February can be a rough month in Chicago. The magic of the holidays is long worn off, you’ve been buried in your winter coat for months, and to top it all of, you’ve got to deal with Valentine’s Day. Seems cruel, no? But as always, we’re looking out for you, Chicago. Whether you’re in the mood for ice skating under the skyline, or jonesing to cozy up with a hot cocktail at a bar with a fireplace, we’ve got dozens of ways make the shortest month of the year the sweetest. You’ve got no excuse to stay on the couch this month.
RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2018
Featured February 2018 events
We're already a few weeks into 2018, but those of you looking for an excuse to get a fresh start on your resolutions are in luck. From Chinatown to Uptown, we've got a whole slate of fantastic ways to ring in the Year of the Dog.
Whether you’re single or all bae’d up, making plans on Valentine’s Day is a total pain. Well, we’re here to help. We’ve assembled a list of great things to do on V-Day, from nights out at comedy clubs to cozying up at the most romantic restaurants in the city. As for what happens after the date? Well, that’s on you.
More than 200 vendors hawk their antique housewares, furniture, ephemera, clothing and more at this indoor-outdoor festival. Stop in for vintage clothes and jewelry, a vinyl swap meet, a fancy food market and global goods bazaar or bring your own items for appraisal.
Music in February 2018
We're still waiting on Jay Electronica's mythical debut album (though, according to him, “an album is a false concept”), but the New Orleans rapper and producer has provided a steady trickle of new music to satiate his fans. For all we know, he'll debut the entirety of Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn)—or whatever he's calling it these days—at this Park West gig.
Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg make no secret of their deep reverence for American country and folk music, lending crystalline harmonies to songs that put a Scandinavian spin on classic Nashville twang. The pair's latest record, Ruins, features some of the sisters' most cinematic, heart string-tugging songs to date as well as collaborations with Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Glenn Kotche (Wilco). Former Port O'Brien frontman Van Williams opens the show.
Winter is the perfect time for crackling fires, warm blankets and mind-bending psych-rock music. Psych Fest brings together some of the genre's most prominent local practitioners for two evenings of experimentation. On Friday, synth wizards TALSounds and Matchess turn in a collaborative headlining set, accompanied by Glyders, Hair, Los Black Dogs and Spiral Galaxy. Heady local instrumental trio Bitchin Bajas top the bill on Saturday—a night that also features sets from Brett Naucke, Courtesy and Names Divine.
Septuagenarian gospel legend Mavis Staples has been on a roll ever since her 2010 collaboration with Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, You Are Not Alone. The pair's latest record—a collection of topical anthems entitled If All I Was Was Black—might be its finest yet. Tweedy wraps Staples's resolute vocals around understated R&B and funk instrumentals, allowing her message of unity and peace to resonate throughout deeply personal songs that emanate hope, in spite of the state of the world.
Shock rocker Marilyn Manson lived out his own version of Spinal Tap last year when a stage prop fell on him during a performance, breaking his fibula in two places. Recovered and returning to the stage, the gothic singer performs behind the quasi-industrial anthems of his recent album, Heaven Upside Down, which smartly plays up the theatricality of his pancake-makeup-wearing persona. DJ Amazonica opens the show.
Vocalo, WBEZ and Young Chicago Authors team up to celebrate hip-hop culture at this annual block party, which takes place inside Metro and Smart Bar. During the day, attendees can watch breakdancing battles and turntablism showcases. In the evening, energetic Chicago emcee Ric Wilson headlines an evening of live performances, including sets from local R&B singers theMIND and Tasha. The whole event is free and open to the public.
Erstwhile Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore stops by Constellation for an intimate solo set, performing in front of a film projection, which includes contributions from London poet Radio Radieux. While it will likely be a more hushed affair than the noisy riffs that characterized his recent Rock N Roll Consciousness LP, you can still expect Moore's most experimental tendencies to shine through.
An outlaw country singer-songwriter in the tradition of Townes Van Zandt and Waylon Jennings, Steve Earle achieved prominence in the ’80s as a rough-and-tumble troubadour with a knack for vivid storytelling. After tackling the blues, Earle got back to his roots on his most recent release, So You Wanna Be an Outlaw, which is packed with enough twangy riffs and gruff refrains that you'll feel like you've been transported to a Southern honky-tonk.
Whitney's 2016 debut, Light Upon the Lake, contains some pretty lovelorn songs, which makes it appropriate for Valentine's Day listening no matter what your relationship status currently is. Max Kakacek and Julian Ehrlich (former members of the Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, respectively) will join their band for a trio of special sets in celebration of the romantic holiday.
Local promoter Donnie Biggins (better known as Harmonica Dunn) puts together his annual roots and rock-oriented musical festival, Dunn Dunn Fest. This year, the festivities are centered around three nights of concerts at Fitzgerald's Nightclub in nearby Berwyn. Headlining acts include local soul singer JC Brooks, Illinois folk trio Moonrise Nation and South Side blues guitarist Toronzo Cannon.
