July 2018 events calendar for Chicago

Plan out your July in Chicago with our calendar of the best events and things to do, including fireworks, theater, art and music
Pitchfork Music Festival 2016, Sunday
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
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The smell of barbecue is in the air, the beaches are packed, and festivals have taken over the streets and parks. Yes, summer is in full swing in Chicago and we're trying to enjoy everything that our fine city has to offer. The month kicks off with some explosive Fourth of July fireworks, leading into the city's annual culinary celebration at Taste of Chicago. If you're looking for some musical fun in the sun, you'll want to head out to Pitchfork Music Festival. Start enjoying summer with the help of our July events calendar for Chicago. 

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2018

Featured events in July 2018

Things to do, Festivals

Fourth of July Fireworks

The city of Chicago ditched its official fireworks show a few years back, but Navy Pier picks up the slack with its explosive Independence Day celebration. Revelers can head down to the pier or Millennium Park for an up-close view, but if you're not a fan of crowds you'll want to hit the lakefront or find a friend with a rooftop by the shore.

Radiohead
Photograph: Rozette Rago
Music, Rock and indie

Radiohead

After Radiohead headlined Lollapalooza in 2016, we didn't expect to see the band in Chicago again anytime soon—at least not until it got around to recording another album. Thankfully, Thom Yorke and company are full of surprises, the latest of which is another North American tour in support of A Moon Shaped Pool that kicks off at the United Center. Radiohead's larger-than-life experimental rock is fit for an arena, but we're just as excited about the mind-blowing light show.

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Things to do, Festivals

West Fest

Befitting its location on the hip Chicago Avenue corridor, West Fest can be counted on for a great sleeper of a summer street fest bill. Folk-rocker Kevin Morby and local hip-hop emcee Joey Purp top this year's music lineup, joined by Chicago acts like Ohmme, Varsity and oddCouple. The event also features a Pet Fest and a Kids Fest, stocked with activities for your little ones and four-legged friends.

Chosen Few DJs Music Festival
Photograph: Courtesy Chosen Few DJs
Music, Music festivals

Chosen Few DJs Music Festival

In 1990, a group of Chicago house DJs and a small group of friends gathered in Jackson Park for an impromptu concert. Today, the Chosen Few DJs spin tracks for thousands of fans each summer, joined by a selection of guests, including production collective Basement Boys, remix artist Ralphi Rosario and local singer Sheree Hicks. Attendees can bring a picnic basket, set up a tent or hit the dance floor to groove along to a day of slick house beats.

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Taste of Chicago
Photograph: Martha Williams
Things to do, Festivals

Taste of Chicago

Since 1980, Grant Park has been hosting what has become the granddaddy of food festivals. You know the drill: Trade tickets for a taste of Chicago's street fare. Hopefully what you gain in weight, you'll lose from your wallet. As always, there will be music at Petrillo for you to listen to while you devour your turkey leg, Eli's Cheesecake or deep dish pizza.

ACTIVATE
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Loop Alliance
Things to do, Quirky events

ACTIVATE

Each month, Chicago Loop Alliance throws a party in an unexpected location downtown with the help of local artists and DJs. Guests can RSVP to receive a free drink when they arrive and enjoy an evening of music, art and entertainment. In July, the party takes place in the Sullivan Center alley on Monroe between State and Wabash. The theme of the event is TunnelVision, featuring projection-mapped art, a virtual reality lounge, light sculptures and music from Bit x Bit and DreamBait.

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Attendees sip craft beers and enjoy an eclectic music lineup at Square Roots Festival in Lincoln Square, July 13, 2014.
Photograph: Kristine Kuczora
Things to do, Festivals

Square Roots Festival

Alt-country, folk and Americana music take the spotlight at Square Roots, a street festival that takes over the main drag of Lincoln Square. Alt-country pioneers the Jayhawks, Americana explorer Pokey LaFarge, and Appalachian folk duo the Handsome Family are among the headlining acts on the diverse music lineup. The event also features multiple craft beer gardens, food from local restaurants and a market stocked with goods from area businesses.

