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
Tricked-out rides cruise into Pilsen for the Slow and Low Community Lowrider Festival, August 10, 2014.
Photograph: Kaitlin Hetterscheidt
By Time Out Chicago staff, compiled by Zach Long |
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Summer in Chicago may be winding down, but you've still got time to enjoy outdoor festivals, beer gardens and patios. Plus, the arrival of September is an exciting time in the city, with Oktoberfest celebrations, a deluge of new theater shows and events like Riot Fest on the horizon. You'll find famous chefs serving delicious dishes at Chicago Gourmet, amazing contemporary artworks on display at EXPO Chicago and 70mm films displayed on a gigantic screen at the Music Box Theatre. Find something (or many things) to look forward to with our guide to the best events in September in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2018

Featured events in September

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Music festivals

North Coast Music Festival

Celebrate Labor Day weekend in Union Park at North Coast Music Festival, where EDM once again dominates the lineup. Headlining acts include Swedish DJ duo Axwell Λ Ingrosso, French producer DJ Snake, electro-funk act Jamiroquai and sultry R&B singer-songwriter Miguel. You'll also be treated to DJ sets from local musicians (such as the Cool Kids and Sen Morimoto) and get to take in all of the attendees wearing rave-ready costumes.

German-American Oktoberfest
Photograph: Courtesy German-American Oktoberfest
Things to do, Festivals

German-American Oktoberfest

Grab a plastic stein and munch on a pretzel at this annual Lincoln Square celebration of Deutschland heritage. The street party takes place under two gigantic tents and features plenty of German food, music and dancing. Make sure to stop by to see the annual Von Steuben Parade march up Lincoln Avenue on Saturday at 2pm.

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Childish Gambino
Photograph: Courtesy RCA Records
Music, Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Childish Gambino + Rae Sremmurd

There was a time when Donald Glover was just a sitcom star who released clever, embarrassingly confessional rap tracks under a moniker devised by a Wu-Tang Clan name generator. These days, he's the creator of genre-defying FX show Atlanta, a part of the Star Wars universe (as young Lando Calrissian) and the creative voice behind the striking music video for his latest track, “This is America.” On tour behind his not-yet-titled “final” album, Glover will be joined by Mississippi hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Renegade Craft Fair

icon-location-pin Bridgeport Art Center, Bridgeport
icon-calendar

That slight chill means it’s time to head to Wicker Park’s gigantic craft fair, where serious crafters from around the country to sell their handmade arts and wares,. Browse and buy prints, pottery, jewelry and other handmade goods from makers near and far, while enjoying food and drinks being peddled by local businesses and vendors.

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Riot Fest 2017
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Music festivals

Riot Fest

It's the social event of the season for anyone with a denim jacket covered in patches hanging in their closet. Riot Fest brings acts like Beck, Blink-182, Alkaline Trio, Blondie, Elvis Costello and rock 'n' roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis to Douglas Park for a three-day carnival of music (there's even a Ferris wheel). You'll find punks, metalheads, indie fans and hip-hop aficionados eating corn dogs and crowding the fields at this eclectic end-of-the-summer fest. 

Movies, Action and adventure

The Music Box 70mm Film Festival

The Music Box Theatre isn't just one of our favorite places to see a movie in Chicago, it's also one of the only theaters left in the world with the equipment needed to project 70mm film. For two weeks, the Music Box will be screening movies on the enlarge, hyper-detailed format, including classic flicks like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Lawrence of Arabia (presented on a brand new 70mm print). The rest of the lineup features Jim Henson's puppet fantasy The Dark Crystal, New York City musical West Side Story, John Carpenter's sci-fi horror movie The Thing and Stephen Speilberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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Fulton Market Harvest Festival
Photograph: Eugene Galdones
Things to do, Festivals

Fulton Market Harvest Fest

One of the city's hottest dining districts welcomes autumn with the Fulton Market Harvest Fest, curated by Chefs Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat) and Paul Kahan (The Publican). These Chicago food bigwigs round up dishes from some of the best West Loop restaurants, accompanied by beer, cocktails and cooking demos from some the area's most talented chefs. Want even more reasons to indulge? Check out a lineup of dinners, bread-making lessons, butcher demos and even more way to take part in the seasonal food fun.

