When temperatures rise, there's never a dull weekend in Chicago—it's the capital of summer music festivals. From Lollapalooza down to neighborhood street festivals, hundreds of bands eschew Chicago rock venues and grace the city's outdoor stages instead. You can splurge on a VIP experience or take in a free block party and still catch some of your favorite acts. Stock up on sunblock, pack some earplugs and hit the pavement, parks and Chicago beaches at some of the best Chicago summer music festivals.
Chicago summer music festivals
With music booked by Empty Bottle and Subterranean, this street shindig kicks off the summer festival season with a lineup that typically boasts garage rockers, hip-hop artists and electronic acts. The annual celebration spans ten city blocks on Division Street, packed with a selection of local vendors and restaurants as well as family activities, a sidewalk sale and a runway fashion show.
Chicago honors its history as a destination for musicians by hosting the largest free blues festival in the world, bringing living legends and local 12-bar players to Millennium Park. This year, Pritzker Pavilion hosts headlining sets from Mavis Staples and Fantastic Negrito, as well as a tribute to blues harpist Little Walter and Chicago label Delmark Records. During the day, local acts perform on side stages, giving you plenty of time to snag a spot on the lawn.
For one weekend each summer, Chicago's club kids get out of bed before noon and join the party at Spring Awakening Music Festival in Addams/Medill Park. Running from June 8 to 10, 2018, the three-day EDM fest boasts headlining sets from Deadmau5, Steve Aoki and Tiësto, accompanied by intricate stages, confetti and pyrotechnics.
For country music fans in Chicago, there's no bigger event than the Country LakeShake Festival on Northerly Island. Headliners at this year's fest include The Voice judge (and Sexiest Man Alive, according to People magazine) Blake Shelton, singer-songwriter Dierks Bentley and bro-country duo Florida Georgia Line. In a city where most festivals tend to ignore country music, this is the hootenanny that Nashville devotees have been waiting for.
It may be called the Logan Square Arts Festival, but music is the main attraction when this event sets up shop under the Centennial Monument. The lineup usually includes several prominent local performers as well as a few touring acts, encompassing everything from experimental jazz to straight-ahead rock. Think of it as a neighborhood block party that everyone is invited to attend.
There are only a few months each year that Chicagoans can actually enjoy the city's beaches, so you better believe we're gonna throw a music festival on one of them. Mamby on the Beach is one of the only events in the city where you can watch indie rockers, electronic acts and hip-hop artists while standing barefoot on some Lake Michigan sand.
Some people attend Pitchfork Music Festival for the rising bands and underground acts that simply don't get booked at other Chicago fests. Others enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and relatively small footprint of the annual event, which is probably one of the most family-friendly fests around. If you've never experienced a weekend at Union Park during Pitchfork, clear your schedule from July 20 to 22, 2018 and keep your fingers crossed for a lineup that includes Björk.
The reigning behemoth of Chicago's summer music festival returns to Grant Park from August 2 to 5, 2018 for another four days of bands, heat and gigantic crowds. You can count on some of the biggest names in pop, rock, hip-hop and electronic music to take the stage throughout the weekend—just don't expect Daft Punk to show up again. Keep an eye out for details about ticket sales, because Lolla has a tendency to sell out almost immediately.
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.
If you're the type of person who enjoys EDM, jam bands, hip-hop and waving around objects on sticks at music festivals, you'll fit right in at North Coast. The supremely chill Labor Day weekend event is one of the only fests that is scheduled around a three-day weekend, which gives you an extra day to recover before you head back to work.
Music is the language that transcends borders, and each September the city invites performers from across the globe to come to Chicago and expand our vocabulary. The annual World Music Festival is a multi-week event that brings artists from India, Africa, Ireland and China to venues throughout the city. Open your mind to new sounds and experience you'll be able to hear buoyant Afrobeat, festive mariachi performances, classical Indian music and more eclectic genres during the festival. Best of all, most of the concerts are free to attend.
There's only one festival that annually hosts unprecedented band reunions, carnival rides, sideshow acts and a performance by GWAR. We're talking about Riot Fest, which returns to Douglas Park from September 14 to 16 with plenty of corn dogs, band T-shirts and beer in tow. If you were a fan of punk rock as a kid, the lineup is almost guaranteed to give you come warm, nostalgic feelings—plus, there's typically some hip-hop, indie rock and metal to round out the weekend.