Concerts in Chicago in June
Taylor Swift may be preoccupied with her Reputation, but we’re still trying to fathom how her latest stadium show will contrast the aggressive, R&B-inflected production of her latest album with the wholesome, enthusiastic pop of her past. Prepare for a bit of musical whiplash as the country crossover star careens from sappy Nashville balladry to hip-hop-inspired anthems about holding grudges. "Havana" singer Camila Cabello and British dance-pop singer Charli XCX support.
In a 2001 interview with Time Out New York, David Bryne said that his decision to break up the Talking Heads came out of a desire to "change creatively so I could keep people off balance." In the ensuing decades, he's remained true to his word, founding an eclectic record label, writing a book about his relationship to music and collaborating with musicians like Brian Eno and St. Vincent. Touring behind American Utopia, his first solo record in more than a decade, Byrne continues to chase his muse throughout a collection of endearingly optimistic songs. The tracks provide the centerpiece of his "most ambitious" live show since Stop Making Sense, incorporating a cast of marching musicians that synchronize their movements to Byrne's challenging catalog.
Do Division, the street shindig booked by Empty Bottle and Subterranean, kicks off the summer festival season during the first weekend of June. Spanning ten city blocks, the annual celebration brings a selection of local vendors and restaurants to Division Street, as well as family activities, a sidewalk sale and a runway fashion show. Indie rock veterans Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, garage rockers La Luz and afrobeat band Antibalas headline the music lineup at this year's fest.
While many fans cling to the mythology of singer-songwriter Justin Vernon writing heartbroken folk songs in a Wisconsin cabin, these days the Bon Iver frontman is collaborating with Kanye West and running his own music festival. Vernon brought his band out of an extended hiatus with his 2016 album, 22, A Million, which wrapped his falsetto vocals around a collection of glitchy, experimental arrangements. Now, he's bringing Bon Iver to Chicago for the first time since 2011—who knows what new tricks (or songs) he'll have up his sleeve?
Endlessly catchy and boundlessly energetic, Deerhoof's two-plus decades of musical output is still full of surprises. The quartet's latest album, Mountain Moves, finds the group collaborating with artists like Lætitia Sadier and Xenia Rubinos, providing a contrast to the chirpy vocals of lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki and the band's blistering funk-punk arrangements. Here, the group squeezes back into the Bottle after a set at Do Division, joined by eclectic local act Not For You and Madison punks Solid Freex
Golden-grilled rapper Post Malone is one of the decade's most unlikely hip-hop stars, rising to prominence on the back of hazy SoundCloud single "White Iverson." The outspoken 22-year-old (who credits his interest in music to the Guitar Hero video game) scored another hit with "Rockstar," the lead single from his latest album Beerbongs & Bentleys, which continues doesn't stray far from his vocoder and moody synth-strewn template. "Rockstar" collaborator 21 Savage and Bay Area rap crew SOB X RBE support.
Quickly transitioning from indie darling to festival-headlining modern-rock juggernauts, the rise of quirky English act Alt-J is an unlikely success story. The group's latest release, Relaxer, strays from the pop-culture referencing electro anthems that filled its debut, stripping away the glitchy synthesizers in favor of string arrangements and slow-moving ballads overseen by frontman Joe Newman's nasally vocals. If you're a faithful Alt-J fan, you'll be in for a treat—the rest of us will just wait for a rendition of "Left Hand Free."
After showcasing her charismatic flow on her debut album, 1992 Deluxe, rapper Princess Nokia decided to take a very different direction on her follow-up EP. A Girl Cried Red finds the New York emcee channeling the sounds (and vocal styles) of emo and pop-punk, often adopting the elongate pronunciations of former Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge. Expect to hear both sides of Princess Nokia's persona when she headlines this free House of Vans concert.
Chicago honors its history as a destination for musicians by hosting the largest free blues festival in the world, bringing living legends and local 12-bar players to Millennium Park. This year, Pritzker Pavilion hosts headlining sets from Mavis Staples and Fantastic Negrito, as well as a tribute to blues harpist Little Walter and Chicago label Delmark Records. During the day, local acts perform on side stages, giving you plenty of time to snag a spot on the lawn.
Live out your ‘90s kid dreams at Nickelodeon's very first SlimeFest in Chicago—a two-day, family-friendly festival that features live music, Nick stars and buckets of the network's signature green goop. One Direction singer-songwriter Liam Payne, "Low" rapper Flo Rida and EDM producer Zedd headline the music stage, while actors like Kel Mitchell, Ella Anderson and Breanna Yde will be taking selfies with fans. There's also an activity area featuring games and the opportunity to get slimed.
Chicago's largest EDM festival returns each June, armed with some of the biggest DJs and electronic acts in the world. This year, Deadmau5, Afrojack, Kaskade and Steve Aoki are among the acts headlining the stages in Addams/Medill Park. 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.
Inspired by the programmed beats and synthesized melodies of artists like Four Tet and Aphex Twin, UK trio GoGo Penguin finds the middle ground between electronica and jazz. Clearly inspired by the genre-fusing compositions of the Bad Plus, the group's latest record, A Humdrum Star, continuously discovers new complexities among the interplay of piano, bass and drums.
