Summer is wrapping up, which means only a few more precious days to enjoy the best rooftop bars in Chicago. But don't worry, fall is pretty exciting too—from celebrating Oktoberfest in the best Chicago beer gardens to wandering through Christkindlmarket. You'll completely forget about summer while you're cozied up at bars with fireplaces and fire pits. Be fully prepared for all the best events with our September calendar for Chicago.
RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2018
Featured events in September
Curated and run by local club promoters React Presents, North Coast arguably delivers the most diverse bill of any Chicago music festival. This year, EDM acts such as Bassnectar, Odesza and Zedd top the bill, which also includes artists like Action Bronson and Sleigh Bells. Later, the party spills over into several afterparties at local dance clubs.
North Coast Music Festival bills itself as "Summer's Last Stand," but that is not technically true. The Riot Fest music festival heads outside for its annual celebration on September 16–18, 2016. This year, the festival returns to Douglas Park (conveniently located near one of the city's best breweries) after a successful first year in the new location. Headliners include a reunited lineup of the Misfits, Morrissey, Ween, Death Cab For Cutie and Rob Zombie. Whether you prefer punk rock, indie bands or hip-hop, you'll probably find something worth checking out.
Selling Fast in September
"Bye Bye Liver" combines two robust Chicago traditions: comedy and heavy drinking. The show opened ten years ago for a three-week run, then kept getting extended. It centers on common party situations most Chicagoans can relate to, and incoroprates interactive audience games like "Would You Rather." If you're looking to get drunk, quick, and have a great time doing so, "Bye Bye Liver" is always a solid bet.
Festivals in September
Chicago may be best known for its blues musicians, but these days it's more of a jazz city. The annual Chicago Jazz Festival celebrates contemporary improvisers and legendary players with four days of free concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. The festivities typically include tributes to notable jazz figureheads, an influx of international acts and visits from musicians who got their start in Chicago's jazz scene.
It's the social event of the season for anyone with a denim jacket covered in patches hanging in their closet. Riot Fest brings punk, metal, indie acts to Douglas Park, setting up stages amid circus attractions, games and a sideshow. The 2018 lineup has not yet been announced.
Children's art and creativity come with a hyperlocal focus at the 3rd Annual Edgewater Fall Art Fair. Local schools showcase student artwork programs through gallery exhibitions, while smaller-size budding Rembrandts can face- and finger-paint at the Children’s Activity Corner. This family friendly fest includes a children's music talent showcase, costume contest, pet parade. Adults can enjoy the beer garden as well.
Concerts in September
Chicago may be best known for its blues musicians, but these days it's more of a jazz city. The annual Chicago Jazz Festival celebrates contemporary improvisers and legendary players with four days of concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. It's all about the tributes this year, with celebrations of band leader Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonious Monk and singer Ella Fitzgerald (an Ellabration, if you will) on the schedule. New Orleans institution the Rebirth Brass Band closes the festival out on September 3.
If you need to see live EDM, hip-hop and jam bands over Labor Day weekend, North Coast delivers a diverse bill that includes headlines like Gucci Mane, Ween, Damien "Jr. Gong" Marley and a collaborative set from Deadmau5 and Eric Prydz. Just follow the colorfully-dressed attendees to Union Park from September 1–3.
Three nights of ear-splitting heavy metal come to the Empty Bottle on Labor Day weekend, headlined by stoner metal supergroup Atomic Bitchwax, Bay Area act Acid King and experimental rockers Oxbow. The remainder of the lineup is filled out with local shredders like Electric Hawk and Pelican side-project RLYR. The Bottle turned 25 years old this year, so this fest is going to shake any remaining dust from the venue's rafters.
It's been nearly two decades since former Fugee Ms. Lauryn Hill released her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but her progressive brand of R&B has aged exceedingly gracefully. Getting to see her live is still a treat, made even more enticing by the addition of co-headlining ‘90s hip-hop icon Nas, who once featured Hill on his single "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)." You're in for a very nostalgic night on Northerly Island.
Riot Fest and Star Events team up for a weekend of bratwurst, beer and bands in the West Loop. The three-day fest brings some of Chicago's top encased meat vendors to the intersection of Randolph Street and Ogden Avenue, accompanied by a punk rock soundtrack from the likes of Murder by Death, the Anniversary, Diarrhea Planet, Masked Intruder and more. This certainly doesn't sound like the würst way to spend one of the final weekends of the summer.
Musicians from across the globe travel to Chicago each September, playing free gigs across the city as part of the annual World Music Festival. This year, the lineup of acts is just as expansive as ever, featuring artists from India, Africa, Ireland, China and more. Highlights of the fest include the overnight Ragamala classical Indian music concert at the Chicago Cultural Center (Sept 8), a Mexican Independence Day celebration with Mariachi Flor de Toloache (Sept 16) and an Afropop concert headlined by Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 (Sept 23).
