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lollapalooza 2018
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

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

By Zach Long

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.



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Chicago summer music festivals

Chicago Blues Festival 2017
Photograph: Max Herman

Chicago Blues Festival

Music Music festivals Millennium Park | Chicago, IL, Millennium Park

Chicago honors its legacy as a city of 12-bar melodies and wailing guitar solos by hosting the world's largest blues music festival, bringing living legends and local players to Millennium Park for three days of electrifying performances. This year's lineup includes headlining sets from blues singer Shemekia Copeland, southern-soul-turned-disco-diva Candi Staton and Memphis guitarist Eric Gales. Stake out a spot on the lawn to secure a great view of the always-packed evening shows at Pritzker Pavilion, or stroll through the park to catch sets from local musicians on the various Blues Festival side stages.

Spring Awakening Music Festival 2016, Friday
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

Spring Awakening Music Festival

Music Music festivals Union Park, West Loop

After moving to the suburbs last June, Spring Awakening Music Festival returns to the city in 2020, bringing an EDM-focused lineup to Union Park (the same place where the annual Pitchfork Music Festival occurs). The roster of artists performing at this year's fest hasn't been announced yet, but you can expect some of the most popular DJs and electronic music acts to take the stage during the three-day party. If endless bass drops, pyrotechnics and blinding light shows are your cup of lukewarm beer, Spring Awakening is the place to kick off summer festival season.

Windy City Smokeout
Photograph: Katie Kauss KDK Creative

Windy City Smokeout

Music Folk, country and blues United Center | Chicago, IL, United Center

Spend enough time basking in the smell of barbecued meat, the twangy strains of country music and the sweltering heat at Windy City Smokeout and you might feel like you've been transported to Texas. Taking place in a parking lot outside of the United Center, this annual festival brings togther some of the nation's most talented pitmasters and a stacked lineup of Nashville-approved musicians. This year, Kansas City’s Meat Mitch and Houston's Truth BBQ (as well as local favorites Smoque and Bub City) are among the vendors smoking ribs, pork and chicken throughout the weekend. Once you're full, clean up with some wet-naps and stick around for headlining sets from country music stars Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley and Jon Pardi.

pitchfork 2018
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Pitchfork Music Festival

Music Music festivals Union Park, West Loop

For 15 years, taste-making music publication Pitchfork has curated its own summer festival in Union Park, presenting lineups packed with some of the most of-the-moment indie rock, hip-hop and electronic acts. This year, indie rock outfit the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, hip-hop duo Run the Jewels and morose rockers the National headline the fest's anniversary celebration, joined by acts like Angel Olsen, the Fiery Furnaces, Danny Brown, Tierra Whack and Kim Gordon. As usual, attendees will be able to shop for souvenirs at the CHIRP Record Fair, sample Chicago cuisine provided by local restaurants and load up on swag at the various brand activations that line the park. If you're looking for a place to discover new music and keep the walking between stages to a minimum, Pitchfork Music Festival is the place to be.


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