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May 2016 events calendar for Chicago

The arrival of May 2016 events in Chicago means summer's just around the corner. Find things to do, festivals and more.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Thomas Anderson

May in Chicago is glorious. We can finally eat outside some of the city's best outdoor restaurants and best rooftop bars. Music festival season kicks off with Do Division and Summer Camp. Street festivals get started with Maifest and Mayfest (yes, they are different!). Plus, there's everyone's favorite reason to drink margaritas (besides National Margarita Day, Feb 22), Cinco de Mayo. For more cover events coverage, check our guide to things to do on Mother's day and our guide to spring events in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2016

Featured events in May 2016

Mother's Day

Your mother brought you into the world; the least you can do is show her a good time on Mother's Day. From brunch to gifts to shopping and spa treatments, start planning out your day with the help of our guide to things to do on Mother's Day.

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By: Nick Kotecki

Memorial Day

Each summer, Chicago honors the men and women who died protecting our country with one of the nation's largest Memorial Day parades in the Loop. Prepare for the long weekend with our guide to downtown attractions, weekend getaways and more.

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By: Zach Long

Randolph Street Market Festival

Recommended

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.

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Beaux Arts Plumbers Union Hall Building , West Loop Saturday October 29 2016 - Sunday December 11 2016

Concerts in May 2016

Wild Nothing + Whitney + Charlie Hilton

In a recent interview, Jack Tatum stated that his latest album under his Wild Nothing moniker is influenced by the soft string and horn arrangement of Philadelphia soul music. While the album's pulsing synth pads may draw inspiration from the ’80s sub-genre, the songs on Life of Pause seem more indebted to shoegazers like Slowdive than anything by the O'Jays. Local folk rockers Whitney and singer-songwriter Charlie Hilton open the show.

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Until Tue May 3

Bob Mould + J. Robbins

Recommended

For anyone who pegged Bob Mould a hardcore and loud-and-fast-rules adherent, his post-Hüsker Dü and Sugar career has been nothing but surprising. There have been arty solo albums, electronic excursions, a bear idol status, DJ sets, autobiography writing and a recent return to power-pop on the great albums Silver Age and Beauty & Ruin. Mould's latest, Patch the Sky, is another medlodic slab of crunchy power chords and cathartic lyricism. Former Jawbox frontman and fellow hardcore scene veteran J. Robbins opens the show.

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Until Fri May 6

Ellie Goulding + Years & Years

English singer Ellie Goulding might be one of the biggest stars who you wouldn't recognize in a crowd, though she's performed for royalty and briefly dated Skrillex (of all people). There's a fragile, personal side to her music that sets her apart from other chart-topping performers, even on tracks as ubiquitous as "Anything Could Happen." See Goulding do her disco-meets-electronica thing, breathily singing tracks from her latest release, Delirium.

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Until Fri May 6

Unknown Mortal Orchestra + Whitney

Unknown Mortal Orchestra has always been an R&B act in psych-rock clothing, weaving woozy melodies around taut drum and bass arrangements. The band's third album, Multi-Love, solidifies its soulful chops through quintessential post-modern love ballads like "Can't Keep Checking My Phone." Chicago folk rockers Whitney (featuring former members of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Smith Westerns) supports.

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Until Tue May 10

Tortoise

Bouncing between jazz-fusion, krautrock and dub, long-running instrumental rockers Tortoise have become more unpredictable with age. Though members of the Chicago-based group have recently moved away from the city, the band reconvened to complete The Catastrophist, its first album in nearly six years. For longtime fans, the twisting guitar riffs, complex rhythms and crisscrossing synth melodies won't come as a surprise—for those unfamiliar with the band, it has a tendency to sound groundbreaking.

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Until Tue May 10

Graham Nash

On the rare occasion that Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young fame) has decided to go solo, the resulting albums have been eclectic pop rock affairs. His latest, This Path Tonight, find the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee in a reflective mood, exploring sounds from his past with the benefit of hindsight and decades of experience.

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Until Thu May 12

Black Mountain

It's been nearly six years since the release of Black Mountain's last record and, from the sound of its latest, the Vancouver group has spent the ensuing years time-traveling back to the ’70s to acquire vintage synthesizers and prog-rock chops. On IV, the psych-rockers pile heavy riffs on top of analog soundscapes, building otherworldly dirges that betray influences like King Crimson and Kraftwerk.

