Concerts in Chicago in September 2019
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.
Tyler, the Creator owes much of his current success to the controversy that he generated as the sophomoric figurehead of Odd Future, the anarchic California hip-hop collective that introduced Earl Sweatshirt and Frank Ocean to the world. But Tyler's last two records have moved beyond the shocking and often problematic rhymes of his past, taking a more open and confessional tone about the artist's own sexuality. On his latest record, Igor, Tyler weaves a tale about a man who is dating another man (who happens to also be dating his ex-girlfriend) wrapped around funky beats, R&B samples and guest verses from the likes of Kanye West and Playboi Carti. It's some of his most beautiful work to-date—and that includes the ice cream flavor he created for Jeni's. Rappers Jaden Smith (yes, he's the son of Will Smith) and GoldLink open the show.
Harnessing the wall-to-wall riffage of ’70s power pop bands and the defiant swagger of punk rockers, Philly outfit Sheer Mag are a blaring force to be reckoned with. On the group's newest album, A Distant Call, lead singer Christina Halladay puts her powerful pipes to use atop anthems that explore a time in her life when she was laid off from her job, newly single and dealing with the sudden death of her estranged father. Cincinnati garage rockers Tweens serve as the evening's opening act.
It's been nearly a decade since "Tik Tok" introduced us to a pop singer who brushed her teeth with a bottle of Jack and partied until the break of dawn. These days, Kesha has dropped the dollar sign from her name and shed her party girl image. Released in the wake of ongoing lawsuits against her former producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, Kesha's 2017 album Rainbow never addresses the tumultuous controversy head-on, but the subtext is abundantly clear. From a soaring duet with Dolly Parton to a jam with the Dap-Kings, the record is a showcase of Kesha's talents that purposefully (and joyfully) moves beyond her past (though there's no way she'll make her Ravinia debut without throwing in at least one rendition of "Tik Tok").
See musicians from India, Peru, France, South Africa, China and more locations around the globe at the annual World Music Festival, which stages a series of free concerts at venues throughout the city during the month of September. As usual, the festival kicks off with an overnight Ragamala concert at the Chicago Cultural Center, featuring 14 hours of classical music from India. Other highlights of this year's lineup include the ¡SÚBELO! concert in Millennium Park featuring acts from Peru, Puerto Rico and Mexico (Sept 14); Chinese rock, reggae and ska band MABANG! (Sept 20, 21); and Afropop artist Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited (Sept 28). The festival concludes at Navy Pier with a series of performances at the World Dumpling Fest on Sept 29.
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?
The infamous vegan (remember when he shut down all of the hot dog, taco and burger stands at Riot Fest?) makes his first appearance at Ravinia, headlining the summer-long festival's penultimate performance (which will probably be mostly meat-free, unless security starts confiscating salami from picnic baskets). The former Smiths frontman is touring behind his recent album, California Son, a covers record on which Moz takes on tracks by the likes of Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Carly Simon. As usual, we can't be entirely sure that Morrissey will even show up—he's canceled several recent concerts in Chicago due to illness, and September is an opportune time to catch a sudden end-of-the-summer cold.
After creating four albums worth of down-tempo compositions built from vintage synthesizer tones, undulating bass lines and resolute rhythms, Tycho mastermind Scott Hansen had something a little different in mind for his latest release. The group's new record Weather is its first to feature vocals, courtesy of Hannah Cottrell (a.k.a. Saint Sinner), who wraps gentle harmonies around floating guitar lines and twinkling synths. It's a logical evolution that adds a bit more variety to Tycho's sonic palette—and it's not as if they'll be leaving instrumental selections off the setlist entirely. Los Angeles electro-pop duo Poolside (who claim to have originated the "daytime disco" sound) open the show.
Backed by a pulsing synthesizer and a dance floor beat, the lead single from the Avett Brothers' forthcoming album, Closer Than Together, is a fairly jarring departure from the group's catalog of folk-, country- and bluegrass-tinged tunes. Overseen by the vocal harmonies of Scott and Seth Avett, the stylistic evolution seems closely tied to some of the most overtly sociopolitical songs that the group has ever penned, which unpack the uncertainty of life in a world where fear is on the rise and longstanding values appear to be deteriorating. Headlining the Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, the Avett Brothers are joined by folk act Trampled By Turtles.