The Happy Prince
Courtesy Sundance
Movies

Reeling Film Festival

Founded in 1981 and organized by Chicago Filmmakers, Reeling is the second-oldest LGBTQ film festival in the U.S.—this year's edition will take place at the Davis Theatre, Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema and the Chicago Filmmakers HQ. The program is filled with movies that feature LGBTQ talent (both in front of and behind the camera), including Rupert Everett's The Happy Prince, the Chicago premiere of Mapplethorpe starring Matt Smith as the controversial BDSM photographer and the documentary Studio 54, which explores the story behind the popular ‘70s nightclub.

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Goose Island
Photograph: Max Herman
Music, Music festivals

312 Block Party

Didn't get the invite to your neighborhood block party this summer? No worries—Goose Island is inviting everyone to its annual 312 Block Party, which takes place right in front of its Fulton Street brewery. A $10 donation to a local charity at the gate gets you access to live music, food truck fare and more than 20 different beers, which are only $3 each. On Friday, September 21 experimental rockers TV on the Radio headline the music stage, joined by psych outfit Sunflower Bean and local rapper Mick Jenkins. Americana act the Drive-By Truckers top the bill on Saturday, September 22, with support from indie-rockers the Hold Steady and country singer Lillie Mae. With so much great music and cheap beer on tap, the 312 Block Party usually fills up quickly, so your best option is to arrive early (the fest's entrance is at Fulton St and Wolcott Ave) and have a few drinks while you wait for your favorite act to play.

Beer Hoptacular
Photograph: Courtesy Beer Hoptacular
Things to do, Festivals

BeerHoptacular

One of the Chicago's most expansive craft beer festivals sets up in a helicopter hanger this year, offering more than 150 different brews to taste over the course of an afternoon. The BeerHoptacular also features a homebrew competition, DJs spinning vinyl, a live insult booth where you can take out your frustration and many more attractions.

Festivals in September

Maceo Parker
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Jazz

Chicago Jazz Festival

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 free concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. This year, the festivities expand to local music venues, where performers will play free shows from August 24 through 29. Headliners include composer, pianist and radio personality Ramsey Lewis; noted jazz vocalists Kurt Elling and Dianne Reeves; and funk legend Maceo Parker.

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Music festivals

North Coast Music Festival

Celebrate Labor Day weekend in Union Park at North Coast Music Festival, where EDM once again dominates the lineup. Headlining acts include Swedish DJ duo Axwell Λ Ingrosso, French producer DJ Snake, electro-funk act Jamiroquai and sultry R&B singer-songwriter Miguel. You'll also be treated to DJ sets from local musicians (such as the Cool Kids and Sen Morimoto) and get to take in all of the attendees wearing rave-ready costumes.

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Smoke Sausage Sliders
Photograph: Elizabeth Atkinson
Things to do, Festivals

Cider and Sliders Festival

Taste more than 30 ciders and enjoy some miniature burgers at the latest edition of this Lakeview Festival. The ciders and sliders are just two of the many attractions at the Labor Day weekend event, which also features two stages of music (provided by local cover bands) and a kids area. You'll need purchase a $35 ticket to attend the cider tastings, which take place during three sessions throughout the weekend.

Things to do, Festivals

Slow and Low Chicago Lowrider Festival

Hundreds of tricked-out cars and motorcycles line Loomis Street in Pilsen during this annual community festival, where you can take a look under the hood and watch classic rides bouncing around (with some hydraulic assistance). If you can tear yourself away from the automotive display, you can chow down on tasty tacos, shop for goods made by local vendors and listen to live DJs.

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TasteofPoloniax600.jpg
Ryan Bourque
Things to do, Festivals

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.

