on hip-hop. Ignore her social media and just go with her flow.

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Concord Music Hall Friday May 15 2015

Gerard Way

Critics' pick

The former main man of My Chemical Romance tours his glammy solo debut Hesitant Alien, which draws on a whole pool of influences—Britpop, Bowie and the brainy comic books he writes in his spare time.

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Vic Theatre Saturday May 16 2015
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Festivals in May 2015

NFL Draft Town

Critics' pick

Even if you can't get inside the NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre, fans will still be able celebrate their favorite teams at Draft Town in Grant Park. This free event will feature flag football competitions, a skydive simulator, a Super Bowl memorabilia museum and a bar serving up adult beverages. All 32 NFL teams will have houses where fans can gather and purchase exclusive merchandise.

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Grant Park Thursday April 30 2015 - Saturday May 2 2015 Free

Cinco De Mayo Festival

Yes, it takes place on the Uno, Dos and Tres of Mayo, but no Cinco celebration is more authentic than the fete in Little Village. The kiddies can ride live ponies and carnival attractions, and there's food, arts, crafts and music in this massive celebration of Mexican culture in the Midwest.

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2600 S Kostner Ave Friday May 1 2015 - Sunday May 3 2015 Free

North By Northwest Highway Music Fest

The already crowded slate of summer festivals is joined by this new event in Edison Park. The North by Northwest Highway Music Fest will celebrate local bands at four area venues, including Emerald Isle, Firewater Saloon, Edison Park Inn and Moretti's. Attendees can see tribute bands playing the music of U2, No Doubt and ZZ Top in addition to a host of local blues, rock and country acts.

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Edison Park Inn Friday May 1 2015 - Sunday May 3 2015

Long Grove Chocolate Fest

Besides abundant handfuls of the world's favorite antioxidant, this annual north suburban fest includes live music, beer and brats. Vendors and local restaurants feature chocolate-themed items and inspirations, like the Apple Haus' famous Johnny Pop, an apple cider donut smothered in chocolate.

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Downtown Streets of Long Grove Friday May 1 2015 - Sunday May 3 2015

Chicago Critics Film Festival

Critics' pick

In its fourth year, this festival, created by the Chicago Film Critics Association, features undistributed gems and fest favorites. This year's line up includes the Bobcat Goldthwait-directed documentary Call Me Lucky, Joe Swanberg's latest comedy Digging For Fire and the Jason Segel playing David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour. See the festival's website for indiviudal screening information.

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Music Box Theatre Friday May 1 2015 - Thursday May 7 2015

Polish Constitution Day Parade

The Polish Constitution was signed on May 3rd, 1791 and for the past 124 years Chicago has celebrated the date with a parade through the Loop. More than 250,000 attendees flock to Dearborn Street to watch the procession and honor Europe's first democratic constitution.

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Dearborn St between Lake and Van Buren Saturday May 2 2015 Free

Chicago Zine Fest

Critics' pick

Don't you miss the feeling of Kinkos ink on your fingertips? Chicago Zine Fest is an annual celebration of DIY publications, which kicks off with a series of panels at Access Living. On Saturday, 200+ zinesters show off their homemade soul at Plumber's Union Hall. Kids, this is what blogging used to look like.

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Access Living Friday May 8 2015 - Saturday May 9 2015 Free

American Beer Classic

Enjoy the best of American beer and sample brews from the more than 30 participating breweries, including local standbys and national favorites, at this Solider Field beer festival. After sipping the 200 plus beers, you can be the judge for the event's best drink by downloading an app and voting for the MVB (Most Valuable Brew).

Read more
Soldier Field Saturday May 9 2015

Zoo-ologie

The Lincoln Park Zoo's annual fundraiser features cocktails on the Nature Boardwalk, bites from local restaurants and live music for dancing. Proceeds help keep the zoo's admission free for visitors year round.

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Lincoln Park Zoo Saturday May 9 2015

Chicago Underground Film Festival

Critics' pick

Watch independent and experimental films from local and international filmmakers during this weeklong film fest at the Logan Theatre. After the credits roll, join nightly afterparties and live concerts. See the festival's website for a full schedule.

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Logan Theatre Wednesday May 13 2015 - Sunday May 17 2015
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