Kicking off with Lollapalooza, August offers up the last full month of summer concerts and outdoor shows before autumn arrives. Even if you're not a fan od summer music festival, you can still see big names like Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars and Billy Joel perform at stadiums and areas around the city. If you prefer picnic baskets and free music, make sure to check out Millennium Park's summer concert series before it concludes. Explore our picks of the best concerts in Chicago in August.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete calendar for concerts in Chicago
Concerts in Chicago in August
It's back! The 13th edition of Lollapalooza returns to Grant Park from August 3–6, 2017 with four whole days (yes, they're sticking with the prolonged format) of bands, heat and huge crowds near some of Chicago's best attractions. Chance the Rapper, Lorde, the Killers and Arcade Fire are among the headliners at this year's fest—yes, they've all played the festival before but the latest crop of tank-topped revelers won't bat an eye.
A former bedroom producer who made a name for himself with an unauthorized remix of Janet Jackson's "If" that he posted to Soundcloud, Louis Kevin Celestin (better known as Kaytranada) is a 24-year-old EDM wunderkind with clout to spare. If you dug the production on Chance the Rapper's "All Night," you'll love Kaytra's debut, 99.9%, which is scattered with high-profile guests like Vic Mensa, Anderson .Paak and Little Dragon, all backed by some of the most complex rhythms you're likely to hear in a club. Local rapper Kweku Collins and Montreal hip-hop artist Lous Phelps open the show.
Indie rock veterans Spoon are one of the most consistent bands in the business, churning out regular doses of power-pop that serve as a reminder of their staying power. The Texas group's latest, Hot Thoughts, once again benefits from the slightly psychedelic touch of producer Dave Fridmann, who lends a punchier, funkier vibe to the record's taut songs. Before marking their return to Lollapalooza, Spoon warms up at Metro with support from the Strokes' instrumentalist Nicholas Valensi's side project CRX.
The lineup has changed, but Blink-182 2.0 is—for better or for worse—the same snotty-nosed punks you grew up with. With former lead singer Tom DeLonge off chasing aliens, Alkaline Trio singer Matt Skiba takes over on vocals—a noticable departure from the nasal drawl the band once wore proudly on its sleeve, but you'll barely notice as you're shouting along to "All the Small Things." At this special Lollapalooza aftershow, LA electro-pop artist Elohim supports.
Formed by roommates Max Kakacek and Julian Ehrlich (former members of the Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, respectively), Whitney puts a lovelorn, soulful spin on folk rock that is firmly indebted to the Band and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Ahead of the band's Lollapalooza debut, Whitney headlines this Thalia Hall aftershow, joined by indie rock singer-songwriter Kevin Devine.
Mac DeMarco's tongue is no stranger to his cheek. Like Jonathan Richman, the Canuck crooner's jangly pop muddies the line between campy and candor with ease. His latest LP, This Old Dog, documents the singer's move to LA, injecting a few psychedelic flourishes into the collection of laid-back ballads. Australian rock trio Middle Kids support.
There are few bands more unabashedly joyous than Sylvan Esso, the unlikely duo of singer Amelia Meath (formerly of Mountain Man) and producer Nick Sanborn. Together, the pair makes slick electro-pop that balances emotionally ressonant lyricism with dancable beats—good luck standing still during this show. Wye Oak frontwoman Jenn Wasner's side project Flock of Dimes opens this Lollapalooza aftershow.
If you've seen The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception or The Lion King, you've heard the music of Han Zimmer, a German composer who is known for his brassy fanfares and versatility (he recently penned the score to Boss Baby). During this special performance, Zimmer brings his cinematic soundtracks to life onstage with the help of a band and a small orchestra. If you missed out on tickets to Lollapalooza, this might be the next best thing.
Guatemalan singer-songwriter and guitarist Gaby Moreno is a versatile talent, shifting between blues, jazz and soul (sung in Spanish and English). She's also responsible for the theme to NBC's Parks and Recreation, which she composed with Canadian musician Vincent Jones. Before she performs at Pritzker Pavilion, Mexico City electronic producer Centavrvs will warm up the crowd. This free concert is part of the 2017 Millennium Park Summer Music Series.
Former Ponytail guitarist Dustin Wong continues his ongoing collaboration with Japanese experimental pop artist Takako Minekawa through the pulsing, dreamlike loops of the duo's latest LP, Are Euphoria. Local lap steel and drums combo Mouth Captain opens the show.
In his native Senegal (not to mention the rest of Africa), Youssou N'Dour is one of the biggest names in pop music, selling out gigs across the continent and releasing a string of hit albums. On these shores, N'Dour might be best-known for a duet he performed with Peter Gabriel in 1989, but his globally-informed pop deserves your attention, even if you've never heard of him. Before he performs at Pritzker Pavilion, local funk outfit Bassel & the Supernaturals will kick off the night with songs that the humanitarian struggle in Syria. This free concert is part of the 2017 Millennium Park Summer Music Series.