Once breathlessly hailed as "the next U2," Scottish indie rock outfit Frightened Rabbit can turn a simple chord progression into a dramatic, emotional statement—even if they're not doing it in arenas. The group's latest tour celebrates the 10th anniversary of its sophomore record, The Midnight Organ Flight, with a full performance of the album.
Black Sabbath may have called it quits last year, but Mac Sabbath has taken up the heavy metal torch. The McDonald's-themed tribute act performs as demented versions of the chain's mascot characters (with Ronald standing in for Ozzy), retrofitting the band's classic riffs with lyrics about supersized French fries and Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. The group is joined by Galactic Empire, a band that dressed up in Star Wars costumes and performs metal renditions of John Williams's iconic score.
Every year, the Empty Bottle ignores the freezing temperatures and throws an outdoor block party in the dead of winter. Psych rock chameleons Thee Oh Sees headline the frigid festivities, accompanied by electropunk act ADULT, Brooklyn rockers B Boys, Teklife DJ Taye and local noise-makers C.H.E.W. Attendees can warm up under portable heaters with beer from Goose Island or a steaming bowl of chili served by Bite Café. As always, it's totally free and open to all ages.
A synth-pop crooner with a PhD in political science who spent two years learning how to build modular synthesizers, John Maus is too smart for his own good. His heady reverence for pop music shines through on Screen Memories, which pairs analog synths with vintage drum machines and harnesses Maus's knack for crafting captivating melodies. Psych musician Gary War opens the show.
Formed through a Kanye West fan message board, the members of hip-hop collective Brockhampton moved into a house together and insisted on being called a “boy band.” The 15-member group released no fewer than three records in 2017—each filled with tracks that bristle with DIY enthusiasm and unfettered charisma. It's no surprise that Brockhampton has quickly found a young and vocal fanbase—the group produces music that inspires others to go out and make their own.
Erstwhile Led Zepellin frontman Robert Plant hasn't really concerned himself with trying to recapture the larger-than-life riffs that characterized his early career. Instead, he's put his still-formidable pipes to use paying tribute to the music that inspires him, including Celtic melodies, 12-bar blues and folk music. Joined by his band, the Sensational Space Shifters, Plant will dig into the varied tracklist of his recent album, Carry Fire, with support from young English folk singer Seth Lakeman.
Chicago rapper Cupcakke is best known for her extremely raunchy rhymes and one-liners, but her recent album, Ephorize, seeks to broaden her thematic (if not lyrical) horizons. Between quips about pussy and blue balls, Cupcakke promotes body positivity and yearns for romance that isn't confined to a bedroom. If you're a fan of Cardi B's quick-witted flow and don't mind a few graphic references to bodily fluids, this hometown concert should be a real treat.
A group of David Bowie's former bandmates and collaborators (including Bowie's touring keyboardist Mike Garson and King Crimson's Adrian Belew) gathers to perform his music and pay tribute to every era of his career, ranging from the revelatory glam rock of Ziggy Stardust to selections from his penultimate LP, The Next Day.
Put on your leather bucket cap and pretend that it's 2004 all over again, as R&B singer Ashanti and rapper Ja Rule join forces for a nostalgic co-headlining tour that is guaranteed to feature a rendition of the pair's early-aughts ballad "Always on Time." Both artists have new albums in the works—Ashanti recently released a new single featuring Ty Dolla $ign, while Ja Rule is at work on what he claims will be his final record.
Art events in February 2018
In the late ‘60s, Sam Gilliam was part of a group of painters that began experimenting with color, making it the primary focus of their canvases. Gilliam developed "drape" paintings, featuring an unstretched canvas that was covered with paint and presented as a hanging sculpture. To celebrate the recent gift of Gilliam's painting "One," the Block Museum will present an exhibit devoted to his work, accompanied by pieces by contemporaries Alan Shields and Frank Stella.
The Museum of Contemporary Art explores the West Coast minimalism movement of the ‘60s, featuring art that was influenced by surfing, car culture and the region's relentlessly pleasant weather. "Endless Summer" embraces simple forms and glossy designs, featuring work by artists such as John McCracken, Larry Bell and Ed Ruscha.
Theater in February 2018
Let’s not mince words, since we’ve already spilled so many of them: Hamilton, writer-composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda’s biography of Alexander Hamilton as refracted through a hip-hop, pop and R&B lens, is a sprawling, stunning, singular achievement. By filtering the story of the American Experiment’s beginning into modern, meticulously rhymed vernacular and populating the stage with performers of color to play the likes of Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson and Madison, Miranda makes the founding fathers feel fresh and, miraculously, human.