Alright, Chicago, it’s time to spring into action. May is one of the most glorious months to be in Chicago. After months indoors, we can finally traipse around in light jackets (incredible!), hit up Chicago’s best outdoor restaurants and rooftop bars—don’t forget to bring your dog! This month boasts the first street festivals and music fests in the city, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day and more. That is, plenty of very good reasons to get your butt off the couch and go explore the city.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete Events calendar for Chicago in 2017
Featured events in May 2017
Joe's on Weed St has a pop culture trivia night for everyone. Pick your poison: from Harry Potter to Friends to Hamilton, here's your chance to flex that useless TV knowledge you've been racking up. The theme changes every week, so keep an eye out for your latest obsession to take the stage.
In the mood for a no-fuss burger, great craft beer and low-key trivia? Look no further than Parts and Labor’s weekly trivia night, a Logan Square institution. The trivia night even partners with a local brewery or distillery the last Monday of every month, so try a new drink while flexing your deep-cut '80s movie knowledge.
Concerts in May 2017
British indie pop trio the xx imbues its latest album, I See You, with a renewed sense of vigor, injecting sparse R&B arrangements with an expanded palette of instruments and a Hall and Oates sample. The course correction (likely the work of instrumentalist Jamie xx, who became a star in his own right through his solo album In Colour) leaves the intimate lyricism of vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim intact, while adding some much-needed levity to a group that often comes off as overly-serious. Singer-songwriter Sampha, best known for producing songs for Solange and Drake, opens the show.
Part of the original wave of English shoegazers, Slowdive reunited in 2014 to perform at the Primavera Sound Festival and have kept the dreamy vibes going ever since. The group comes to Chicago behind its new, self-titled album (its first in 22 years), which brings the hazy, reverb-drenched sound of its classic albums Souvlaki and Pygmalion into the 21st century—an era that has a newfound appreciation for the once-niche genre. Philidephia singer-songwriter Michelle Zauner's sparking indie-pop side project Japanese Breakfast opens.
For mouse-eared EDM mascot Joel Zimmerman (a.k.a. Deadmau5), music almost seems like an afterthought these days. After bestowing his latest record with the mundane title W:/2016ALBUM/, Zimmerman stated on Twitter, "i don't even like it. it was like... so fucking rushed." He seems to be putting more thought into his latest tour, upgrading his signature cube DJ booth so that you'll at least have something pretty to look at when he opts to play his newest tracks.
America's Got Talent finalist-turned-R&B star Kehlani has spent the past year working on her major label debut, SweetSexySavage, and appearing on tracks featured in blockbusters like The Fate of the Furious and Suicide Squad. Her quick rise to prominence makes sense—she's got the type of unassuming silky voice that's difficult to ignore and a ’90s-inspired sound that courts nostalgia without going overboard. English R&B singer Ella Mai and Canadian rapper Jahkoy support.
Virtuoso progressive metal may not be en vogue, but the mighty Mastodon resolutely sticks to its guns (tusks?) on its latest, Emperor of Sand. It may sound like a sequel to Dune, but the record is actually an extended meditation on the trials of cancer, inspired by the experiences of friends and family members. While the subject matter may to weighty, the group approaches it with its usual array of heavy riffs and brutal technicality. Blues rockers Eagles of Death Metal and local instrumental metal trio Russian Circles open the show.
It's a cliché to say that Ty Segall is staying busy, but it continues to be entirely accurate. He may have slowed down a bit in recent years, but he still has more side projects (the kind that actually release albums) than your average SoCal rocker. His new self-titled record plays like a greatest hits album comprised of entirely new songs—almost every side of Segall is on display, from the blistering punk energy of his early output to the more restrained, acoustic-leaning numbers that populate his recent work. Experience the entirety of the Segall spectrum when he brings his band back to Chicago for a pair of shows.
Once known for raucous performances that featured bodily fluids and fireworks, the Black Lips have matured into a jangle-y garage rock act that mixes bluesy riffs with a bit of Southern charm. The Altlanta-based group recently teamed up with Sean Lennon (yes, that Sean Lennon) to produce a new record, Satan's Graffiti or God's Art?, which includes guest vocals from Yoko Ono. Expect to hear plenty of gritty new psych-rock tunes during the band's two-night stand at the Bottle in celebration of the venue's 25th anniversary.
Former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman bring his usual sardonic touch and penchant for ‘70s folk, country and pop to his latest album under the guise of his alter-ego, Father John Misty. Pure Comedy is a cynical examination of overriding the futility of modern life, set against lush, kaleidoscopic arrangements that only serve to heighten the impact of Tillman's world-weary lyricism. If the apocalypse is nigh, at least the human race will have some grandiose exit music. Vampire Weekend drummer Chris Tomson's solo project Dams of the West supports.
Simon Greene is yet another British DJ who has augmented his turntables and samplers with a band, turning his Bonobo project into a blend of electronica and grandiose live instrumentation. On Migration, Greene presents his most nuanced collection of tracks to date, shifting from vocal-assisted dance club pop to more experimental (and expansive) synthesizer symphonies.
