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
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
Want to look cool to your favorite pipsqueak (and adult friends, too)? Introduce them to Barrel of Monkeys' joyously long-running public show. The troupe conducts writing workshops with CPS grade school students by day, then transforms the kids' stories into hilarious or heartfelt skits and songs, performed with abandon by a spirited ensemble.
This parody of the musical Hamilton, from Forbidden Broadway mastermind Gerard Allesandrini, follows its source material from New York to Chicago. The satire replaces central character Alexander Hamilton with creator Lin-Manuel Miranda himself, as he grapples with ubiquitous fame and Disney dollars.