Concerts in Chicago in June
Do Division, the street shindig booked by Empty Bottle and Subterranean, kicks off the summer festival season during the first weekend of June. Spanning several city blocks, the annual celebration brings a selection of local vendors and restaurants to Division Street, as well as a petting zoo for the kids, a sidewalk sale and a runway fashion show. This year's music lineup includes Why?, the Meat Puppets, Mikal Cronin, Pile, Ryley Walker and Laura Stevenson, as well as local acts like Russian Circles, the Cool Kids, Makaya McCraven and Paul Cherry.
While the nine members of the Wu-Tang Clan have kept busy with solo projects, features and collaborations, the Staten Island hip-hop collective only seems to get together to tour (though they did sell a $2 million double album to Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli, which was subsequently seized by a federal court). Now RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa and Cappadonna are joining forces to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Wu's acclaimed debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The collage of dusty jazz sample, excerpts from kung-fu movies and provocative lyricism set the tone of early ‘90s hip-hop, giving way to East Coast hip-hop luminaries like Nas and Jay-Z. Expect a performance of the 1993 record in its entirety, complete with Ol' Dirty Bastard disembodied verses and RZA's masterful production—rest assured that even after a quarter of a century, Wu-Tang can still bring the ruckus. Canadians rockers Reignwolf and New Orleans brass band the Soul Rebels support.
Chicago honors its legacy as a city filled with 12-bar melodies by hosting the world's largest blues music festival, bringing living legends and local players to Millennium Park for a three-day celebration. This year's lineup of headlining acts includes “King of the Chitlin' Circuit” Bobby Rush, soul singer-songwriter Bettye LaVette and gospel blues singer Ruthie Foster. Snag a spot on the lawn to secure a great view of the always-packed evening performances at Pritzker Pavilion, or stroll through the park to catch sets from local musicians on the Blue Festival side stages.
Chicago's largest EDM festival returns each June, armed with some of the biggest DJs and electronic acts in the world. This year, Spring Awakening takes over Poplar Creek at 59-90 Entertainment District in Hoffman Estates (just west of the Sears Centre), welcoming a slate of headliners that includes DJ Snake, Zedd, Martin Garrix, Rezz, Griz and DJ Illenium. If endless bass drops, pyrotechnics and high-tech light shows are your cup of lukewarm beer, Spring Awakening is the place to kick off summer festival season.
While working as a mailman in Chicago in the ‘60s and regularly performing at open mics, John Prine's simple and impactful folk music caught the ear of Kris Kristofferson, launching his career as a professional singer-songwriter. Several decades later, Prine's eloquent songcraft has garnered prominent fans such as Bob Dylan and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. At this special performance just north of his hometown, Prine will look back on his storied career and debut material from The Tree of Forgiveness—his first album of new songs in nearly 13 years. Contemporary country singer-songwriter Tyler Childers opens the show.
After drenching attendees in buckets of green goop last summer, Nickelodeon's SlimeFest returns to Northerly Island to make every ‘90s kid's dreams come true with two days of family-friendly fun and music. When you're not searching for the nearest slime spout, you'll be able to take in sets from headlining acts like rapper Pitbull, pop singer-songwriter Bebe Rexha, YouTube star JoJo Siwa and recent The Masked Singer winner T-Pain. Plus, you can meet Nickelodeon stars, dance at a slime disco or dive down a gigantic inflatable slide.
As one of the last remaining legendary Chicago blues players, Buddy Guy is a performer who epitomizes a very specific era in the city's musical history, when juke joints were an essential part of local nightlife. If you've never caught him playing at his eponymous Chicago club, you know what to expect: Screaming vocals, blazing guitar solos and a few random expletives. At Ravinia, Guy is joined by blues vocalist Shemekia Copeland and rock act Blues Traveler—a band best known for its hit song "Run-Around" that was probably added to lineup simply because its name contains the word "blues."
Jazz with a cosmic scope is nothing new, especially in Chicago, where bandleader Sun Ra developed the experimental, science fiction-influenced sound that infused bebop and free jazz with interstellar grooves. Led by woodwind-player Shabaka Hutchings, London trio the Comet is Coming has similarly astral ambitions for its output, combining elements of jazz, electronica and psychedelic rock. The group's latest album, Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery, layers growling bass clarinet and saxophone melodies atop cascading synthesizers and rhythms, creating music with decidedly futuristic aspirations that unabashedly draws upon the past.
The Grateful Dead's Fare Thee Well concerts at Soldier Field marked the final time that all of the surviving members of the band's core lineup performed together, but the legendary jam band hasn't gone silent yet. Former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann team up with guitarist and singer John Mayer as Dead & Company, reheating the Dead's hallowed catalogue of genre-bending, psychedelic tracks in stadiums and arenas across the country. After playing a two-night stand in Wrigley Field in 2017, Dead & Company returns for another two evenings of meandering guitar solos, tie-dye shirts and a thick clouds of skunky smoke.