Haven't made it to a bonafide Chicago block party yet this year? You'll get your chance to celebrate in the streets at Goose Island's annual end-of-the-summer soirée on the pavement outside of its Fulton Street brewery. The 312 Block Party brings together a stacked lineup of performers, food truck fare and plenty of beer (for just $3 a pop)—and your $10 donation at the gate supports local charities. On Friday, September 20, country-tinged singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis headlines the party, with support from Nashville balladeer Margo Price and actor-turned-musician Lola Kirke. Laid-back rocker Kurt Vile (whose set at July's Pitchfork Music Festival was rained out) tops the bill on Saturday, September 21, joined by D.C. punks Priests and soulful psych rockers the Budos Band. You'll also find local acts like Rookie, Cafe Racer, Dogs at Large, Ben Pirani, Manwolves, Roy Kinsey and Tatiana Hazel at the two-day fest. With so much great music and cheap beer on tap, the 312 Block Party usually fills up quickly, so we recommend arriving early (the fest's entrance is at Fulton St and Wolcott Ave) and have a few drinks while you wait for your favorite act to play.
Swiss krautrock duo Klaus Johann Grobe may pen German lyrics, but the pair's undulating bass lines, disco beats and cascading electronic melodies speak the universal language of a late-night dance floor packed with writhing bodies. The pair comes to Subterranean behind its latest LP, Du Bist So Symmetrisch, a funky collection of songs that found its way to the U.S. via Chicago-based label Trouble in Mind.
After a three-year hiatus, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney dutifully come back to the blues-rock well on the duo's new album, Let's Rock. Producer Danger Mouse expanded the act's sonic arsenal at the helm of its past four releases, but the Black Keys handle just about everything (aside from a few backing vocals) on this riff-stuffed record, which seeks to capture the ramshackle charm of the band's early records but frequently gets lost in thick layers of studio gloss. Still, even if the band's latest work leaves something to be desired, there's no arguing with the Black Keys' catalog of arena-ready rockers—and after so long apart from one another, we can almost guarantee that Auerbach and Carney will be feeling nostalgic. Indie rock stalwarts Modest Mouse serve as the evening's opening act.
If you're still yearning for more meandering solos and shifting rhythms after the Chicago Jazz Festival, head to Hyde Park for this annual event that focuses on local performers. The Hyde Park Jazz Festival takes over venues throughout the South Side neighborhood, welcoming two days of performances from acts like local multi-instrumentalist Angel Bat Dawid, trumpeter Amir ElSaffar and the debut of saxophonist Greg Ward’s new band Rogue Parade. During the afternoon, many of the concerts take place on two outdoor stages at Midway Plaisance, while the evening moves the music to places like the Logan Center and Rockefeller Chapel.
She isn't headlining arenas just yet, but spend just a few minutes watching Lizzo perform and you'll know that she'd be up to the task. The Minneapolis singer is unrelentingly self-assured and armed with a scathing sense of humor—whether she's preaching the importance of self-love or calling out her exes, Lizzo pulls no punches. Touring behind new album, Cuz I Love You, Lizzo comes armed with some of her most powerful songs to date, including the supremely confident anthem "Juice" and the blistering break-up ballad "Jerome"—plus, you might get to see her twerk and play the flute simultaneously. If you missed her headline Gallagher Way last month, you've got another two chances to see Lizzo at the Aragon Ballroom.
During the lead-up to his release of his first album, The Big Day, Chance the Rapper teased another festival in Chicago, a la the Magnificent Coloring Day event he held at the home of the White Sox after he dropped his third mixtape, Coloring Book. However, it seems as if plans for a hometown fest might have been postponed for the time being, because Chance is simply headlining a pair of arena shows at the United Center midway through his newly-announced fall tour. In an interview with BBC Radio 1Xtra in 2016, Chance stated that what would separate his album from his previous mixtapes was the live show that accompanied it. There's certainly a narrative on The Big Day that could inspire a glitzy stage production, with songs that chronicle his upbringing, his relationship with the woman who would become his wife, his marriage and his future. Plus, with featured artists like Death Cab For Cutie, Smino, Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj spread throughout the record, there's no shortage of opportunities for surprise guests to take the stage.
Throughout much of her latest album, Titanic Rising, it's clear that Natalie Mering (a.k.a. Weyes Blood) has the end of the world on her mind. But the looming threat of climate change, political unrest and societal collapse doesn't stop Mering from writing love songs, even if they're unconventional ones that consider the purpose of and desire for intimacy in an age when people are content to stare at their phones and disconnect from reality. Channeling the lush arrangements of ‘70s folk-singers like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, Mering embraces the melancholy nature of her songs and finds comfort in nostalgia—but she doesn't lose sight of the future we're all barreling toward.