Using traditional Korean instruments, including the fiddle-like haegum, piri flute and zither-dreived geomungo, Jambinai bring folk and classical-inspired sounds to its cacophonous post-rock. The South Korean trio comes to the Bottle behind its latest album, A Hermitage, which wallows in the furious waves of distortion that populated early Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor records.
Festivals in May 2017
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.
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.
Art in May 2017
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was taking photos that bluntly confront political and social issues long before Twitter or Instagram was invented. You’ll find some of his best shots (including one of him giving the White House the bird) collected in this exhibit, which is based around diaristic photographs he took during the 1980s and '90s in New York and Beijing.
With the Obama Presidential Center scheduled to open in Jackson Park in 2020, the Hyde Park Art Center presents a series of visual works, performances and discussions that speculate about what forthcoming institution might offer visitors. The exhibition is curated by Ross Jordan, the Curatorial Manager at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Using borrowed items—such as a cell phone SIM card or a single earring—Mexican artist Córdova creates sculptures that force viewers to consider the interactions involved in obtaining her materials. In "Smoke Nearby," Córdova's first solo U.S. museum exhibition, she showcases a selection of works featuring found objects, which she calls "contemporary relics."
In 1967, a gigantic mural depicting pivotal black figures and leaders appeared on the side of a building on the South Side of Chicago, quickly earning the name “the Wall of Respect.” The vivid painting only lasted a few years, but its impact has continued to reverberate throughout the years. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Block Museum examines how the guerilla work helped inspire similar art in Chicago and beyond.
Free events in May 2017
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to spend a fortune in order to visit some of Chicago's best museums and cultural institutions. If you're willing to plan ahead, you can take in masterpieces at the Art Institute or gaze at tropical fish while strolling through Shedd Aquarium without spending a dime. You'll need to be an Illinois resident to take advantage of many of these offers, but that's one of the perks of living in Chicago.
See some 1,200 animals, from apes to zebras, at the oldest and one of only a few free zoos left in the country. It is small, only 35 acres, but attractions like the Kovler Lion House and the Regenstein Center for African Apes pack a big punch. The best part? Entry is totally free.
We don't know if they're painting smiles on people's faces at the door or if they're mixing something into the booze, but everyone seems to be in a good mood at this energetic and inclusive queer party that's been going strong since 2008. It's worth getting there early, or else risk getting stuck in a line running down the block.
Theater and dance in May 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
Upon entering the treasure-filled Cave of Wonders in search of some old lamp, Aladdin, the street urchin with a heart of gold, is momentarily more dazzled by the gold surrounding him. Just take a few of these coins, he suggests to those waiting outside, and you could buy all the lamps you want. Of course, it’s the lamp that holds the magic—both for the purposes of the story and for this musical adaptation of the Disney animated film; on stage, as on screen, it’s the Genie rather than the title character that really livens up the joint. But you get the sense in watching this endeavor, which launches its first national tour with a five-month stand in Chicago, that Disney has thrown an entire cave’s worth of coins into making a dazzling, diabolically entertaining spectacle. No expense, and no pun, has been spared. The familiar story, of course, takes place in Agrabah, a fictional city where “even the poor people are fabulous,” as the Genie tells us in the opening number, “Arabian Nights.” Enter Aladdin (squeaky-clean Adam Jacobs, reprising his role from the Broadway production), poor of purse but fabulous of pecs. After a chance encounter in the marketplace with spunky Princess Jasmine (Isabelle McCalla), doing the old royal-disguised-as-a-commoner bit to escape her father’s pressure to pick a suitor, Aladdin uses his newfound Genie (Anthony Murphy, charming and sly in the eager-to-please entertainer vein) to pass himself off as a prince. Most of the best-loved songs from th
Corporate types hold a jargony project meeting about a project that reveals itself to be ethically dubious in the extreme in this pitch-black comedy by San Francisco playwright Aaron Loeb. Gus Menary directs the Midwest premiere for Jackalope Theatre Company, with a cast including Japhet Balaban, Rachel Sullivan, Kaiser Ahmed, Michael Kingston and Henry Greenberg.
Rachel Rockwell stages the Chicago premiere of Lee Hall’s play, adapted from the movie named Best Picture of 1998 at the Academy Awards. With backing from Disney Theatricals, it was first produced in London in 2014; The New York Times described it as “Shakespeare-flavored.”
Mike Nussbaum plays Albert Einstein in this National New Play Network “rolling world premiere” (it’s also being produced by three other theaters around the country this season). The play, which deals with the mystery of Einstein’s lost daughter, is by Mark St. Germain, author of Freud's Last Session, in which Nussbaum—who will be 93 when Relativity opens—played the title character in 2012. Northlight’s artistic director, BJ Jones, stages the production.
British playwright Tanika Gupta’s adaptation brings a colonial eye to Charles Dickens’s story, making Pip an Indian orphan presented with the opportunity to try out life as an English gentleman. Lavina Jadhwani and Nick Sandys direct the U.S. premiere, a co-production between Silk Road Rising and Remy Bumppo Theatre Company.