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Rock on at Chicago’s best summer music festivals

Explore the best summer music festivals in Chicago—from Lollapalooza to Pitchfork to Chicago Blues Festival

lollapalooza 2018
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
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When it gets warm enough to spend entire days outdoors, there's never a dull weekend in Chicago (a.k.a. the unofficial capital of summer music festivals). Whether you want to join the hordes at Lollapalooza 2019 or stroll through a quiet neighborhood street festival, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy live tunes this season. Splurge on VIP tickets, spring for general admission or pay a small donation to see some of your favorite acts at a block party. There's no denying that attending a summer music festival is one of the best things to in Chicago. Pack some sunblock, stay hydrated and hit the streets (or the best Chicago parks) to find a summer music festival that makes your heart sing.

 

 

Chicago summer music festivals

Music, Music festivals

Ravinia Festival

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).

Taste of Randolph
Photograph: Courtesy Star Events
Things to do, Festivals

Taste of Randolph

icon-location-pin 900 W Randolph St, Downtown
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Taking place on the same street occupied by some of Chicago's top kitchens, this West Loop fest boasts six blocks of food, drinks and music. You'll find bites from more than 16 restaurants (on Randolph Street and beyond) as well as two stages packed with performances throughout the day. This year's lineup includes indie rockers Real Estate. R&B act Anderson East, synth-pop duo Holy Ghost!, Vulfpeck guitarist Cory Wong and New York rockers Cults. Donations made at the entrance to the festival support the West Loop Community Organization.

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Windy City LakeShake Country Music Festival, June 20, 2015 at Northerly Island, Chicago.
Photographer: cousindaniel.com
Music, Folk, country and blues

Country LakeShake Festival

icon-location-pin Huntington Bank Pavilion, Downtown
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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.

Ruido Fest
Photograph: Maria Madrigal
Music, Latin and world

Ruido Fest

icon-location-pin Union Park, West Loop
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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.

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Logan Square Arts Festival
Photograph: Christopher Dilts
Things to do, Festivals

Logan Square Arts Festival

icon-location-pin Illinois Centennial Monument, Logan Square
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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.

Playboi Carti
Photograph: Gunnar Stahl
Music, Music festivals

The Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash

icon-location-pin Douglas Park, North Lawndale
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Chicago hip-hop blog Lyrical 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.

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Mariachi Herencia de Mexico
Photograph: Courtesy Mariachi Herencia de Mexico
Music, Music festivals

Chicago Mariachi Festival

icon-location-pin Millennium Park | Chicago, IL, Millennium Park
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The Mariachi Heritage Foundation and the National Museum of Mexican Art welcome world-class mariachi ensembles to Pritzker Pavilion for a day of free performances (and dancing)—it's the largest event of its kind in the United States. This year's lineup includes Mexican singer Aida Cuevas, Chicago-based student ensemble Mariachi Herencia de México, Mexico City band Mariachi Juvenil Tecalitlan and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley outfit Mariachi Aztlán. Leave the booze at home for this one—there is no outside alcohol permitted at the Chicago Mariachi Festival.

West Fest
Photograph: Courtesy West Fest
Things to do, Festivals

West Fest

icon-location-pin Chicago Ave between Damen Ave and Wood St,
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Taking place on the weekend after the Fourth of July, you can count on West Fest to continue the celebration with delicious food, cold beverages and a music lineup stacked with exciting local bands and intriguing touring acts. This year, the street fest boasts sets from Welsh indie-rockers Los Campesinos!, experimental pop artist John Maus, dark electronic duo Boy Harsher and psychedelic Columbian outfit Combo Chimbita. The event also features a Pet Fest and a Kids Fest, stocked with activities for your little ones and four-legged friends.

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Chosen Few DJs Festival
Photograph: Courtesy Chosen Few DJs
Music, Music festivals

Chosen Few DJs Picnic and Festival

icon-location-pin 63rd St and Hayes, Woodlawn
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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.

Square Roots Festival
Photograph: Dan Kasberger
Things to do, Festivals

Square Roots Festival

icon-location-pin Lincoln Square, Lincoln Square
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Alt-country, folk and Americana music take the spotlight at Square Roots, a street festival that takes over the main drag of Lincoln Square. This year, alt-country stalwarts Son Volt headline the event (perhaps frontman Jay Farrar will patch up his differences with former Uncle Tupelo bandmate Jeff Tweedy onstage?), joined by rootsy rock outfits Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. The weekend will also host a 25th anniversary celebration for local label Bloodshot Records, with performances from Mekons, Murder by Death and some yet-to-be-announced guests. When you're not parked in front of a stage, you'll find open jam sessions, dance parties and family-friendly activities that make this fest feel like a gigantic neighborhood block party.