Taking place on the same street occupied by some of Chicago's best-known restaurants, this West Loop fest boasts six blocks of food, drinks and music. You'll find food from more than 16 restaurants (on Randolph Street and beyond) being served as well as two stages packed with performances throughout the day. This year's lineup include indie rockers Real Estate. R&B act Anderson East, synth-pop duo Holy Ghost!, Vulfpeck guitarist Cory Wong and New York rockers Cults. Donations made at the entrance to the festival support the West Loop Community Organization.
Country music doesn't get a lot of love on major Chicago summer music festival lineups, but the annual Country LakeShake gives cowboy hat-wearing fans a place to see some of the favorite Nashville stars. Taking place at the Huntington Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island, this year's edition of the county fest features headlining sets from Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan. Props to whoever programmed the event's Friday lineup, which is almost exclusively made up of female artists, including Maren Morris (who provided the vocals for Zedd's hit "The Middle") and American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina.
Moving to Union Park for the first time this summer, Rudio Fest fills a notable void in Chicago summer festival calendar by championing the diverse sounds of Latin American pop, electro and rock en español. Headlining acts on the 2019 lineup include Californian norteño (Mexican polka music) band Los Tigres del Norte and a collaboration between Argentinian pop-rock group Enanitos Verdes and Spanish boy band Hombres G. Other notable performers include Mexican psych-rockers El Tri and experimental pop artist Helado Negro.
Prolific prog-rockers Wand dig into their bag of tricks, conjuring up an array of tunes influenced by heavy metal warriors, fret board conjurers and analog synth wizards of old (a.k.a. the ’70s). Frontman Cory Hanson and his band headline Lincoln Hall in support of their new record, Laughing Matter, which touches on the various strains of psychedelia that the SoCal act has trafficked in throughout its young career. Noisy Seattle punk act Dreamdecay and ‘80s-indebted synth-rock act Wet Piss open the show.
Armed with a surplus of achingly melancholy songs, two pairs of brothers and the haunting baritone of singer Matt Berninger, Brooklyn-via-Ohio rockers the National have become one of the biggest rock bands in the world. After headlining Lollapalooza last summer, the group returns in support of its moody new album, I Am Easy To Find, which was created as a companion-piece of sorts to a black and white film by director Mike Mills (best known for his 2016 dramedy, 20th Century Women). The record features vocals from David Bowie bandmate Gail Ann Dorsey, Sharon Van Etten and Kate Stables of This Is the Kit, as well as choir and string arrangements that lend each track an appropriately cinematic feel. Canadian indie-pop act (responsible for the extremely catchy single "Archie, Marry Me") Alvvays open the show.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of LGBTQ Pride celebrations in Chicago and the city is observing the occassion with a gigantic one-day festival in Grant Park. On the Saturday before the Chicago Pride Parade on the city's North Side, Pride in the Park will bring revelers to the Loop for an entire afternoon of performances and entertainment. Australian rapper Iggy Azelea and EDM cake-thrower Steve Aoki headline the the festival, joined by R&B singer (and reality TV star) Tamar Braxton and Kathy Sledge of disco group Sister Sledge. Plus, Ru Paul's Drag Race contestants like Shea Coulee, Alexis Michelle and Coco Montrese will also be appearing at the fest, which will take over Bulter Field north of Buckingham Fountain. A portion of proceeds from the event will benefit local organizations like the Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Center on Halsted and Stonewall Sports.
Chicago hip-hop blog Lyrical Lemonade expands its annual summer concert to a two-day festival in Douglas Park this year, bringing along a lineup featuring some of the hottest rappers in the world as well as plenty of rising acts. Atlanta emcees Playboi Carti and Lil Yachty headline the Summer Smash on Saturday, while "Lucid Dreams" rapper Juice WRLD and controversy-courting artist Kodak Black close out the fest on Sunday. You'll also find an impressive array of notable SoundCloud rappers on the bill, including breakthrough acts like Blueface and Trippie Redd as well as performances from soon-to-be-famous names like DaBaby and Yung Bans. If you want to witness the future of hip-hop, this is the place to be.
Each summer, stages, tents and food trucks spring up around the Illinois Centennial Monument for a weekend that celebrates local art, food, beer and music. The Logan Square Arts Festival is one of the neighborhood's most beloved events and a reminder of the importance of community in an area of the city where demographics are changing as rapidly as new condos and high-rises can be built. In addition to a full slate of local artists, printers and makers, this year's festival will feature sets from Philadelphia rockers Hop Along, New Zealand indie-pop group the Beths, Brooklyn electronic act Future Generations and more.