German-American Oktoberfest
Photograph: Courtesy German-American Oktoberfest
Things to do, Festivals

German-American Oktoberfest

Grab a plastic stein and munch on a pretzel at this annual Lincoln Square celebration of Deutschland heritage. The street party takes place under two gigantic tents and features plenty of German food, music and dancing. Make sure to stop by to see the annual Von Steuben Parade march up Lincoln Avenue on Saturday at 2pm.

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Things to do, Festivals

Festival de la Villita

Celebrate Mexico's independence from Spain with Mexican food, music and dancing in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood. Vendors and carnival rides fill the streets on all three days and on Sunday, the 26th Street Mexican Independence Day Parade ends here.

Windy City Wine Festival
Photograph courtesy of Windy City Wine Festival
Things to do, Festivals

Windy City Wine Festival

Quaff a glass of vino near Buckingham Fountain and admire the Chicago skyline at this yearly shindig, which features more than 300 wines from around the world and discussions with sommeliers and chefs. Attendees can choose from one of two evening sessions, with food from Taco in a Bag, Wally’s Waffles and others.

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Claude VonStroke
Photograph: Tim Jones
Music, Dance and electronic

The Birdhouse Festival

Independent electronic music label Dirtybird brings a carnival to the parking lot of the Journeymen Plumbers Hall, soundtracked by a stacked lineup of the label's DJs. Dirtybird head honcho Claude VonStroke headlines the miniature festival, joined by labelmates J. Phlip, Will Clarke, Ardalan, Christian Martin and more.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Renegade Craft Fair

icon-location-pin Bridgeport Art Center, Bridgeport
icon-calendar

That slight chill means it’s time to head to Wicker Park’s gigantic craft fair, where serious crafters from around the country to sell their handmade arts and wares,. Browse and buy prints, pottery, jewelry and other handmade goods from makers near and far, while enjoying food and drinks being peddled by local businesses and vendors.

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Concerts in September

The Mattson 2
Photograph: Mark Wiitanen
Music, Jazz

The Mattson 2 + Astronauts, Etc.

Identical twin brothers Jonathan and Jared Mattson have been making rock music infused with the improvisational flair of jazz for years, most recenting collaborating with Toro y Moi's Chaz Bundick on a collaborative LP. The duo's latest EP is a reinterpretation of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, which presents a new take on the classic jazz album. Inspired by Coltrane's four-part suite, the Mattson brothers render Coltrane's memorable saxophone melodies with guitars and synthesizers, building upon the original in new and unexpected ways. Dreamy pop crooner Astronauts, Etc. opens the show.

Omni
Photograph: Sebastian Weiss
Music, Rock and indie

Trouble in Paradise

Local record label Trouble in Mind teams up with Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based Paradise of Bachelors to present the three-day Trouble in Paradise festival at the Empty Bottle, featuring acts pulled from the ranks of each label's diverse roster. The party starts on Thursday night with a showcase of local acts, including post-punk noisemakers FACS and Negative Scanner. On Friday, the mood gets folk-y, with sets from the Weather Station, Olden Yolk and Gun Outfit. Finally, Saturday brings angular rockers Omni and Nova Scotian guitar pop outfit Nap Eyes to the stage. If you're not embracing nostalgia at Riot Fest, you'll find plenty of fresh faces at this expertly-curated mini-fest.

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Riot Fest 2017
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Music festivals

Riot Fest

It's the social event of the season for anyone with a denim jacket covered in patches hanging in their closet. Riot Fest brings acts like Beck, Blink-182, Alkaline Trio, Blondie, Elvis Costello and rock 'n' roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis to Douglas Park for a three-day carnival of music (there's even a Ferris wheel). You'll find punks, metalheads, indie fans and hip-hop aficionados eating corn dogs and crowding the fields at this eclectic end-of-the-summer fest. 

Lupe Fiasco
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Lupe Fiasco

It's been a tumultuos couple of years for fans of Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco, who threatened to retire from music at the end of 2016, before ultimately releasing his sixth album, Drogas Light, in 2017. Now, Fiasco is hard at work on a new concept record (tentatively titled Drogas Wave) that will tackle the history of slavery through a suite of hip-hop tracks. While it's possible you might get to hear some of his latest material at this House of Blues show, it's worth showing up to witness some classic tunes from Food & Liquor.

