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

American Beer Classic

Take a trip to Soldier Field and enjoy the best of American beer and sample brews from the more than 30 participating breweries including local standbys and national favorites. After sipping the 100 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

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

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 Parade

Critics' pick

After a wreath is laid at the eternal flame in Daley Plaza, Chicago's annual Memorial Day Parade heads down State Street, from Lake to Van Buren, as onlookers wave the stars and stripes. The procession has been a city tradition since 1870, honoring the men, women and families who have fought for our country.

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Daley Plaza Saturday May 23 2015 Free

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

Do Division Street Fest

Critics' pick

In its ninth year, Do Division, the street shindig booked by Empty Bottle and House Call Entertainment, holds down the last weekend in May, really kicking off the summer festival season. Shopping is merely one diversion. The vendors' wares along Division Street are rivaled only by the excess of street-side eye candy—other pretty, young things who bring their sartorial A-game.

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Division St between Damen Ave and Leavitt St Friday May 29 2015 - Sunday May 31 2015

Festival Del Taco

Critics' pick

Hey, tacos. Who doesn't love 'em? Crunchy, soft—as long as they're not made out of Doritos, we are down. The second annual Little Village festival salutes the fine art of packing tortillas with local taquerias serving up the ultimate street food.

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2600 S Kostner Ave Friday May 29 2015 - Sunday May 31 2015 Free

Lana Del Rey

Critics' pick

The backlash to the backlash came quickly for Lana Del Rey. After a rather disasterous debut performance on SNL and subsequent LOLs, the Jessica Rabbit–like crooner responded by selling over 5 million copies of Born to Die. Oh, and her stage chops grew stronger. Her bewitching performance at Lollapalooza 2013 won over those who expected some trainwreck spectacle. Now, she returns for her second lap of promoting Ultraviolence, the even more David Lynchian record recorded with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.

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First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre Saturday May 30 2015

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 May 1 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

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

Jenny Lewis

Former Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis is the picture of California cool on The Voyager, her third solo effort. Its songs attack sexism and aging with wit, couching the barbs in warm folk-rocky production. The new batch is a welcome addition to Lewis's growing live repertoire, which includes some Rilo Kiley throwbacks for good measure.

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Vic Theatre Monday May 18 2015

Matt & Kim

Critics' pick

They happy, hyper, yelpy duo were kind of doing the "Everything Is Awesome" thing long before The Lego Movie came along. Once mainstream fame dies down for the boy-girl twosome, childrens' music seems like an obvious second career. But there's no sign of success waning yet, as Matt & Kim deliver New Glow, a fifth album of big beats, ice cream truck keyboards and pearly teeth.

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Riviera Theatre Thursday May 21 2015

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Critics' pick

The talented one out of Oasis tours his second solo album, Chasing Yesterday, which branches even further from the "Sex Beatles" formula of his '90s juggernaut for something a little groovier, jazzier. All that bro time with Paul Weller continues to rub off.

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Riviera Theatre Friday May 29 2015

Festivals in May 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

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

Skokie Festival of Cultures

Take a tour of the world at this popular festival in Skokie, which features ethnic music, dance, food and arts. Attendees won't have trouble finding ways to celebrate cultural diversity at this free event, with activities like an international beer tasting competition and plenty of games for kids and families.

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Oakton Park Saturday May 16 2015 - Sunday May 17 2015 Free

Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival

This 31-year-old street festival celebrates Memorial Day weekend with a showcase of regional tribute bands accompanied by plenty of libations and food from local vendors.

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Belmont Ave Saturday May 23 2015 - Monday May 25 2015

International Mr. Leather Weekend

Rooted in a 1979 bar contest, this four-day event features parties, a fetish and leather market, a physique competition, a sexy shoe-polishing competition and, of course, the annual crowning of International Mr. Leather. In additional to the daily Leather Market, there are the big evening events: the Opening Ceremonies, Physique Competition, International Mr. Leather Contest, IML Victory Celebration Party, and the Black and Blue Ball. Visitors can enter the leather market in return for a $10 donation.

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Various venues Friday May 22 2015 - Monday May 25 2015

Maifest

It's Oktoberfest in May, as the traditionally German neighborhood of Lincoln Square throws down with all the beers, cheers, oompah, Lederhosen and pretzels you'd expect.

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Lincoln Square Thursday May 28 2015 - Sunday May 31 2015 Free

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