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Until Thu May 12

Twin Peaks + White Reaper + The Funs

No longer saddled with reputation of being a band of teenagers from Chicago, Twin Peaks have steadily become one of the city's most reliable rock acts. The group's latest, Down in Heaven, draws heavily upon the classic rock textbook, channeling the ramshackle swagger of the Rolling Stones and a bit of the Band's Americana twang. Kentucky garage rockers White Reaper and local guitar and drums duo the Funs support.

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Thalia Hall , Lower West Side Friday December 16 2016

Ben Folds with yMusic

Recommended

Happy-sack piano pop crooner Ben Folds is on a progressive kick as of late, touring with contemporary classical ensemble yMusic. The modern music troupe has previously worked with Dirty Projectors and cut a collaborative record with Folds, So There, last year.

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Until Fri May 13

Jeff Tweedy

Recommended

Local rock icon Jeff Tweedy has been busy lately, releasing a surprise Wilco album, touring with his son behind 2014's Sukierae and producing a new Richard Thompson LP. Thankfully, no matter how busy Tweedy gets, we can always count on seeing him at his annual solo benefit concerts at the Vic Theatre. The shows are something of a Chicago tradition, raising scholarship money for the Montessori school that both of Tweedy's children attended. Sometimes the audience has to help out with a few forgotten lyrics—it's a team effort, even if there's only one guy on stage.

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Until Sat May 14
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Festivals in May 2016

Baconfest

Bacon lovers rejoice! Baconfest is coming back to Chicago with more bacon than ever. Current attendees include Black Dog Gelato, The Duck Inn, Xoco Wicker Park, Celeste, Stan's Donuts and more. Each participating restaurant and brewery is offering a bacon dish or drink, so loosen your belt and you'll be in bacon heaven.

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Until Mon May 2

Randolph Street Market Festival

Recommended

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.

Read more
Beaux Arts Plumbers Union Hall Building , West Loop Saturday October 29 2016 - Sunday December 11 2016

Art in May 2016

"Tony Fitzpatrick: The Secret Birds"

The drawings, paintings and collages of Tony Fitzpatrick have graced the cover of records by the likes of Lou Reed, Steve Earle and the Neville Brothers. When he's not designing for musicians, the Chicago-based artist is usually drawing birds—his favorite source of inspiration. "The Secret Birds" (originally exhibited at the Poetry Foundation in 2014) collects some of Fitzpatrick's most recent avian-centric work, completed before he decided to pursue a degree in—you guessed it—ornithology.

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14 Aug 2016

"Above, Before & After"

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.

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Museum of Contemporary Art , Streeterville Until Sunday June 18 2017

"Alice Hargrave: Paradise Wavering"

Local photographer and professor Alice Hargrave presents a selection of large-format photos that examine the complex emotions that can be conjured by images that are associated with personal memories. Her moody shots of vacation locales and everyday objects inspire reminiscence with subjects that are at once recognizable and relatable.

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24 Jul 2016

“Karen Reimer: Shoretime Spaceline”

The Hyde Park Art Center sits on a patch of land that once hosted the Chicago Beach Hotel, which housed travelers during the World's Columbian Exposition of 1983. Reimer’s large-scale installation draws inspiration from this fabled building, using fabric and sand to create an artificial oceanfront scene.

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13 Aug 2016

The Conjured Life: Surrealism from the MCA Collection

Recommended

The exhibition of more than 100 surrealist paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs focuses on the act of looking through a rich collection of surrealist works. The works selected for “The Conjured Life”  bear close scrutiny, both in observing and exploring the subject matter. The collection features surrealist greats like Magritte, Ernst, Durham and Koons and is a can’t miss for lovers of the “art of the irrational.”

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Until Sun Jun 5

"Burnt Generation"

Recommended

Assembling documentary photos, portraits and fine art photography, this group exhibition explores the toll that decades of political turmoil have taken on the people of Iran. The images offer a candid look at urban and rural settings within Iran, all captured by artists who lived or worked in the country.

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Until Sun Jul 10

“A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s–1980s”

Recommended

Best known for her work as the "topless cellist" Juilliard-trained, avant-garde performer Charlotte Moorman collaborated with composer John Cage and Korean-American multimedia artist Nam June Paik. The block Museum’s assemblage of rare photos, props, costumes and recordings casts new light on Moorman’s work as a fearless experimental artist.

