September may signal the end of summer, but it's summer nonetheless—our favorite outdoor restaurants are still open and it's still acceptable to drink a mint julep. It's you last chance to go to a summer music festival before the weather takes a turn for the frigid, so take advantage of long afternoons at Riot Fest, North Coast Music Festival and Chicago Jazz Festival. There are plenty of concerts to enjoy as well, including Father John Misty at the Auditorium Theatre and Broken Social Scene's triumphant return to the Aragon. Explore our picks of the top September concerts in Chicago.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete calendar for concerts in Chicago
Concerts in Chicago in September 2017
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 concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. It's all about the tributes this year, with celebrations of band leader Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonious Monk and singer Ella Fitzgerald (an Ellabration, if you will) on the schedule. New Orleans institution the Rebirth Brass Band closes the festival out on September 3.
If you need to see live EDM, hip-hop and jam bands over Labor Day weekend, North Coast delivers a diverse bill that includes headlines like Gucci Mane, Ween, Damien "Jr. Gong" Marley and a collaborative set from Deadmau5 and Eric Prydz. Just follow the colorfully-dressed attendees to Union Park from September 1–3.
Three nights of ear-splitting heavy metal come to the Empty Bottle on Labor Day weekend, headlined by stoner metal supergroup Atomic Bitchwax, Bay Area act Acid King and experimental rockers Oxbow. The remainder of the lineup is filled out with local shredders like Electric Hawk and Pelican side-project RLYR. The Bottle turned 25 years old this year, so this fest is going to shake any remaining dust from the venue's rafters.
It's been nearly two decades since former Fugee Ms. Lauryn Hill released her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but her progressive brand of R&B has aged exceedingly gracefully. Getting to see her live is still a treat, made even more enticing by the addition of co-headlining ‘90s hip-hop icon Nas, who once featured Hill on his single "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)." You're in for a very nostalgic night on Northerly Island.
Riot Fest and Star Events team up for a weekend of bratwurst, beer and bands in the West Loop. The three-day fest brings some of Chicago's top encased meat vendors to the intersection of Randolph Street and Ogden Avenue, accompanied by a punk rock soundtrack from the likes of Murder by Death, the Anniversary, Diarrhea Planet, Masked Intruder and more. This certainly doesn't sound like the würst way to spend one of the final weekends of the summer.
Musicians from across the globe travel to Chicago each September, playing free gigs across the city as part of the annual World Music Festival. This year, the lineup of acts is just as expansive as ever, featuring artists from India, Africa, Ireland, China and more. Highlights of the fest include the overnight Ragamala classical Indian music concert at the Chicago Cultural Center (Sept 8), a Mexican Independence Day celebration with Mariachi Flor de Toloache (Sept 16) and an Afropop concert headlined by Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 (Sept 23).
Virtuoso progressive metal may not be en vogue, but the mighty Mastodon resolutely sticks to its guns (tusks?) on its latest, Emperor of Sand. Its title may sound like a sequel to the classic sci-fi novel Dune, but the record is actually an extended meditation on the trials of cancer, inspired by the experiences of friends and family members, approached with the band's usual array of heavy riffs and brutal technicality. This intimate benefit show at Metro will donate 100% of proceeds to Hope for the Day, a local nonprofit that promotes proactive suicide prevention.
Though she's spent much of the past two decades reuniting with Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks has always made time to strike out on her own. Her latest solo outing comes in support of her 2014 release, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, a collection of songs based on demos that Nicks record during the ‘70s and ‘80s. There's nothing quite as classic as "Edge of Seventeen" on the record, but you can rest assured that Nicks will dig into her catalog (and sing a few Fleetwood tunes) when she comes to Ravinia.
Best known for his work under the Bright Eyes moniker and for fronting groups like Desaparecidos and Commander Venus, Oberst’s has lent his plaintive voice to folk rock, emo, electro-pop and everything in-between. His latest LP, Salutations, reimagines songs from this 2016 release, Ruminations, with the help of a backing band, allowing Oberst to play the role of the (gracefully) aging folk troubadour.
Riot Fest marks the end of summer music festival season with a weekend of rock, metal and punk, taking place from September 15–17, 2017. The festival will return to Douglas Park for the third consecutive year, with Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age and newly-reunited punk act Jawbreaker heading up the lineup.
Four years after the release of their debut album, Days Are Gone, the Haim sisters are still the same leather jacket-wearing, ‘80s-worshipping, stage-quipping badasses that we've come to adore. So what if their latest album, Something to Tell You, is essentially more of the same? The bass faces, hereditary harmonies and hopelessly romantic pop songs that landed the trio on tour with Taylor Swift are still intact, and if you're lucky, you'll get to hear them turn a Shania Twain song into a soft-rock jam.
Even if you didn't catch his controversial cameo on the latest season of Game of Thrones, you've surely heard "Shape of You" blasting from a car at least a hundred times this year. Taylor Swift's good friend Ed Sheeran is still winning (adolescent) hearts and minds, so of course he's also headlining a pair of shows at Allstate Arena. He's brining along fellow Brit James Blunt—another guy with an earworm of a song that you wish you could erase from your mind.
Bay Area punk artist John Dwyer—infamous for his prolific stints with Coachwhips and countless other groups—rebrands his long running garage-pop outfit as Oh Sees, presumably dropping the "Thee" in light of the group's recent forrays into psychedelia. Cascading guitar lines and propulsive, motorik rhythms characterize the band's latest album, Orc, which sounds like a version of the band that could have existed on the fringes of Germany's ‘70s krautrock movement.