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Taste of Chicago
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Things to do, Festivals

Taste of Chicago

icon-location-pin Grant Park | Chicago, IL, Millennium Park
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Since 1980, Grant Park has been hosting what has become the granddaddy of food festivals. You know the drill: Trade tickets for a taste of Chicago's street fare from some of the city's most beloved eateries. Head to Butler Field to catch sets from the likes of Courtney Barnett, De La Soul, India.Arie and the Strumbellas throughout the weekend—admission is free, but you can pony up some cash if you want a seat in the pavilion.

Old Dominion
Photograph: Courtesy RCA Nashville
Music, Folk, country and blues

Windy City Smokeout

icon-location-pin United Center | Chicago, IL, United Center
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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.

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pitchfork 2018
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Music

Pitchfork Music Festival

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.

Wicker Park Fest 2017
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Things to do, Festivals

Wicker Park Fest

icon-location-pin Milwaukee Ave between North Ave and Paulina St, Suburbs
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Wicker Park may be overrun with chain restaurants, boutiques and shoe stores, but the neighborhood still clears out Milwaukee Avenue for a street celebration each summer. The main attraction of the annual fest is the music lineup, which features sets from neo-soul outfit Durand Jones & The Indications, West Coast rockers Wavves, cinematic folk band Murder By Death and New Jersey punks Screaming Females. You'll also find plenty of delicious food, sales at local shops, daily fashion shows and twentysomethings watching the festivities from precarious perches on rooftops, balconies and fire escapes.

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Volleywood
Photograph: Chicago Sport and Social Club
Music, Music festivals

Volleywood

icon-location-pin North Avenue Beach, Lincoln Park
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Dance on the beach at Chicago Sport and Social Club's annual Volleywood festival, which presents one day of live music, food and interactive experiences on the sands of North Avenue Beach. 3LAU, Autograf and Vanic headline this EDM-centric fest, providing eight hours of tunes for you to groove to. Snag general admission tickets or spring for a cabana for you and 11 of your friends, stocked with beer, refreshments and private restrooms.

lollapalooza 2018
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music

Lollapalooza

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.

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Mamby on the Beach
Photograph: Courtesy React Presents
Music, Music festivals

Mamby on the Beach

icon-location-pin Montrose Beach, Uptown
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One of Chicago's only remaining lakefront music festival moves to a new stretch of sand this summer, relocating to Montrose Beach from its former home at Oakwood Beach. Boasting three stages, beach games and plenty of picturesque spots for a selfie, the expanded event will feature headlining sets from rap collective Brockhampton, deep house producer Zhu, synth-pop singer Troye Sivan, Porter Robinson's retro techno project Virtual Self, electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso and electronic musician Flying Lotus.

North Coast Music Festival
Photograph: Keith Griner
Music, Music festivals

North Coast Music Festival

icon-location-pin Huntington Bank Pavilion, Downtown
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Entering its 10th summer in Chicago, change is in the air for the North Coast Music Festival in 2019. The Labor Day weekend music festival is vacating its former home in Union Park and moving to the Huntington Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island, where it will host a two-day event (down from its usual three days of music). And while past North Coast lineups have included jams bands, indie rockers and hip-hop acts, its 2019 slate of performers is squarely focused on electronic artists, including headlining sets from EDM titan Bassnectar and Diplo's dancehall project Major Lazer. Spread across two stages, the rest of the lineup features Jai Wolf, Flux Pavilion, Tchami, Juaz, Gorgon City and more than 20 other acts.

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Eddie Palmieri
Photograph: Courtesy DCASE
Music, Jazz

Chicago Jazz Festival

icon-location-pin Multiple venues
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Some of the biggest names in jazz come to Chicago for a series of shows at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park during this annual festival. This year's lineup features the Art Ensemble of Chicago, jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, legendary pianist Eddie Palmieri and a tribute to Nat King Cole (led by his brother, Freddy Cole). In the week leading up to the festival, you'll be able to catch free shows at venues like Constellation, Hungry Brain and PianoForte Chicago.

riot fest 2018
Photograph: Kate Scott
Music, Music festivals

Riot Fest

icon-location-pin Douglas Park, North Lawndale
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It's the social event of the season for anyone with a denim jacket covered in patches hanging in their closet. Riot Fest brings a lineup of rock, hip-hop and punk acts to Douglas Park for a three-day carnival of music (there's even a Ferris wheel), where attendees can eat corn dogs and enjoy some of the final gasps of warm summer weather. This year, Blink-182, Slayer, Bikini Kill, the Raconteurs and Rise Against headline the festival, joined by acts like the Flaming Lips, Jawbreaker, Ween, Patti Smith and Die Antwoord. It also happens to be Riot Fest's 15th anniversary, so maybe there will be some cake?

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