Chicago summer music festivals
After taking a year off in 2018, Chicago's only summer music festival devoted to heavy metal and modern rock is returning for another weekend of scorching riffs and furious moshing at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois. For its third edition, Chicago Open Air will feature two days of music, including headlining sets from eclectic rockers System of a Down and prog-metal explorers Tool. Reunited British rockers the Cult, theatrical rock outfit Ghost and French metal act Gojira are among the other groups confirmed to perform at the reinvigorated fest.
Chicago is the birthplace of house music, so it stands to reason that the city hosts a festival celebrating the homegrown genre. The Chicago House Music Festival brings DJs and musicians to Millennium Park for a daylong dance party, showcasing the various genre styles that have developed since house was popularized in local nightclubs in the early ’80s. This year, London R&B, soul and house band Reel People makes its Chicago debut with a headlining set, joined by New York DJ Tony Humphries and local acts like Gene Hunt, Mark Grusane and First Lady. The festival will also host a conference at the Chicago Cultural Center on Thursday, May 23 and a performance in Millennium Park on Friday, May 24.
The music at the Ravinia Festival in suburban Highland Park runs all summer long from May 31 through September 15, with rock, pop and classical concerts nearly every night. As usual, you can pony up for primo seats in the pavilion or snag a more affordable lawn ticket (and bring along your own picnic basket and booze). Highlights of the 2019 lineup include "Weird Al" Yankovic (July 28), Ringo Starr and the Beach Boys (Aug 3, 4), Buddy Guy (June 14), the Beach Boys (Aug 24) and Kesha (Sep 8).
Do Division, the street shindig booked by Empty Bottle and Subterranean, kicks off the summer festival season during the first weekend of June. Spanning several city blocks, the annual celebration brings a selection of local vendors and restaurants to Division Street, as well as a petting zoo for the kids, a sidewalk sale and a runway fashion show. This year's music lineup includes Why?, the Meat Puppets, Mikal Cronin, Pile, Ryley Walker and Laura Stevenson, as well as local acts like Russian Circles, the Cool Kids, Makaya McCraven and Paul Cherry.
Chicago honors its legacy as a city filled with 12-bar melodies by hosting the world's largest blues music festival, bringing living legends and local players to Millennium Park for a three-day celebration. This year's lineup of headlining acts includes “King of the Chitlin' Circuit” Bobby Rush, soul singer-songwriter Bettye LaVette and gospel blues singer Ruthie Foster. Snag a spot on the lawn to secure a great view of the always-packed evening performances at Pritzker Pavilion, or stroll through the park to catch sets from local musicians on the Blue Festival side stages.
For one weekend each summer, Spring Awakening Music Festival gives Chicago's club kids a very good reason to get out of bed before noon. This year, the three-day electronic music festival moves to the suburbs, where it will take over some parking lots and land to the west of the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates from June 7 through 9. DJ Snake, Zedd, Martin Garrix, Griz and DJ Illenium will get behind the decks for headlining sets on intricate stages complete with confetti blasts and pyrotechnics. Don't worry, there'll be parking on-site and shuttles to nearby Metra stations.
After drenching attendees in buckets of green goop last summer, Nickelodeon's SlimeFest returns to Northerly Island to make every ’90s kid's dreams come true with two days of family-friendly fun and music. When you're not searching for the nearest slime spout, you'll be able to take in sets from headlining acts like rapper Pitbull, pop singer-songwriter Bebe Rexha, YouTube star JoJo Siwa and recent The Masked Singer winner T-Pain. Plus, you can meet Nickelodeon stars, dance at a slime disco or dive down a gigantic inflatable slide.
Country music doesn't get a lot of love on major Chicago summer music festival lineups, but the annual Country LakeShake gives cowboy hat-wearing fans a place to see some of the favorite Nashville stars. Taking place at the Huntington Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island, this year's edition of the county fest features headlining sets from Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan. Props to whoever programmed the event's Friday lineup, which is almost exclusively made up of female artists, including Maren Morris (who provided the vocals for Zedd's hit "The Middle") and American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina.