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Natalie Prass
Photograph: Tonje Thilesen
Music, Rock and indie

Natalie Prass + Stella Donnelly

Stepping away from the lush, string-dappled ballads of her debut album, singer-songwriter Natalie Prass lends her crystalline pipes to retro R&B- and funk-inspired tracks on her new album, The Future and the Past. Written in the wake of the 2016 elections, Prass scrapped the sophomore album she has previously planned in favor of a collection of confident anthems that confront the inherent heartbreak of living in a politically charged era. Australian singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly opens the show.

Goose Island
Photograph: Max Herman
Music, Music festivals

312 Block Party

Didn't get the invite to your neighborhood block party this summer? No worries—Goose Island is inviting everyone to its annual 312 Block Party, which takes place right in front of its Fulton Street brewery. A $10 donation to a local charity at the gate gets you access to live music, food truck fare and more than 20 different beers, which are only $3 each. On Friday, September 21 experimental rockers TV on the Radio headline the music stage, joined by psych outfit Sunflower Bean and local rapper Mick Jenkins. Americana act the Drive-By Truckers top the bill on Saturday, September 22, with support from indie-rockers the Hold Steady and country singer Lillie Mae. With so much great music and cheap beer on tap, the 312 Block Party usually fills up quickly, so your best option is to arrive early (the fest's entrance is at Fulton St and Wolcott Ave) and have a few drinks while you wait for your favorite act to play.

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pitchfork 2018, ravyn lenae
Photograph: Carolina Mariana Rodriguez
Things to do, Festivals

Desiigner + Ravyn Lenae

Young artists from throughout Chicago take the spotlight at YAS! Fest, a one-day event in Millennium Park that showcases local performers and creators. Throughout the day, you'll be able to see youth orchestras and choirs, artworks creates by Chicago youth, local dance troupes and winners of the Chicago Park District’s Teens In the Park contest. The evening will conclude with a concert in Pritzker Pavilion, headlined by rapper Desiigner (best know for his hit, "Panda") and local R&B singer Ravyn Lenae, who graduated from the Chicago High School for the Arts. It's all free and open to the public—yas!

Whitney
Photograph: Dominique Goncalves
Things to do, Festivals

Revolution Oktoberfest

Revolution Brewing's annual Oktoberfest celebration returns to the streets of Logan Square, welcoming attendees to quaff a few beers while enjoying German cuisine (from the likes of Dönermen and the Radler) and a stacked music lineup. Local folk rock act Whitney and Mary Timony's noisy trio Ex Hex headline the stage on Friday, while garage rock vets King Khan and the Shrines and Japanese psych rocker Kikagaku Moyo top Saturday's bill. A $5 donation gets you into this fall street fest, located just off the California Blue Line stop in front of the Revolution brewpub, with proceeds benefitting the Friends of Goethe School.

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Ravi Coltrane
Photograph: Deborah Feingold
Music, Jazz

Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Venues throughout Hyde Park host a weekend of jazz at this annual fall festival, which brings together local acts like Ben LaMar Gay, Dee Alexander and Junius Paul, as well as headlining sets from pianist Jason Moran and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane. During the afternoon, many of the concerts take place on two outdoor stages at Midway Plaisance, while the evening moves the music to places like the Logan Center and Rockefeller Chapel.

Free events in September

Maceo Parker
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Jazz

Chicago Jazz Festival

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 free concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. This year, the festivities expand to local music venues, where performers will play free shows from August 24 through 29. Headliners include composer, pianist and radio personality Ramsey Lewis; noted jazz vocalists Kurt Elling and Dianne Reeves; and funk legend Maceo Parker.

Things to do, Festivals

Slow and Low Chicago Lowrider Festival

Hundreds of tricked-out cars and motorcycles line Loomis Street in Pilsen during this annual community festival, where you can take a look under the hood and watch classic rides bouncing around (with some hydraulic assistance). If you can tear yourself away from the automotive display, you can chow down on tasty tacos, shop for goods made by local vendors and listen to live DJs.