Virtuoso progressive metal may not be en vogue, but the mighty Mastodon resolutely sticks to its guns (tusks?) on its latest, Emperor of Sand. Its title may sound like a sequel to the classic sci-fi novel Dune, but the record is actually an extended meditation on the trials of cancer, inspired by the experiences of friends and family members, approached with the band's usual array of heavy riffs and brutal technicality. This intimate benefit show at Metro will donate 100% of proceeds to Hope for the Day, a local nonprofit that promotes proactive suicide prevention.
Though she's spent much of the past two decades reuniting with Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks has always made time to strike out on her own. Her latest solo outing comes in support of her 2014 release, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, a collection of songs based on demos that Nicks record during the ‘70s and ‘80s. There's nothing quite as classic as "Edge of Seventeen" on the record, but you can rest assured that Nicks will dig into her catalog (and sing a few Fleetwood tunes) when she comes to Ravinia.
Best known for his work under the Bright Eyes moniker and for fronting groups like Desaparecidos and Commander Venus, Oberst’s has lent his plaintive voice to folk rock, emo, electro-pop and everything in-between. His latest LP, Salutations, reimagines songs from this 2016 release, Ruminations, with the help of a backing band, allowing Oberst to play the role of the (gracefully) aging folk troubadour.
Riot Fest marks the end of summer music festival season with a weekend of rock, metal and punk, taking place from September 15–17, 2017. The festival will return to Douglas Park for the third consecutive year, with Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age and newly-reunited punk act Jawbreaker heading up the lineup.
Art in September
Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz celebrates his heritage in a new exhibition, which includes conceptual installations like a food truck that serves Iraqi dishes and a gigantic scale recreation of the Ishtar Gate made with cardboard packaging and newspaper. The exhibit itself takes its name from a mistranslation of the film title Revenge of the Sith, sourced from a Chinese bootleg of the movie and deomnstrating the power of translation that Rakowitz hopes to capture in his work.
Though he died in the 1800s, the work of English poet and painter Blake took on new significance when it was embraced by artist associated with the “Summer of Love” in 1967. Blake's espousal of "free love" and his distain for organized religion struck a chord with the hippie movement, inspiring songs by Jimi Hendrix and indirectly coining the name of the Doors. The Block's latest exhibition collects post-World War II works inspired by his prose, as well as a selection of Blake prints and illuminated book.
The first installment of an ongoing three-part exhibition celebrating the MCA’s 50th anniversary, “I Am You” collects contemporary works that examine the relationship between individuals and their environments, including pieces by Pop Art sculptor Marisol and Iranian filmmaker Shirin Neshat.
Theater in September
The new Chicago International Latino Theater Festival makes its debut this fall. The inaugural edition, dubbed Destinos, takes place from September 29 to October 29, and features visiting companies from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Colombia, alongside productions from Chicago companies like Teatro Vista, Aguijón Theater and UrbanTheater Company.
Comedy in September
Each week, Chicago comics bring the freshest, most experimental new material to the Annoyance for the Holy Fuck Comedy Hour. The weekly show is an eclectic mix of sketch, improv, stand-up and everywhere in-between—you never really know what you're going to get at Holy Fuck.
This outstanding night of comedy takes in four to five comics each week, whose performances range from classic stand-up to experimental sketch and everything in-between. The lineup of performers rotates each week, but always draws from a pool of Chicago's most exciting up-and-comers. Keep your eye on some of these folks: they're going places.
Since its start in 2012, stand-up comedy showcase Congrats on Your Success has steadily built up an audience of dedicated regulars, who pack every bit of available space in Logan Square's Uncharted Books. The show's loose, friendly vibe is reinforced by interactive bits and between-set segments that engage attendees with the show's hosts and producers, who describe their audience as "DTF."
Free events in September
At this polysexual Logan Square dance-off, party purveyor Kristen Kaza and DJ Audio Jack drop the needle on love-drenched classics by Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Prince and the queen of lovers' rock, Sade. Admission is always free and the Whistler's capacity is limited, so there's usually a line out the door. Arrive early if you want to start grooving on the crammed dance floor ASAP.
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.
Comedy review by Matt Byrne Since its start in 2012, stand-up comedy showcase Congrats on Your Success has steadily built up an audience of dedicated regulars, who pack every bit of available space in Logan Square's Uncharted Books. The show's loose, friendly vibe is reinforced by interactive bits and between-set segments that engage attendees with the show's hosts and producers, who describe their audience as "DTF."
Each week, Chicago comics bring the freshest, most experimental new material to the Annoyance for the Holy Fuck Comedy Hour. The weekly show is an eclectic mix of sketch, improv, stand-up and everywhere in-between—You never really know what you're going to get at Holy Fuck. Regular players include, but are not limited to: Emily Anderson, Sarah Ashley, J ack Bensinger, Mike Brunlieb, Danny Catlow, Thomas Kelly, Max Lipchitz, Morgan Lord, Nick Mestad, Jeff Murdoch, Scotty Nelson, Eric Rahill, Wes Perry, Jo Scott, Bill Stern, and Nate Varrone.