Moving to Union Park for the first time this summer, Rudio Fest fills a notable void in Chicago summer festival calendar by championing the diverse sounds of Latin American pop, electro and rock en español. Headlining acts on the 2019 lineup include Californian norteño (Mexican polka music) band Los Tigres del Norte and a collaboration between Argentinian pop-rock group Enanitos Verdes and Spanish boy band Hombres G. Other notable performers include Mexican psych-rockers El Tri and experimental pop artist Helado Negro.
Each summer, stages, tents and food trucks spring up around the Illinois Centennial Monument for a weekend that celebrates local art, food, beer and music. The Logan Square Arts Festival is one of the neighborhood's most beloved events and a reminder of the importance of community in an area of the city where demographics are changing as rapidly as new condos and high-rises can be built. In addition to a full slate of local artists, printers and makers, this year's festival will feature sets from Philadelphia rockers Hop Along, New Zealand indie-pop group the Beths, Brooklyn electronic act Future Generations and more.
Chicago hip-hop blog Lyricial Lemonade expands its annual summer concert to a two-day festival in Douglas Park this year, bringing along a lineup featuring some of the hottest rappers in the world as well as plenty of rising acts. Atlanta emcees Playboi Carti and Lil Yachty headline the Summer Smash on Saturday, while "Lucid Dreams" rapper Juice WRLD and controversy-courting artist Kodak Black close out the fest on Sunday. You'll also find an impressive array of notable SoundCloud rappers on the bill, including breakthrough acts like Blueface and Trippie Redd as well as performances from soon-to-be-famous names like DaBaby and Yung Bans. If you want to witness the future of hip-hop, this is the place to be.
In 1990, a group of Chicago house DJs and a small group of friends gathered in Jackson Park for an impromptu concert. Today, the Chosen Few DJs (Wayne Williams, Jesse Saunders, Tony Hachett, Alan King, Andre Hatchett, Terry Hunter and Mike Dunn) spin tracks for thousands of fans each summer, joined by special guest performers like producer David Morales, Motown star Thelma Houston, disco singer Taana Gardner and house music vocalist Lady Alma. Attendees can rent a spot for a tent on the lawn or grab general admission tickets and spend the entire day grooving on the dance floor.
Spend a weekend eating barbecue and listening to country music at the Windy City Smokeout, which fills a parking lot with some of the country's best pitmasters and a stacked lineup of twangy musicians. Sample smoked meats cooked by barbecue masters from Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee (as well as local favorites like Smoque and Bub City) while you listen to tunes from the likes of Chris Young, Old Dominion, Cole Swindell and Ashley McBryde. Dust off your cowboy hat, fill your pocket with moist towelettes and dig into a weekend of delicious meat and music.
While other summer music festivals are content to book the same old bands over and over again, Pitchfork Music Festival is typically a breath of fresh air (thanks largely to the taste-making online publication that curates it). This year, pop-rock trio HAIM, legendary Motown act the Isley Brother and electro-pop star Robyn headline the main stage, joined by an eclectic array of rock, hip-hop and pop artists like Stereolab, Pusha T, Mavis Staples and Charli XCX. If you're in the mood for some musical discovery (or rediscovery), mark your calendar for July 19 through 21.
The reigning behemoth of Chicago's summer music festival circuit returns to Grant Park from August 1 to 4 for another four days of bands, heat, brand activations and gigantic crowds. Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino, Twenty One Pilots, Tame Impala, the Strokes and the Chainsmokers top a lineup of more than 170 acts, which also features artists like Janelle Monáe, Kacey Musgraves and Lil Wayne. Attending the Lolla weekend is an act of endurance, but if you're not up for the challenge, you can always settle for a single-day ticket.
There's only one festival that annually hosts unprecedented band reunions, carnival rides, sideshow acts and an annual performance by GWAR. We're talking about Riot Fest, which returns to Douglas Park from September 13 to 15 with corn dogs, band T-shirts and beer in tow. Expect a lineup of nostalgic acts atop the bill, making it the perfect place to cap off summer fest season.