Brothers Osborne
Photograph: Courtesy Universal Music Group Nashville
Things to do, Festivals

Windy City Smokeout

Spend a weekend eating barbecue and listening to country music at the Windy City Smokeout, which fills a parking lot with some of the country's best pitmasters and musicians. Sample smoked meats cooked by BBQ masters from Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennesee while you listen to twangy tunes from the likes of Brett Eldredge, Brothers Osborne, Ashley McBryde and Aaron Lewis. Dust off your cowboy hat, tie a bib around your neck and dig into this weekend of delicious meat and music.

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The Flaming Lips
Photograph: J. Michelle Martin
Music, Rock and indie

The Flaming Lips + La Butcherettes + Half Gringa

Oklahoma weirdos the Flaming Lips have been mining various strains of psychedelia for the past 35 years, but the group's confetti-covered live performances backed by costumed dancers are where it has always shined brightest. Touring behind a new collection of the band's greatest hits, Wayne Coyne and his band will bring their falsetto philosophizing and outrageous (not always family-friendly) stage show to the Taste of Chicago. Mexican garage rockers Le Butcherettes and local singer-songwriter Half Gringa support.

George Clinton
Photograph: William Thoren
Music, Funk, soul and disco

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic + BJ the Chicago Kid + The Boy Illinois

George Clinton (a.k.a. the Godfather of Funk) recently announced that he'll hang up his hat and retire from touring with Parliament Funkadelic in 2019. Before that happens, you'll get at least one more chance to see him fronting the modern incarnation of P-Funk, which incorporates hip-hop arrangements and dancing contortionists amid renditions of classic tracks like "One Nation Under a Groove" and "Give Up the Funk." Local singer-songwriters BJ the Chicago Kid and the Boy Illinois open the show.

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Photograph: Matt Lief Anderson
Music, Music festivals

Pitchfork Music Festival

If you're searching for a fest that showcases rising bands, underground legends and mainstream performers with strong independent roots, look no further than the Pitchfork Music Festival. This Union Park fest is best described as a laid-back weekend of musical discovery. Headlining acts include Aussie psych outfit Tame Impala, folk-rockers Fleet Foxes and R&B singer Ms. Lauryn Hill (performing her 1998 debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill). You'll want to show up early to catch sets from funk legend Chaka Khan, electronic duo Mount Kimbie, experimental collective This is Not This Heat and host of other compelling performers.

Things to do, Festivals

Chicago Craft Beer Festival

Foamy, flat macrobrewed suds in a plastic cup not exactly your idea of a good time? Unleash your inner sophisticate at this Lincoln Park fest, which serves up more than 70 local, regional and national craft beers from 35 brewers. Purchase tickets before making your way to the tasting session each day from 11:30am–4pm—each ticket is good for one 3 ounce sample of beer. Once you've got a buzz going, admire some lawns or catch a band at the nearby Sheffield Music Festival and Garden Walk.

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Foo Fighters
Photograph: Brantley Gutierrez
Music, Rock and indie

Foo Fighters

Dave Grohl saw his very first punk rock show at the Cubby Bear in 1983, so the Foo Fighters’ return to Wrigleyville is a homecoming of sorts. During the band’s last visit to Wrigley Field (in 2015) Grohl had a giant cast on his leg and had to play the show from atop an ornate throne, adorned with guitar necks. This time around, he’ll have the run of the Friendly Confines—we’re imaging a rendition of “Best of You” performed while rounding the bases or a version of “Learn to Fly” sung from atop the Wrigley scoreboard.

