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Concerts in Chicago in January 2020

Ben Gibbard, Buddy Guy and the multi-venue Tomorrow Never Knows festival top January's Chicago concert lineup

Death Cab For Cutie
Photograph: Michael J. Chen

Now that the new year (and decade) has arrived, it's time to spend some evenings in Chicago's best music venues. January is anything but a slow time of the year for concerts in Chicago, boasting annual happenings like Buddy Guy's residency at his South Loop blues club and the Tomorrow Never Knows music festival, which brings rising acts to venues like Schubas, Lincoln Hall and Sleeping Village. In January, you'll also be able to see Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard headline three nights at Thalia Hall, see the local premiere of new work by jazz bandleader Makaya McCraven and catch legendary musician John Cale at the Art Institute of Chicago. Fill your calendar with some of the best January concerts in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete calendar of concerts in Chicago

Concerts in Chicago in January

Iron and Wine
Photograph: Piper Ferguson
Music, Folk, country and blues

Iron & Wine + Calexico

Thalia Hall | Chicago, IL, Lower West Side

When Florida folk singer Sam Beam and Latin rock band Calexico teamed up on the In The Reins EP in 2005, the two acts struck gold by marrying Beam's gentle lyrics with grandiose pedal-steel-dappled arrangements. It's no surprise that Beam and Calexico got back together nearly a decade-and-a-half later to records a follow, Years to Burn, which showcases the evolution of both groups of artists. The collection of dusty folk ballads and slow burning rock numbers is another successful collaboration, playing to the strengths of both parties even if it doesn't exactly blaze any new territory. Local singer-songwriter Gia Margaret opens on January 29 and Los Angeles guitar virtuoso Madison Cunningham supports on January 30.

Smart Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Smart Bar
Music, Dance and electronic

Derrick Carter

Smart Bar, Wrigleyville

House music luminary Derrick Carter has been producing and spinning tracks in Chicago since the late ’80s, working behind the counter at DJ destination Gramaphone Records and becoming a Smart Bar resident along the way. Taking a break from his busy touring schedule in Europe (where house music is still a bona fide cultural phenomenon), Carter gets behind the decks for the entire evening on the final evening of January.

Makaya McCraven
Photograph: David Marques
Music, Jazz

Makaya McCraven

Symphony Center, Loop

Drummer and composer Makaya McCraven is the J Dilla of Chicago's jazz scene, but instead of chopping up his record collection and molding the samples into new beats, he uses tapes of improvised performances to craft taut grooves in the studio. On the heels of his 2018 album, Universal Beings, which found McCraven collaborating with a global cast of players, the bandleader makes his Symphony Center debut with the premiere of a new composition. Entitled "In These Times," the multimedia creation draws inspiration from black activists and musicians, performed with the support of an ensemble that includes Marquis Hill on trumpet, Junius Paul on bass and Greg Ward on saxophone.