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.
RECOMMENDED: The best events in Chicago
Featured February 2017 events
We're already a few weeks into 2017, 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 Rooster.
Whether you’re single or all bae’d up, making plans on Valentine’s Day is a total pain in the ass. How do you find that sweet spot that shows you put in effort without going over the top or outweighing your partner’s plans? 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.
Get all gussied up in your best retro ski digs and trek through Gold Coast on this winter bar crawl. Ski goggles, fuzzy ear muffs and leg warmers and spandex are all recommended. Participating bars and restaurants include Butch McGuire's, Coconutz, Hopsmith Tavern, The Original Mother's, McFadden's and The Hangge Uppe.
Dash through Wrigleyville in your unmentionables to raise dough for the Children's Tumor Foundation. Participants can raise funds to earn prizes, including shirts, undies and engraved flasks. There's also an afterparty at John Barleycorn where you can rub shoulders with people who have already seen you half-naked.
Stave off the winter blues inside the Chicago Botanic Garden's Regenstein Center, where the greenhouses and gallery will be packed with more than 10,000 in-bloom orchids, featuring an array of hybrids. On Saturday and Sundays, the Orchid Marketplace allows you an opportunity to purchase the plants.
The folks behind TBOX present another seasonally-themed excuse to drink in Wrigleyville with their annual Mardi Gras pub crawl. BeadQuest participants bounce between over 20 bars, while collecting beads, getting photos taken in event-specific "frames" and partaking in a number of drink and food specials. If you're the kind of person who like to knock back hurricanes while listening to brass bands, you'll feel like you've died and gone to Bourbon Street.
Embrace the bitter weather at the second annual Frost Fest. Stoic attendees will be able to sample more than 40 craft beers from local breweries in a gigantic, outdoor heated tent during two separate three-hour tasting sessions. Live music and food trucks contrast and compliment the cold suds.
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. This event typically occurs on the last weekend of each month. During the warm-weather months of May–September, the market adds an outdoor area, offering even more vintage shopping and a beer garden.
Music in February 2017
Since emerging in 1998 to link up with Mos Def and form Black Star, socially conscious MC Talib Kweli has made a name for himself as a solo artist of true integrity. Kweli hasn't released a proper solo album since 2013's Gravitas, but his recent compilation Awful People Are Great at Parties features fresh, impactful verses from the rapper and showcases artists signed to his Javotti Media label. Styles P and K' Valentine open the show.
After playing more than 300 shows in support of her 2015 album In Plain Speech, Haley Fohr (best known as Circuit des Yeux) presents a special retrospective hometown performance at Constellation. Over the course of an extended solo set, the singer-songwriter will dig into her back catalog of turbulent folk songs, blending 12-string guitar with her striking baritone vocals.
House of Vans celebrates the grand opening of its Chicago location with a free concert. The lineup is topped by Baltimore electro-pop outfit Future Islands, best known for the raspy growl and meme-worthy dance moves of frontman Samuel T. Herring. Recently reunited '90s hip-hop icons Digable Planets and local rapper Noname round out the bill. You'll need to RSVP for a chance to receive tickets.
Folksy Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon delivers spooky avant-pop that oscillates between punk and organ-driven psych-rock on her latest album, Crab Day. At Lincoln Hall, she's joined by Tim Presley, best known for his recordings under the name White Fence and his collaboration with Le Bon as part of the duo Drinks.
LA-based Jason Chung crafts synthetic, ambient hip-hop as Nosaj Thing, though you might know him for producing tracks for the likes of Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar. Here, the producer gets behind the decks at East Room for an all-night DJ set—expect the selections to fluctuate between the woozy ambiance of his solo work to chopped and screwed club bangers.
As a teenager, Fatimah Warner was part of the same Chicago Public Library arts program that mentored artists like Chance the Rapper and Saba. The Bronzeville native's background as a poet shines through in the stark yet beautiful lyrics that populate her debut mixtape, Telefone, delivering verses that confront her preveived shortcomings and insecurities with low-key candor. She launches her first tour at Metro with support from young singer-songwriter Ravyn Lenae.
Cloud Nothings frontman Dylan Baldi channels some quarter-life angst on the group's new LP, Life Without Sound, but he seems more concerned about the world at large than his own inner turmoil. Lead single "Internal World" he admits "I’m not the one who’s always right," amid a fuzzy pop punk arrangement—a fairly shrewd assessment, considering the current political climate. It's a far cry from the lo-fi basement recordings that launched Baldi into indie rock stardom, but desperate times call for more powerful songs.
Progressive trumpeter, composer and record label owner Dave Douglas takes a break from his numerous side projects and collaborations to bring his quintet to Constellation. Douglas's most recent records have found him blending jazz structure with electronic flourishes, but his work with young musicians Jon Irabagon, Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh and Rudy Royston is generally more straightforward and accessible.