Can we start calling this an annual residency yet? For the fourth summer in a row, the piano man returns to Wrigley Field. The 67-year-old singer-songwriter hasn't released a new album in more than a decade, but he's still playing the hits on a monthly basis at his always sold out Madison Square Garden residency. You may even run into some famous faces at this gig—in 2015, Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence danced atop Joel’s piano in the Friendly Confines.
The Empty Bottle's folk, experimental, psychedelic and underground music festival returns just in time for the venue's 25th anniversary, hosting a stacked line-up of left-of-the-dial acts over the course of two nights. Local musician Steve Krakow curates the lineup, which kicks off on Friday night with Japanese punk guitarist Narita (formerly of Guitar Wolf), LA folk singer-songwriter Itasca and local experimental act Ono. On Saturday, San Francisco psych outfit Heron Oblivion headlines a bill that includes American Primitive guitarist Mark Fosson and the New Age soundscapes of Fursaxa. You might as well end the summer on a heady note.
Awash in boy-girl harmonies and wry, sentimental lyricism, Scottish act Belle and Sebastian have been the reigning champions of twee-pop ever since the release of its sophomore album, If You're Feeling Sinister. But frontman Stuart Murdoch changed the formula with 2015's Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, a buoyant comeback record with synth-driven beats and dance floor aspirations. With a new record in the works, expect Belle and Sebastian to show off its latest musical direction (whatever than might be) during a headlining set at the Chicago Theatre. Memphis singer-songwriter Julien Baker opens the show.
The man who is at least partially responsible for "Uptown Funk" comes to United Center for a sprawling three-night stand at the arena. The fact that Bruno Mars can easily fill an arena three times over is a testament to the enduring popularity of the Motown, soul and doo-wop music—three genres that he borrows from liberally. Mars' latest, 24K Magic, continues the singers winning streak, packed with tracks like "That's What I Like," which provide the perfect backdrop for a glitzy, tightly-choreographed dance number.
Marrying Hebrew lyrics and with toe-tapping, hand-clapping arrangements, Joshua Nelson is at the forefront of a genre of his own creation, called "kosher gospel." Joining Nelson is Chicago-native Tone Ross, who creates gospel music with a message through as the founder of the Inspired Music Group. This free concert is part of the 2017 Millennium Park Summer Music Series.
DAMN. With just one word, the title of Kendrick Lamar's latest album encapsulates the excitement and disbelief of fans and contemporaries alike. Nimbly bobbing between topics like race, politics and the pressures of success, Lamar's latest LP is a showcase of not only his rapid-fire poetic flow, but his ability to mold each stanza into a small piece of a sprawling hip-hop narrative. It's a feat that promises to be equally impressive when pulled off in front of an audience. YG and D.R.A.M. support.
After snarling their way through the Bush administration, everyone's favorite snot-nosed pop-punks are setting their sights on Trump. Green Day's latest album, Revolution Radio, was recorded before the election, but its economical power chord anthems are riddled with lyrics about homegrown terrorism and the search for truth. A hostile administration might not make the band's music any better, but at least it gives Billie Joe Armstrong and company a target to focus their rage on. UK alt-rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen open the show.
Back when she was engaged to Chicago Fire heartthrob Taylor Kinney, Lady Gaga almost seemed like an honorary Chicagoan. But ever since she ended her relationship with Kinney, Gaga hasn't paid too much attention to the city that once served as her second home. Thankfully, she's coming back to town in August, playing behind her 2016 release Joanne at the North Side ballpark. She'll be the first woman to headline the Friendly Confines in its short history as a concert venue. Perhaps she'll jump into the ballpark suspended from wires and surrounded by flashing drones?
The nostalgic record-slingers at Bric-a-Brac Records host another end of the summer party in the East Room's parking lot, outfitted with a lineup of punk acts from Chicago and beyond. Highlights of the lineup include South African garage rock act Make-Overs, jangling punk band the Okmoniks (featuring Nobunny on the drums) and local noise-makers No Men. Attendees will also enjoy cheap beer as well as additional refreshments from Red Bull, Topo Chico and Jameson.
Georgian country-rock superstar Zac Brown brings his amiable good ol' boy boogie to the Friendly Confines. After experimenting with EDM and pop on its last record, Brown and his band gets back to basics on Welcome Home—expect plenty of twangy ballads and Southern rock anthems.
After a series of mixtapes, singles and high-profile features, Solana Imani Rowe's debut album isn't so much a revelation as an affirmation of the talent she's displayed previously. The silky R&B of Ctrl tempers unobtrusive production with brutally honest lyricism, confronting scorned lovers, weekend trysts and mounting complexities of modern romance. St. Louis rapper Smino and Chicago singer Ravyn Lenae support.