Former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman bring his usual sardonic touch and penchant for ‘70s folk, country and pop to his latest album under the guise of his alter-ego, Father John Misty. Pure Comedy is a cynical examination of overriding the futility of modern life, set against lush, kaleidoscopic arrangements that only serve to heighten the impact of Tillman's world-weary lyricism. If the apocalypse is nigh, at least the human race will have some grandiose exit music. Brooklyn singer-songwriter Weyes Blood opens the show.
With a falsetto that’s reminiscent of Jeff Buckley and lonesome arrangements that capture the desolate beauty of the desert, Texas singer-songwriter Torres weaves his own brand of ruminative, cinematic folk music. He's joined by local musician Gia Margaret, who blends a vairety of genres with her lo-fi bedroom recordings.
Armed with a wall of amps and playing with a primal ferocity, witnessing Lightning Bolt perform is the type of experience that could actually lead to some permanent hearing damage. Brian Chippendale drums and sings (by way of a mask outfitted with a microphone) while Brian Gibson lays down waves of distortion that seem apt to burst through anything but the strongest earplugs on the market. At this special Red Bull Sound Select concert, the duo is joined by dark electronic act Hide and local post-punks Luggage.
Goose Island's annual street festival outside of its Fulton Street production facility returns for two days of music accompanied by a copious amount of locally-brewed beer. On Friday, September 22, the evening is headlined by LA blues rock power trio the Record Company, accompanied by Ted Leo + The Pharmacists and Filthy Friends (featuring Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck). The next day, weirdo indie rockers Animal Collective are the marquee act, joined by soul outfit Charles Bradley and the Extraordinaires and local rapper Joey Purp. Admission is a cash donation to charity at the gate, and the proceeds from all those beers you drink will also being going to a great cause.
After the three-year hiatus, the Hideout Block Party makes a triumphant return, marking the venue's 21st birthday and two other auspicious anniversaries. On Saturday, September 23, the festival will revolve around the 60th anniversary of the launch of Soviet satellite Sputnik, with performances from 75 Dollar Bill, Antietam, Skull Orchard, Eleventh Dream Day and Yo La Tengo alter-ego Condo Fucks (all featuring members born in 1957, when Sputnik took flight). On Sunday, September 24, local recording studio Electrical Audio commemorates its 20th year, with an afternoon of sets from Danielson, Nina Natasia, Screaming Females, Man or Astro-Man?, Meat Wave, Shannon Wright, Pinebender, FACS and Mint Mile. Proceeds from the event support local music education non-profit Foundations of Music.
Hyde Park's annual celebration of jazz takes over the neighborhood at the end of September, boasting a lineup that'd stacked with notable local acts. The bulk of the concerts take place on Saturday, September 23, when drummer Makaya McCraven, trumpeter Jamie Branch and bassist Katie Ernst bring their respective groups to venues throughout Hyde Park. On Sunday, September 24, the festival concludes with sets from guitarist Henry Johnson and his quintet as well as an all-star tribute to New Orleans jazz featuring musicians like Steve Marquette, Nick Mazzarella, Anton Hatwich and more.
Made up of a group of friends with nicknames like Panda Bear, Avey Tare and Geologist, Animal Collective seems destined to become indie rock's Phish equivalent. The band has become known for its dense glitchy beatscapes, oddly stretched-out melodies and the synthesized digital mayhem of its epic live shows—all that's missing is a few mini-trampolines. Animal Collective's latest album, Painting With, reins in the band's more expansive tendencies without sacrificing its eclectic, strange sonic palette (case in point: The Beach Boys harmonies and springy synths of lead single "FloriDada"). Here, the band returns to the Empty Bottle in celebration of the venue's 25th anniversary, accompanied by experimental electronic act Black Dice.
Aussie psych-rock explorers King Gizzard geek out about mythological monsters and unconventional time signatures, creating songs that unfold like Heavy Metal magazine vignettes set to a trippy and technical soundtrack. On Murder of the Universe, the band's tenth album to be released in the past five years, prog-jazz arrangements and sci-fi narration coalesce into music that only a group of hardcore music nerds would be crazy enough to attempt playing.
LA-based Jason Chung crafts synthetic, ambient hip-hop as Nosaj Thing, though you might know him better as a producer of tracks for the likes of Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar. He's joined by Montreal producer Jacques Greene for an evening of chopped, screwed and woozy beats at Bottom Lounge.
Sprawling Canadian collective Broken Social Scene assembles all 15 original members of the group on its latest album, Hug of Thunder, which brings a hiatus that was announced in 2011 to a triumphant conclusion. Bandleader Kevin Drew was inspired to reunite the group after the Paris terror attacks in 2015, resulting in a collection of tracks that purposefully shun fear and anger in favor of celebrating life. The layered harmonies, soaring guitar solos and bouyant production are all present and accounted for, making this LP feel as if it picks up exactly where Broken Social Scene left off more than six years ago. Scottish rockers Frightened Rabbit and Vancouver pop act the Belle Game support.
Revolution Brewing is pulling out all of the stops for Oktoberfest this year, taking its German beer celebration to the streets of Logan Square for the very first time. Attendees at the street festival outside of the Revolution Brewpub will be able to enjoy fresh Oktoberfest beer while taking in sets from indie rockers Real Estate, punk singer-songwriter Jeff Rosenstock and local hip-hop duo Air Credits. There will also be sausages and other German fare from Dönerman, and the Radler. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Friends of Goethe School.
Get your black leather ready and stay out of the sun. The sixth edition of Cold Waves, a celebration of synthpunk, aggrotech and all things industrial, returns to Metro with headliners Stabbing Westward, Front 242 and KMFDM. The three-night fest also includes afterparties at Smart Bar, where electonic body music act the Gothsicles and industrial producer End.user hold down the dance floor.