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Until Sun Jul 17

"Design Episodes: The Modern Chair"

In anticipation of the Art Institute's permanent design exhibition (opening in 2017) this display explores the many variations of the modern chair. From shiny tubular steel chairs to sleek plywood seats, you'll want to sit down after taking in this survey of 20th century perches.

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11 Sep 2016

"Carlos Rolón/Dzine: I Tell You This Sincerely…"

Chicago-native Carlos Rolón brings his immersive, site-specific installations to the Chicago Cultural Center, which examine the concept of luxury and the touchstones of urban life. Visitors can walk through a recreation of a boxing trophy den, a Caribbean courtyard and other reconstructed environments that reflect Rolón's experience as a first-generation immigrant of Puerto Rican decent.

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Until Sun Jul 31

“Van Gogh’s Bedrooms”

Vincent van Gogh was so taken with his 1888 painting of his bedroom that he created two additional versions of the work, one of which resides in the Art Institute’s permanent collection. This exhibit explores the differences between the three paintings, in addition to 36 other works by the artist, including paintings, drawings and illustrated letters.

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Until Sun May 8
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Free events in May 2016

Kids and Kites Festival

Recommended

Celebrate the arrival of spring at this free, outdoor family-friendly festival at Cricket Hill in Lincoln Park, where kids can fly a kite or watch professional demonstrations. Free paper kites will be provided, but families will also be able to purchase more intricate flying creations from a variety of vendors.

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07 May 2016

Cinco De Mayo Parade

Although most Americans use Cinco De Mayo as an excuse to drink margaritas, the holiday actually commemorates the victory the Mexican forces had over the invading French army on May 5, 1862. This annual celebration in Pilsen fills the streets with colorful attire and traditional music. The parade starts at Cermak and Wood and travels west to Kedzie.

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Until Sun May 3

PBR Bingo

On the first Monday of every month, Boiler Room turns into a hip, Logan Square nursing home for its monthly PBR Bingo night. Guests can grab a few slices, sip a beer and wait for their numbers to be called while competing for various Pabst Blue Ribbon-themed prizes.

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The Boiler Room , Logan Square Monday October 3 2016 - Monday December 5 2016

ACTIVATE

Recommended

Each month, Chicago Loop Alliance throws a party in a nondescript downtown alley with the help of local artists and DJs. This month, the event takes place in the Sullivan Center's alley, where Johalla Projects will present Nightbloom, a new installation exploring the relationship between light and dark.

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Various venues , Loop Thursday October 13 2016

Bridgeport Art Center 3rd Fridays

On the third Friday of every month, Bridgeport Art Center resident artists open their studio doors to the public for a night of mixing, mingling and, of course, art. Tour individual artist work spaces and shop for one-of-a-kind works from local painters, sculpters, photographers and more. Free parking, and BYOB.

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20 Nov 2015

Memorial Day Parade

Recommended

After a wreath is laid at the eternal flame in Daley Plaza, Chicago's annual Memorial Day Parade heads down State Street, from Lake to Van Buren, as onlookers wave the stars and stripes. The procession has been a city tradition since 1870, honoring the men, women and families who have fought for our country.

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Until Sat May 28

Chicago House Party

Recommended

As the resurgence of electronic music continues, it's important to remember that Chicago is the birthplace of house music, a sub-genre rooted in minimalistic production and four-on-the-floor rhythms. In 2014, the city honored the late house music pioneer Frankie Knuckles with a dance party in Millennium Park, featuring a lineup of notable Chicago DJs. This year, the city is throwing another tribute to indigenous electronic music with the Chicago House Party at Pritzker Pavilion, which will feature performances by the House Legacy Project, Peven Everett and Vick Lavender Ensemble. The free event will also host DJ sets by Joe Smooth, Steve Miggedy Maestro as well as Superjane’s DJ Heather and Lady D.

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Until Sat May 28

Chicago Gospel Music Festival

The city's annual celebration of gospel music welcomes national touring acts and up-and-coming local talent to Millennium Park for three days of uplifting songs and hymns.

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Until Sat Jun 4

Comments

1 comments
morgan H
morgan H

May is also prime concert month -- tons of shows are coming up including Madeon on 5/1, Hiatus Kaiyote on 5/11, and Passion Pit on 5/14!