Wicker Park Fest
Photograph: Max Herman
Things to do, Festivals

Wicker Park Fest

Wicker Park may be overrun with chain restaurants and gigantic shoe stores, but the neighborhood still clears out Milwaukee Avenue for a street celebration each summer. The main attraction of the annual fest is the Pitchfork-quality music lineup, which features synth-pop act Porches, punk rockers Against Me!, stoner metal act Red Fang and singer-songwriter Ezra Furman. You'll also find plenty of delicious food, sales at local shops and twentysomethings watching the festivities from rooftops and balconies.

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Fiesta del Sol
Photograph: Max Herman
Things to do, Festivals

Fiesta del Sol

One of the largest Latino fests in the Midwest returns to the heart of Pilsen, hosting a carnival, delicious food from local vendors and a lineup of traditional music. Unlike many other street fests, Fiesta del Sol is a proudly booze and tobacco-free event, making it ideal for families. 

Festivals in July 2018

333.wk.BristolRenaissanceFaire40.jpg
Photograph: Zach Weiss
Things to do, Festivals

Bristol Renaissance Faire

Have a jolly olde time and butcher your favorite European accent as you engage in live-action fantasy play, enjoy interactive riddles, cheer on your favorite jousting knight or revel in period performances from 1574. The festival takes place Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day in July, August and early September.

Brothers Osborne
Photograph: Courtesy Universal Music Group Nashville
Things to do, Festivals

Windy City Smokeout

Spend a weekend eating barbecue and listening to country music at the Windy City Smokeout, which fills a parking lot with some of the country's best pitmasters and musicians. Sample smoked meats cooked by BBQ masters from Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennesee while you listen to twangy tunes from the likes of Brett Eldredge, Brothers Osborne, Ashley McBryde and Aaron Lewis. Dust off your cowboy hat, tie a bib around your neck and dig into this weekend of delicious meat and music.

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Things to do, Festivals

Roscoe Village Burger Fest

It's no secret that we unabashedly love burgers, so you can imagine how much we're anticipating Roscoe Village's annual celebration of succulent, beef patty cuisine. Loosen your belt and prepare to taste grilled creations from local restaurants while enjoying live music and ample libations. 

Photograph: Kaitlin Hetterscheidt
Things to do, Festivals

Chinatown Summer Fair

Chinatown celebrates the arrival of summer at this annual event, featuring food, art and music from the Far East. The festival opens with a traditional Lion Dance Procession and continues with performances, kung fu demonstrations and cuisine from Chinatown restaurants.

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Things to do, Festivals

Southport Art Festival

The Southport Corridor hosts its annual two-day art festival, bringing together a variety of artists and local vendors near neighborhood landmarks like the Music Box Theatre. Guests can peruse pieces, shop at Southport Avenue stores or get up early and enjoy the annual Gospel Brunch on Sunday morning.

Things to do, Festivals

Taste of River North

This riverfront bash offers samples of dishes from trendy area restaurants like Farmhouse, Taco Joint and El Hefe in addition to great view of the skyline. The shindig also includes a family fun area and live music.

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Photograph: Matt Lief Anderson
Music, Music festivals

Pitchfork Music Festival

If you're searching for a fest that showcases rising bands, underground legends and mainstream performers with strong independent roots, look no further than the Pitchfork Music Festival. This Union Park fest is best described as a laid-back weekend of musical discovery. Headlining acts include Aussie psych outfit Tame Impala, folk-rockers Fleet Foxes and R&B singer Ms. Lauryn Hill (performing her 1998 debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill). You'll want to show up early to catch sets from funk legend Chaka Khan, electronic duo Mount Kimbie, experimental collective This is Not This Heat and host of other compelling performers.

Things to do, Festivals

BenFest

If you're really lucky, you'll walk away from BenFest with $10,000 in your pocket. Even if you don't win the cash raffle, there's still plenty to see and do at this annual benefit for the St. Benedict Parish in North Center, including live music and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament for the kids.

