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September 2018 events calendar for Chicago

Plan your September in Chicago with our events calendar of the best things to do, including concerts, theater openings and art exhibits

Photograph: Jason Little
Chicago Gourmet, September 29, 2012

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

North Coast Music Festival

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.

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By: Zach Long

Riot Fest music festival

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.

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By: Zach Long
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Festivals in September

Chicago Jazz Festival

Recommended

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.

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Millennium Park | Chicago, IL , Millennium Park Thursday August 30 2018 - Sunday September 2 2018

Taste of Polonia

Feast on potato pancakes, kielbasa, pierogi and more at this Polish celebration during Labor Day weekend. After you've stuffed yourself, dance to some polka music, watch a cover band or play a few rounds of bingo.

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Copernicus Center , Jefferson Park Friday August 31 2018 - Monday September 3 2018
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North Coast Music Festival

Recommended

The other big festival in Union Park (the one that doesn't rhyme with Itchpork) leans heavy on EDM, jam and rap. Booked by some of the same folks behind Spring Awakening and Mamby on the Beach, North Coast offers up a mix of hip-hop and EDM acts.

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Union Park , West Loop Friday August 31 2018 - Sunday September 2 2018

Riot Fest

Recommended

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.

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Douglas Park , North Lawndale Friday September 14 2018 - Sunday September 16 2018
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German-American Fest

Recommended

Grab a plastic stein and munch on a pretzel at this annual Lincoln Square celebration of Deutschland heritage. The street party features plenty of German food, music and dancing as well as the Von Steuben Parade on Saturday at 2pm.

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Lincoln Square , Lincoln Square Friday September 7 2018 - Sunday September 9 2018

Edgewater Fall Art Fair

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.  

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Granville El , Edgewater Saturday September 22 2018 - Sunday September 23 2018
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Chicago Gourmet

Recommended

The annual three-day fest kicks off Friday with its Hamburger Hop throwdown. Walk in to Millennium Park and waddle out once you've stuffed your face at cooking demos, tasting pavilions and a wine sampling. The 2018 vendor lineup has not yet been announced.

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Millennium Park | Chicago, IL , Millennium Park Friday September 28 2018 - Sunday September 30 2018

Concerts in September

Chicago Jazz Festival

Recommended

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.

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Millennium Park | Chicago, IL , Millennium Park Thursday August 30 2018 - Sunday September 2 2018

North Coast Music Festival

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.

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By: Zach Long
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Scorched Tundra VIII

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.

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Until Sun Sep 3

Ms. Lauryn Hill + Nas

Recommended

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.

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Until Thu Sep 7
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Würst Music and Beer Fest

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.

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Until Sun Sep 10

World Music Festival

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).    

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Various venues , Loop Friday September 7 2018 - Sunday September 23 2018
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Mastodon + Brain Tentacles + Powermad

Recommended

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.

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Until Sat Sep 9

Stevie Nicks

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.

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Until Sun Sep 10
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Conor Oberst

Recommended

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.

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Until Sat Sep 9

Riot Fest

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.

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By: Zach Long
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Art in September

"Michael Rakowitz: Backstroke of the West"

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.

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Museum of Contemporary Art , Streeterville Until Sunday March 4 2018

“William Blake and the Age of Aquarius”

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.

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Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art , Evanston Until Sunday March 11 2018
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"I Am You"

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.

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Museum of Contemporary Art , Streeterville Until Sunday April 1 2018

Theater in September

Chicago International Latino Theater Festival: Destinos

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.

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By: Kris Vire

Comedy in September

Holy Fuck Comedy Hour

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.

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Annoyance Theatre , Lake View Friday February 23 2018 - Friday May 18 2018

Chicago Underground Comedy

Recommended

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.

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Beat Kitchen , North Center Tuesday February 27 2018 - Tuesday April 24 2018
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Congrats on Your Success

Recommended

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."

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Uncharted Books , Logan Square Thursday March 1 2018

Free events in September

Fabitat

Recommended

This all-inclusive LGBTQ night that started at Double Door’s Door No. 3 is now at Beauty Bar, featuring live music, drag performances and DJ sets. It's one of the most promising new alt-queer party outposts in town.

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Beauty Bar , River West/West Town Wednesday February 28 2018 - Wednesday June 27 2018

Slo ’Mo

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.

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The Whistler , Logan Square Thursday March 15 2018 - Thursday June 21 2018
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FKA

Recommended

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.

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Big Chicks , Uptown Friday March 9 2018 - Friday August 10 2018

Congrats on Your Success

Recommended

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."

Read more
Uncharted Books , Logan Square Thursday March 1 2018
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Holy Fuck Comedy Hour

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.

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Annoyance Theatre , Lake View Friday February 23 2018 - Friday May 18 2018

Tuesday Funk

This eclectic reading series is where good writing and good beer mix. Every month five local writers and authors put together pieces to read while you order off Hopleaf's extensive beer menu.

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Hopleaf , Uptown Tuesday March 6 2018 - Tuesday December 4 2018
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