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

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

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

Second Annual 26th Annual Comedy Festival

Critics' pick

The confusingly named comedy festival organized by The Onion and The A.V. Club returns for a second year, bringing John Mulaney, Eric Andre, Kyle Kinane and more funny people to town. This year's lineup introduces a couple of film screenings to the mix, including Cabin Boy and UHF, the latter of which will feature a Q&A with “Weird Al” Yankovic and Jay Levey. If you're more interested in knowing how the yucks are created, writers from The Onion and The Simpsons will be holding panel discussions. Check out the entire slate of programming on the fest's website.

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Lincoln Hall Tuesday May 26 2015 - Saturday May 30 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

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 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

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

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

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

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 Critics Film Festival

Critics' pick

In its third year, this festival, created by the Chicago Film Critics Association, features undistributed gems and fest favorites. Notable screenings include the dark Irish drama Clavary, Jenny Slate's raunchy comedy Obvious Child and the Mike Myers-directed doc Supermensch. See the festival's website for indiviudal screening information.

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Music Box Theatre Saturday May 9 2015 - Friday May 15 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

Chicago Craft Beer Week

Critics' pick

The annual event from the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild brings the Chicago beer community together for 11 days of tastings, tappings, dinners and other beer-focused events at locations all over the city. The schedule, with more events than you can possibly attend, will be released in April.

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Various venues Thursday May 14 2015 - Sunday May 24 2015
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