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The Art Institute of Chicago.
Photograph: Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago
Things to do, Festivals

Art Institute of Chicago Block Party

The Art Institute of Chicago hosts its very first Block Party celebration, inviting guests to learn about the museum while enjoying exhibitions, activities, presentations, gallery tours, live music and more. The evening is headlined by performances from guitarist Jeff Parker and local jazz musician Ben LaMar Gay.

Things to do, Festivals

Chicago Craft Beer Festival

Foamy, flat macrobrewed suds in a plastic cup not exactly your idea of a good time? Unleash your inner sophisticate at this Lincoln Park fest, which serves up more than 70 local, regional and national craft beers from 35 brewers. Purchase tickets before making your way to the tasting session each day from 11:30am–4pm—each ticket is good for one 3 ounce sample of beer. Once you've got a buzz going, admire some lawns or catch a band at the nearby Sheffield Music Festival and Garden Walk.

Advertising
Fiesta del Sol
Photograph: Max Herman
Things to do, Festivals

Fiesta del Sol

One of the largest Latino fests in the Midwest returns to the heart of Pilsen, hosting a carnival, delicious food from local vendors and a lineup of traditional music. Unlike many other street fests, Fiesta del Sol is a proudly booze and tobacco-free event, making it ideal for families. 

Concerts in July 2018

Neil Young performed at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island during Farm Aid 30, September 19, 2015.
Photograph: Max Herman
Music, Rock and indie

Neil Young

Relentless troubadour Neil Young has dabbled in everything from soul to psych, tried to launch an iPod for audiophiles, made an entire album protesting biotech corporation Monsanto and is now hard at work on a digital archive of his recorded output. For his latest set of gigs in Chicago, Young will perform solo at the Auditorium Theatre, where Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young once performed on their way to Woodstock. Expect a career-spanning show from one of the most eclectic and unpredictable artists of his generation.

Serpentwithfeet
Photograph: Ash Kingston
Music, Funk, soul and disco

Serpentwithfeet + Lee Mo

Vocalist Josiah Wise presents a sultry, futuristic take on gospel music and R&B balladry inspired by his love of artists like Björk and Brandy, using his flexible voice to sing about his experiences as a black, queer man. Serpentwithfeet comes to Bottle in support of his debut album, soil, which features production by frequent Adele collaborator Paul Epworth. Philadelphia soul singer Lee Mo opens the show.

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Janelle Monae
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Funk, soul and disco

Janelle Monáe + St. Beauty

After appearing in films like Moonlight and Hidden Figures, sci-fi soul diva Janelle Monáe returns to outer space on her new album, Dirty Computer. The sprawling record features backing vocals from Brian Wilson, grooves that the late, great Prince gave his blessing and songs that reckon with Monáe's pansexual awakening. If the "emotion picture" video that Monáe released alongside the album is any indication, she'll wrap the funky, soul-searching songs into a visually-arresting, futuristic live performance. R&B duo St. Beauty open the show.

Things to do, Festivals

West Fest

Befitting its location on the hip Chicago Avenue corridor, West Fest can be counted on for a great sleeper of a summer street fest bill. Folk-rocker Kevin Morby and local hip-hop emcee Joey Purp top this year's music lineup, joined by Chicago acts like Ohmme, Varsity and oddCouple. The event also features a Pet Fest and a Kids Fest, stocked with activities for your little ones and four-legged friends.

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Radiohead
Photograph: Rozette Rago
Music, Rock and indie

Radiohead

After Radiohead headlined Lollapalooza in 2016, we didn't expect to see the band in Chicago again anytime soon—at least not until it got around to recording another album. Thankfully, Thom Yorke and company are full of surprises, the latest of which is another North American tour in support of A Moon Shaped Pool that kicks off at the United Center. Radiohead's larger-than-life experimental rock is fit for an arena, but we're just as excited about the mind-blowing light show.