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Brendan Fernandes
Photograph: Courtesy Brendan Fernandes
Art, Contemporary art

“Brendan Fernandes: The Living Mask”

icon-location-pin DePaul Art Museum, Sheffield & DePaul
icon-calendar

Chicago-based artist Brendan Fernandes draws inspiration from the fabricated African masks that were once sold to tourists, exploring how traditional art was modified and commodified. Displayed alongside wooden masks from Burkina Faso, Congo, Cameroon, and Nigeria from DePaul Art Museum’s African collection, Fernandes's striking neon light masks examine the ways in which society claims ownership of artistic ideas.

Liner Notes
Photograph: Steve Reidell
Things to do, Talks and lectures

Liner Notes: A Musical Storytelling Series

An album is more than a collection of songs—it can serve as the soundtrack to a pivotal time in your life or the window to a new world of musical discovery. The Liner Notes storytelling series celebrates records that change lives, gathering local musicians, writers and artists to talk about a particularly influential LP. In September, rapper SHOWYOUSUCK discusses Many Facez by Tracey Lee, Chicago Tribune writer Jessi Roti unpacks Fever to Tell by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hood Internet producer Steve Reidell professes his love of the soundtrack to Judgement Night and Metro owner Joe Shanahan talks about a mystery album.

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H.A.T.
Photograph: Courtesy DCASE
Music, Latin and world

World Music Festival

Expand your musical tastes at the annual World Music Festival, a series of free concerts at venues throughout the city that feature artists from all corners of the globe, including France, China, Gambia and more. The festival kicks off with the annual Ragamala concert, an overnight concert at the Chicago Cultural Center which features more than 12 hours of classical Indian music. Other highlights of this year's lineup include an El Grito celebration in Millennium Park featuring mariachi bands, an appearance by Morrocan experimental audio-visual artist H.A.T. and a concert held in tandem with World Dumpling Fest in Polk Bros Park.    

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Renegade Craft Fair

icon-location-pin Bridgeport Art Center, Bridgeport
icon-calendar

That slight chill means it’s time to head to Wicker Park’s gigantic craft fair, where serious crafters from around the country to sell their handmade arts and wares. Browse and buy prints, pottery, jewelry and other handmade goods from makers near and far while enjoying food and drinks being peddled by local businesses and vendors.

Advertising
German-American Oktoberfest
Photograph: Courtesy German-American Oktoberfest
Things to do, Festivals

German-American Oktoberfest

Grab a plastic stein and munch on a pretzel at this annual Lincoln Square celebration of Deutschland heritage. The street party takes place under two gigantic tents and features plenty of German food, music and dancing. Make sure to stop by to see the annual Von Steuben Parade march up Lincoln Avenue on Saturday at 2pm.

Things to do, Festivals

Festival de la Villita

Celebrate Mexico's independence from Spain with Mexican food, music and dancing in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood. Vendors and carnival rides fill the streets Friday through Sunday, and the 26th Street Mexican Independence Day Parade ends here on Sunday afternoon.

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394.wk.at.pw.mexicanindependencedayparade.jpg
Photograph: Miguel Zuno
Things to do, Festivals

Pilsen Mexican Independence Day Parade

Head to Pilsen to celebrate Mexican Independence Day at this annual processions along 18th Street, which features colorful floats, costumed dancers and local marching bands. The parade steps off at noon from Newberry Avenue and 18th Street and concludes at Wolcott Ave.

"Guitao", Ed Paschke (1978)
Photograph: Courtesy the Ed Paschke Art Center
Art, Painting

“Break A Rule: Ed Paschke’s Art and Teaching”

icon-location-pin Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art, Evanston
icon-calendar

Displaying a collection of Chicago-native Ed Paschke’s vibrant paintings, this exhibit connects the artist's experimental images to the tenants he taught his students as a professor at Northwestern University: to learn the rules in order to break them, trust your instincts and get out of your comfort zone. 

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