The shortest month of the year has arrived, but February isn't lacking in live music. You'll have know trouble find a (somewhat) romantic show on Valentine's Day or sweet gig to commemorate Presidents' Day. The weather outside is frigid (welcome to winter in Chicago) but the slate of pop, rock, country and indie shows is robust. Catch performances from hometown heroes like Wilco, Mavis Staples and Noname or catch a hotly anticipated gig from acts like Run the Jewels and George Clinton. Take a look at our list of February concerts in Chicago.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete annual calendar of concerts in Chicago
Concerts in Chicago in February
Since emerging in 1998 to link up with Mos Def and form Black Star, socially conscious MC Talib Kweli has made a name for himself as a solo artist of true integrity. Kweli hasn't released a proper solo album since 2013's Gravitas, but his recent compilation Awful People Are Great at Parties features fresh, impactful verses from the rapper and showcases artists signed to his Javotti Media label. Styles P and K' Valentine open the show.
After playing more than 300 shows in support of her 2015 album In Plain Speech, Haley Fohr (best known as Circuit des Yeux) presents a special retrospective hometown performance at Constellation. Over the course of an extended solo set, the singer-songwriter will dig into her back catalog of turbulent folk songs, blending 12-string guitar with her striking baritone vocals.
House of Vans celebrates the grand opening of its Chicago location with a free concert. The lineup is topped by Baltimore electro-pop outfit Future Islands, best known for the raspy growl and meme-worthy dance moves of frontman Samuel T. Herring. Recently reunited '90s hip-hop icons Digable Planets and local rapper Noname round out the bill. You'll need to RSVP for a chance to receive tickets.
Folksy Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon delivers spooky avant-pop that oscillates between punk and organ-driven psych-rock on her latest album, Crab Day. At Lincoln Hall, she's joined by Tim Presley, best known for his recordings under the name White Fence and his collaboration with Le Bon as part of the duo Drinks.
LA-based Jason Chung crafts synthetic, ambient hip-hop as Nosaj Thing, though you might know him for producing tracks for the likes of Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar. Here, the producer gets behind the decks at East Room for an all-night DJ set—expect the selections to fluctuate between the woozy ambiance of his solo work to chopped and screwed club bangers.
As a teenager, Fatimah Warner was part of the same Chicago Public Library arts program that mentored artists like Chance the Rapper and Saba. The Bronzeville native's background as a poet shines through in the stark yet beautiful lyrics that populate her debut mixtape, Telefone, delivering verses that confront her preveived shortcomings and insecurities with low-key candor. She launches her first tour at Metro with support from young singer-songwriter Ravyn Lenae.
Cloud Nothings frontman Dylan Baldi channels some quarter-life angst on the group's new LP, Life Without Sound, but he seems more concerned about the world at large than his own inner turmoil. Lead single "Internal World" he admits "I’m not the one who’s always right," amid a fuzzy pop punk arrangement—a fairly shrewd assessment, considering the current political climate. It's a far cry from the lo-fi basement recordings that launched Baldi into indie rock stardom, but desperate times call for more powerful songs.
Progressive trumpeter, composer and record label owner Dave Douglas takes a break from his numerous side projects and collaborations to bring his quintet to Constellation. Douglas's most recent records have found him blending jazz structure with electronic flourishes, but his work with young musicians Jon Irabagon, Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh and Rudy Royston is generally more straightforward and accessible.
Melding punk rock energy with arena rock bluster, Vancouver duo Japandroids makes music that is unabashedly triumphant. Five years after the release of the acclaimed Celebration Rock, the pair marks its return with a new record, Near to the Wild Heart of Life. If the rest of the album is nearly as triumphant as its title track, you're in for an evening of fist pumping and high-fiving strangers. The Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn and his backing band, the Uptown Controllers, open the show.
No, not that Hamilton. With the Walkmen on indefinite hiatus, frontman Leithauser teams up with former Vampire Weekend instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, exploring doo-wop, soul and country music on the duo’s new album, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine. While there's a bit of Leithauser's familiar garage-soul howling and bespoke crooning on the record, it seems like a calculated attempt to branch out—thankfully, it hits the mark. Wise beyond her years singer songwriter Lucy Dacus opens the show.
Rising Swedish pop star Tove Lo (pronounced “TOO-veh loo”) stepped into the spotlight with her unflinching breakup-aftermath anthem, “Habits.” Her latest album, Lady Wood, is equally explicit (accompanied by a NSFW short film, naturally), filled with confessional anthems that deal with sexuality and relationships, backed by dark synth melodies and muted beats. Electro-pop singer-songwriter Phoebe Ryan (who provides the vocals on the Chainsmokers' "All We Know") supports.