Chosen Few DJs Music Festival
Photograph: Courtesy Chosen Few DJs
Music, Music festivals

Chosen Few DJs Music Festival

In 1990, a group of Chicago house DJs and a small group of friends gathered in Jackson Park for an impromptu concert. Today, the Chosen Few DJs spin tracks for thousands of fans each summer, joined by a selection of guests, including production collective Basement Boys, remix artist Ralphi Rosario and local singer Sheree Hicks. Attendees can bring a picnic basket, set up a tent or hit the dance floor to groove along to a day of slick house beats.

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Weezer
Photograph: Courtesy Atlantic Records
Music, Rock and indie

Weezer + Pixies + The Wombats

Endearingly cheesy power-pop act Weezer and ‘90s alt-rock titans Pixies co-headline an evening of nostalgic melodies, taking audiences back to a time when MTV still played music videos and tracks like “Buddy Holly” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven” could become minor radio hits. Of course, both groups have soldiered on since their respective heydays, with reshuffled lineups, new music and a fair amount of legacy-building (not to mention Weezer's recent fan-requested cover of Toto's infamous song, “Africa”). English rockers the Wombats open the show.

Michael Franti and Spearhead
Photograph: Michael Schreiber
Music, Music festivals

Live in Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park hosts a music festival devoted to jam bands, reggae and roots rock at this new event, which should provide a fitting comedown from Fourth of July celebrations. Reggae act Michael Franti and Spearhead headline the fest on Saturday night and Phish bassist Mike Gordon closes out the weekend on Sunday evening. Live in Lincoln Park also features sets from the Original Wailers, Collie Buddz, Cory Wong, Pimps of Joytime and more great acts.

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Brandi Carlile
Photograph: David McClister
Music, Folk, country and blues

Brandi Carlile + Martha Redbone Roots Project

Americana singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile belts out impactful anthems about empathy and motherhood on her latest album, By the Way, I Forgive You. A skilled lyricist (who has been covered by the likes of Adele, Dolly Parton and Pearl Jam), Carlile's folk, country and rock ballads betray a contemplative outlook on the world that still seems wise beyond her years. Blues and soul singer Martha Redbone and her Roots Project band open the show.    

334.mu.BlackStarlate11.jpg
Photograph: Max Herman
Music, Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Black Star + Madame Gandhi

Two decades ago, Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) and Talib Kweli—two of hip-hop's most conscientious emcees—joined forces as Black Star. Now the pair has a new record produced by Madlib on the way and is taking the stage in anticipation of its release. Nevermind that Yasiin Bey announced his retirement from the music industry back in 2016—we're just happy that Black Star is rising, once more. L.A. musician and activist Madame Gandhi opens this Taste of Chicago concert. 

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See more July 2018 concerts

Free events July 2018

George Clinton
Photograph: William Thoren
Music, Funk, soul and disco

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic + BJ the Chicago Kid + The Boy Illinois

George Clinton (a.k.a. the Godfather of Funk) recently announced that he'll hang up his hat and retire from touring with Parliament Funkadelic in 2019. Before that happens, you'll get at least one more chance to see him fronting the modern incarnation of P-Funk, which incorporates hip-hop arrangements and dancing contortionists amid renditions of classic tracks like "One Nation Under a Groove" and "Give Up the Funk." Local singer-songwriters BJ the Chicago Kid and the Boy Illinois open the show.

Anoushka Shankar
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Latin and world

Anoushka Shankar + Hollie Cook

The daughter of famed sitar player Ravi Shankar (most famous for introducing the Beatles to the stringed Indian instrument), Anoushka began training under the tutelage of her father at the age of seven. Her recent record, Land of Gold, is a cinematic tribute to the plight of refugees around the world, featuring intricate sitar compositions as well as contributions from the likes of M.I.A. and German singer Alev Lenz. British reggae artist Hollie Cook opens this Millennium Park Summer Music Series concert.