Melding punk rock energy with arena rock bluster, Vancouver duo Japandroids makes music that is unabashedly triumphant. Five years after the release of the acclaimed Celebration Rock, the pair marks its return with a new record, Near to the Wild Heart of Life. If the rest of the album is nearly as triumphant as its title track, you're in for an evening of fist pumping and high-fiving strangers. The Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn and his backing band, the Uptown Controllers, open the show.
No, not that Hamilton. With the Walkmen on indefinite hiatus, frontman Leithauser teams up with former Vampire Weekend instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, exploring doo-wop, soul and country music on the duo’s new album, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine. While there's a bit of Leithauser's familiar garage-soul howling and bespoke crooning on the record, it seems like a calculated attempt to branch out—thankfully, it hits the mark. Wise beyond her years singer songwriter Lucy Dacus opens the show.
Rising Swedish pop star Tove Lo (pronounced “TOO-veh loo”) stepped into the spotlight with her unflinching breakup-aftermath anthem, “Habits.” Her latest album, Lady Wood, is equally explicit (accompanied by a NSFW short film, naturally), filled with confessional anthems that deal with sexuality and relationships, backed by dark synth melodies and muted beats. Electro-pop singer-songwriter Phoebe Ryan (who provides the vocals on the Chainsmokers' "All We Know") supports.
Local promoter Donnie Biggins (better known as Harmonica Dunn) puts together his annual roots and rock-oriented musical festival, Dunn Dunn Fest. Spread out across venues like Lincoln Hall, Schubas, Subterranean, Hideout, Beat Kitchen and Tonic Room, the three-day festival is packed with local bands and beloved touring acts. Highlights of the lineup include bar band Low Cut Connie (Lincoln Hall, Feb 17), Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty (Lincoln Hall, Feb 18) and Latin jam band Dos Santos: Anti-Beat Orquesta (Hideout, Feb 18).
El-P and Killer Mike continue their hip-hop bromance, firing off another barrage of quick-witted tracks on their new album, Run the Jewels 3. Fueled by a year of political and societal turmoil, the record might well be the pair's most impassioned and self-righteous effort to day, enlisting assistance from Detroit emcee Danny Brown and L.A. saxophonist Kamasi Washington. L.A. beatmaker the Gaslamp Killer, indie rapper Spark Master Tape and Arkansas emcee Cuz support.
Septuagenarian gospel legend Mavis Staples has only become better with age, radiating joy and positivity with her comforting vocal presence. After recording two LPs with fellow Chicago-native Jeff Tweedy, Staples latest, Livin' on a High Note, finds her teaming up with M. Ward on a collection of songs written specifically for her by artists like Justin Vernon, Neko Case and Nick Cave. Expect a career-spanning set at this special Symphony Center performance.
Best known for the raucous (but, above all, respectful) dance parties he leads at summer music festival, Baltimore's bespectacled, classically trained electro wunderkind Deacon airs the upbeat weirdtronica of his prolific catalogue. At this Red Bull Sound Select show, he's joined by experimental Minneapolis synth outfit Marijuana Deathsquads and local hip-hop duo Air Credits.
Winter is coming, and with it, an arena tour centered around Ramin Djawadi’s stirring score for Game of Thrones, featuring an orchestra, a choir and dragons projected on gigantic LED screens. For an encore, might we suggest some selections from Djawadi's equally wonderful Westworld score?
There's a reason Donald Glover decided to channel Parliament-Funkadelic on his latest Childish Gambino album—the group's political lyricism and taut funk arrangements are more relevant than ever before. 75-year-old frontman George Clinton brings the group's Mardi Gras Madness Tour to Thalia Hall, which promises an evening of interstellar funk, soul and disco that is guaranteed to get your body moving.
One of city's most beloved bands comes home to the Chicago Theatre, staging a four-night stand that marks the group's first appearance at the historic venue. Wilco's tenth studio album, cheekily titled Schmilco, acts as a companion to 2015's Star Wars—a more subdued collection of succinct pop songs that is remincent of frontman Jeff Tweedy's 2014 solo release, Sukierae. If these shows are anything like past hometown appearances, you can expect the band to dig deep into its back catalog (and avoid repeating songs night-to-night), in an effort to placate diehards screaming "Cars Can't Escape" from the balcony.
Sudan-born multi-instrumentalist Ahmed Gallad toured with Caribou, Of Montreal, and Yeasayer, before striking out on his own under the name Sinkane. He specializes in indelible hooks, anthemic choruses and Afrobeat flourishes, harnessing a silky smooth falsetto that floats through each track on his new album Life & Livin' It.
The jangling refrains of Chicago indie-rock quartet Ne-Hi traffic in pre-mature nostalgia, wistfully looking back on (relatively) recent youthful dalliances on the band's latest single, "Stay Young." Here the group celebrates the release of its sophomore LP, Offers, serving up a bittersweet soundtrack to cracking open beers with a friend as the sun sets on a beautiful summer day. More than any other promising young band in the city, Ne-Hi captures a very specific feeling and finds its nuances amid reverberating guitars.