Local promoter Donnie Biggins (better known as Harmonica Dunn) puts together his annual roots and rock-oriented musical festival, Dunn Dunn Fest. Spread out across venues like Lincoln Hall, Schubas, Subterranean, Hideout, Beat Kitchen and Tonic Room, the three-day festival is packed with local bands and beloved touring acts. Highlights of the lineup include bar band Low Cut Connie (Lincoln Hall, Feb 17), Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty (Lincoln Hall, Feb 18) and Latin jam band Dos Santos: Anti-Beat Orquesta (Hideout, Feb 18).
El-P and Killer Mike continue their hip-hop bromance, firing off another barrage of quick-witted tracks on their new album, Run the Jewels 3. Fueled by a year of political and societal turmoil, the record might well be the pair's most impassioned and self-righteous effort to day, enlisting assistance from Detroit emcee Danny Brown and L.A. saxophonist Kamasi Washington. L.A. beatmaker the Gaslamp Killer, indie rapper Spark Master Tape and Arkansas emcee Cuz support.
Septuagenarian gospel legend Mavis Staples has only become better with age, radiating joy and positivity with her comforting vocal presence. After recording two LPs with fellow Chicago-native Jeff Tweedy, Staples latest, Livin' on a High Note, finds her teaming up with M. Ward on a collection of songs written specifically for her by artists like Justin Vernon, Neko Case and Nick Cave. Expect a career-spanning set at this special Symphony Center performance.
Best known for the raucous (but, above all, respectful) dance parties he leads at summer music festival, Baltimore's bespectacled, classically trained electro wunderkind Deacon airs the upbeat weirdtronica of his prolific catalogue. At this Red Bull Sound Select show, he's joined by experimental Minneapolis synth outfit Marijuana Deathsquads and local hip-hop duo Air Credits.
Winter is coming, and with it, an arena tour centered around Ramin Djawadi’s stirring score for Game of Thrones, featuring an orchestra, a choir and dragons projected on gigantic LED screens. For an encore, might we suggest some selections from Djawadi's equally wonderful Westworld score?
There's a reason Donald Glover decided to channel Parliament-Funkadelic on his latest Childish Gambino album—the group's political lyricism and taut funk arrangements are more relevant than ever before. 75-year-old frontman George Clinton brings the group's Mardi Gras Madness Tour to Thalia Hall, which promises an evening of interstellar funk, soul and disco that is guaranteed to get your body moving.
One of city's most beloved bands comes home to the Chicago Theatre, staging a four-night stand that marks the group's first appearance at the historic venue. Wilco's tenth studio album, cheekily titled Schmilco, acts as a companion to 2015's Star Wars—a more subdued collection of succinct pop songs that is remincent of frontman Jeff Tweedy's 2014 solo release, Sukierae. If these shows are anything like past hometown appearances, you can expect the band to dig deep into its back catalog (and avoid repeating songs night-to-night), in an effort to placate diehards screaming "Cars Can't Escape" from the balcony.
Sudan-born multi-instrumentalist Ahmed Gallad toured with Caribou, Of Montreal, and Yeasayer, before striking out on his own under the name Sinkane. He specializes in indelible hooks, anthemic choruses and Afrobeat flourishes, harnessing a silky smooth falsetto that floats through each track on his new album Life & Livin' It.
The jangling refrains of Chicago indie-rock quartet Ne-Hi traffic in pre-mature nostalgia, wistfully looking back on (relatively) recent youthful dalliances on the band's latest single, "Stay Young." Here the group celebrates the release of its sophomore LP, Offers, serving up a bittersweet soundtrack to cracking open beers with a friend as the sun sets on a beautiful summer day. More than any other promising young band in the city, Ne-Hi captures a very specific feeling and finds its nuances amid reverberating guitars.
Nevermind the digusting-if-you-think-about-it name, Meat Wave is a local band done good. Made up of Chicago punk scene vets, the trio signed to SideOneDummy in 2015 to release Delusion Moon, a frantic post punk album that marries heavy riffs with zealous lyricism. Expect to hear some tracks from the group's new soon-to-be-released record at this hometown show.
LA bassist and singer-songwriter Thundercat embraces yacht rock on his latest single, "Show You The Way," featuring guest vocals from Kenny Logins and Michael McDonald. Though its likely an outlier on his latest album, Drunk, it's a natural progression for the frequent Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar collaborator, who has embraced cosmic soul, funk and R&B as a solo artist.
Veteran singer Lee Fields cut his first single in 1969 and is still a consumate performer, thanks to four decades spent plying his trade on stage and in the studio. Assisted by his backing band the Expressions, Fields combines elements of classic soul and R&B to create music that sounds like its been dug out of a dusty crate of records and reinvigorated for a new era.