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Willie Colon
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Latin and world

Willie Colón + Canalón de Timbiquí

Born in 1950, trombonist and bandleader Willie Colón signed a record contract by age 15, channeling the rhythms of Puerto Rico and Cuba through his compositions. Colón is perhaps best known for the string of albums he produced in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with singer Rubén Blades, which celebrated Latin culture and introduced a generation to the joyous sounds of Latin music. Afro-Colombian drum, marimba and vocal group Canalón de Timbiquí open this Millennium Park Summer Music Series concert.

Kingston All Stars
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Reggae and dancehall

The Kingston All Stars + Funkadesi

Made up of musicians who've played with the likes of Toots & The Maytals, Lee “Scratch” Perry and the Revolutionaries, the Kingston All Stars gathers some of the most talented reggae session players onstage. For this Millennium Park Summer Music Series concert, the group will be joined by dancehall DJ and vocalist Sister Nancy, who you may recognize as the vocalist on the classic reggae track “Bam Bam” (which Kanye West sampled on “Famous”). Multicultural Chicago-based group Funkadesi opens the evening.

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Aimee Mann
Photograph: Sheryl Nields
Music, Rock and indie

Aimee Mann + This is the Kit

You might feel like you have to be in the proper mood to listen to a sad song, but singer-songwriter Aimee Mann specialized in slow-moving, downcast ballads that are so beautiful and poignant, you don't necessarily have to shed a tear. Mann's Grammy-winning 2017 album, Mental Illness, might be her most melancholy collection of tracks to date, but her witty lyricism and pop sensibility makes it all the more enjoyable. Banjo-playing British folk singer-songwriter This is the Kit opens this Millennium Park Summer Music Series concert. 

Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks
Photograph: Julie Stanton
Theater, Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s outdoor production touring to 18 different city parks this summer is the Bard’s romantic comedy of lovers, faeries and mechanicals. CST artistic director Barbara Gaines directs her own 75-minute abridgement.

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335.wk.at.pw.NewberryLibraryBookFair
Photograph: Emily Rawdo
Things to do, Literary events

Newberry Library Book Fair

It’s not too late to flesh out your summer reading list at one of the city’s largest used book fairs, where you can browse more than 120,000 titles that are priced to move. Many titles are $3 or less and the selection is vast, including cookbooks, music, fiction, art books, children's literature, collectibles and much more.

Keith Haring Chicago Mural
Photograph: Marcelino Y. Fahd
Art, Contemporary art

"Keith Haring: The Chicago Mural"

In 1989, acclaimed artist Keith Haring came to Chicago to create a gigantic 488-foot-long mural in collaboration with 500 Chicago Public School students. After remaining on display at Midway Airport for several years, 36 panels of the mural will return to the Loop, going on display alongside a selection of Haring's photographs, correspondence, designs and his now-iconic drawings.

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Camera
Comedy, Stand-up

Camp: A Comedy Show

Audiences at comedy shows don't get much more supportive than the ones that fill Camp every week in the Village Tap's beer garden. The summer camp-themed showcase gives comedians a place to test out new material and take risks, whether they're developing a new set of jokes or working out the kinks of a wacky character. Hosts Tessa Orzech and Samantha Berkman act as counselors, keeping the evening lively with sketches and unexpected hijinks.

GreenMill.venue01.jpg
Photograph: Martha Williams
Comedy

The Paper Machete

icon-location-pin The Green Mill, Uptown
icon-calendar

This twice-weekly “live magazine” is a cavalcade of culture, politics and wit featuring journalists, actors, comedians and musicians offering idiosyncratic reports on the news of the day. Head to Uptown’s iconic Green Mill for drinks, hot takes and laughs; the longstanding Saturday afternoon edition tends to run about two and a half hours, while the new “Cocktail Hour” Wednesday show is a tight 90 minutes with no intermission.

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Comedians You Should Know
Photograph: Melissa Mamroth
Comedy, Stand-up

Comedians You Should Know

icon-location-pin Timothy O'Toole's, Streeterville
icon-calendar

This weekly night of comedy, curated by a group of funny dudes, puts local stand-ups on your radar. It's totally free and BYOB, so why not?

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