Nevermind the digusting-if-you-think-about-it name, Meat Wave is a local band done good. Made up of Chicago punk scene vets, the trio signed to SideOneDummy in 2015 to release Delusion Moon, a frantic post punk album that marries heavy riffs with zealous lyricism. Expect to hear some tracks from the group's new soon-to-be-released record at this hometown show.
LA bassist and singer-songwriter Thundercat embraces yacht rock on his latest single, "Show You The Way," featuring guest vocals from Kenny Logins and Michael McDonald. Though its likely an outlier on his latest album, Drunk, it's a natural progression for the frequent Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar collaborator, who has embraced cosmic soul, funk and R&B as a solo artist.
Veteran singer Lee Fields cut his first single in 1969 and is still a consumate performer, thanks to four decades spent plying his trade on stage and in the studio. Assisted by his backing band the Expressions, Fields combines elements of classic soul and R&B to create music that sounds like its been dug out of a dusty crate of records and reinvigorated for a new era.
Art events in February 2017
The MCA's latest exhibition in its ongoing DNA series confronts the gender inequality that still haunts the art world. Named after the ‘90s feminist punk movement, "Riot Grrrls" showcases paintings by notable female artists like Mary Heilmann, Charline von Heyl and Judy Ledgerwood. The exhibition also features work by younger artists, including Molly Zuckerman-Hartung and Amy Feldman.
The latest exhibition in the MCA's "Chicago Works" series focuses on local sculptor Chris Bradley, who replicates everyday objects and places them in new contexts. An ordinary bag of ice is a creative challenge for the artist, achieved by casting cubes out of glass (so that it will never melt). The objects he creates are approached with a sense of humor—why else would a flower pot and a ladder be found affixed to the blades of a ceiling fan?
A painter may insist on hanging their canvases on a gallery wall, but some artists prefer to blur the line between their work and the environment in which it is presented. In "Above, Before & After," the MCA assembles a collection of two- and three-dimensional works that exploit the relationship between art and the viewer, including intricate mobiles by Alexander Calder and lightbox sculptures by Alfredo Jaar.
Immortalized on the walls of cafés, bistros and dorm rooms across the nation, vintage French posters are a decorative staple that date back to the late 1800s. The Driehaus Museum's latest exhibition presents 45 turn-of-the-century French posters from its collection, celebrating the affichomania (the "poster craze") that inspired art collectors to acquire these impressionistic creations from the streets of Paris.
Art historians have long debated the exact meaning of the term "classicism," which typically denotes a reverence for Ancient Greek and Roman art. The latest Smart Museum exhibition explores how interpretations of classicism have evolved, assembling more than 70 paintings, sculptures and replicas that draw inspiration from ancient art forms.
Ahead of the Fall 2017 opening of the Art Institute's permanent display of architecture and design works, the museum exhibits examples of postmodern design in the 1970s and ’80s, including colorful pieces by Italian group Memphis and architectural firm Coop Himmelblau.
Best known for encasing a Cadillac in concrete, German artist Wolf Vostell adopted the material as a motif, using it to demonstrate permanence, urban renewal and unrest. "Vostell Concrete" collects 45 of the artist's sculptures, films, collages and prints, examining the motivation behind his use of materials and what they signified.
Reflect on the past at this group exhibition, which gathers works by contemporary artists such as Kristine Aono, Shan Goshorn, Samantha Hill, McCallum & Tarry, Dario Robleto and Marie Watt. The work on display invites visitors to reconcile with the persistence of war, racism and xenophobia throughout history, through pieces that depict humanity's worst impulses.
As part of Chicago's Year of Public Art, the Chicago Cultural Center pays tribute to the Wall of Respect, a seminal mural that inhabited the side of a building at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue in 1967. Exhibit curators Romi Crawford, Abdul Alkalimat and Rebecca Zorach examine how the Organization of Black Arts and Culture designed and gathered artists to paint the mural, which depicted black leaders and icons.
Theater in February 2017
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 and his regular collaborators (director Thomas Kail, music supervisor Alex Lacamoire and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler) make the founding fathers feel fresh and, miraculously, human. RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Hamilton Chicago Weeks out from the country’s naming its 45th president, Hamilton’s new Chicago company arrives to remind us our democracy has always been messy, political, personal, and worth fighting for. Kail and Blankenbuehler fill designer David Korins’s spare set—which suggests that, like the country, it’s still under construction—with movement as thrilling and dense as Miranda’s lyrics. (The few moments of stillness are also used to great counter effect.) The nearly all-new Chicago cast (ensemble member Emmy Raver-Lampman is the sole transfer) easily lives up to the originals while finding their own new moments and shades. Miguel Cervantes is a rather more grounded Hamilton than the more frenetic Miranda, who originated the role, but Cervantes conveys the man’s vital, fatal