After scoring Marvel's box-office smashing film Black Panther and earning a Pulitzer Prize for his 2017 album, DAMN., Kendrick Lamar hits the road with his Top Dawg Entertainment label mates on the aptly-titled Championship Tour. In addition to a headlining set from Lamar, the lineup also includes R&B singer-songwriter SZA as well as L.A. rappers Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock and Ab-Soul. With so much talent on the bill, you'll probably see some unexpected collaborations throughout the evening.
In the heart of restaurant row, on the same streets as some of Chicago's (and America's) best-known restaurants, this West Loop fest boasts six blocks of food, drinks and music. This year, R&B crooner Allen Stone, Americana trio the Devil Makes Three, psychedelic soul group Chicano Batman and neo-soul singer Mayer Hawthorne headline the festivities.
Erstwhile Led Zepellin frontman Robert Plant hasn't really concerned himself with trying to recapture the larger-than-life riffs that characterized his early career. Instead, he's put his still-formidable pipes to use paying tribute to the music that inspires him, including Celtic melodies, 12-bar blues and folk music. Joined by his band, the Sensational Space Shifters, Plant headlines an evening at Pritzker Pavilion, with support from Chicago's own Jon Langford.
Prolific prog-rockers Wand dig into their bag of tricks, conjuring up an array of tunes influenced by heavy metal warriors and analog synth wizards of old (a.k.a., the ‘70s). Frontman Cory Hanson and his band headline a two-night stand at the Hideout behind their new EP, Perfume, which encapsulates the various strains of psychedelia that the SoCal act has trafficked in throughout its young career.
The four members of the Aces got their start playing high school rallies and events together, before graduating to larger venues in their hometown of Provo, Utah. Like their contemporaries HAIM, the all-female group's compositions draw on the glitzy production of ‘80s pop, imbuing crystalline vocal harmonies with angsty, youthful energy. Bright-eyed Tennessee rockers the New Respects support at the free Millennium Park Summer Music Series concert.
Danish punks Iceage balance ferocity and pop hooks on the group's latest album, Beyondless, introducing violins and horns into their driving arrangements. Reigning in some of the hardcore aggression turns out to be a good move for the band, smoothing away the rough edges of its sound and inviting unexpected collaborations, such as a rollicking duet with Sky Ferreira. Settle in for a raucous performance when Iceage curates a free evening of music at the House of Vans.
For country music fans in Chicago, there's no bigger event than the Country LakeShake Festival on Northerly Island. Headliners at this year's fest include The Voice judge (and Sexiest Man Alive, according to People magazine) Blake Shelton, singer-songwriter Dierks Bentley and bro-country duo Florida Georgia Line. In a city where most festivals tend to ignore country music, this is the hootenanny that Nashville devotees have been waiting for.
Each year, the Logan Square Arts Festival Illinois sets up stages, tents and kegs at the foot of the Centennial Monument square and hosts three days of local art, food, beer and music. This year, dance-rockers !!! (Chk Chk Chk), punk outfit Priests, Chicago hip-hop producer OddCouple and electro-pop band SSION top the lineup at this community-focused fest.
Returning to Pilsen's Addams/Medill Park, Ruido Fest fills a void in Chicago's summer festival scene, championing the diverse sounds of Latin American rock en español, pop and electro. Mexico City rock act Caifanes and cumbia sonidera revivalists Los Ángeles Azules headline this year's festival, joined by acts like Panteón Rococó, Plastilina Mosh and Dread Mar-I.
Celebrate one of our favorite places for a summer walk at the 606 Block Party, a street festival set on and around the popular trail. Local hip-hop artist Ric Wilson and turntablist (and Mad Men theme creator) RJD2 headline the event's music lineup.
Making music fit for the sweeping vistas that grace Iceland's tourism advertisements, the grand neoclassical compositions of Ólafur Arnalds give Sigur Rós a run for its money. The young Icelandic composer is joined by a string section and a drummer on what he's calling his “most ambitious tour ever,” aided by a pair of custom-made, self-playing pianos that help Arnalds create melodies that a single musician could never play.
When the Who released Tommy in 1969, it opened the rock opera floodgates, making way for sprawling conceptual works from the likes of Jethro Tull, David Bowie, Genesis and Pink Floyd. Just ahead of the album's 50th (!) anniversary, frontman Roger Daltrey comes to Ravinia for two performances of the seminal work in its entirety, assisted by members of the Who's touring band and the Ravinia Festival Orchestra. Kudos if you know the word to any song that isn't "Pinball Wizard."
If you can't afford a vacation to the ocean this summer, you can at least enjoy some music with sand beneath your toes at Mamby on the Beach. The lakefront festival takes place on Oakwood Beach, and features headlining sets from local rapper Common, rising hip-hop artist Russ and indie-rock veterans Spoon, Grizzly Bear and Cold War Kids. Plus, you'll see some of Chicago's best homegrown talent, including Jamila Woods, Joseph Chilliams, Kami and more.
Hear John Williams’ epic fanfares and galactic themes as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performs the score to George Lucas’ original sci-fi blockbuster, Star Wars: A New Hope. The orchestra will accompany a screening of the feature film—fingers crossed that they're able to get their hands on a version of the movie that depicts Han shooting first.
Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, who plays with spacey jazz trio the Comet is Coming and has performed with the Sun Ra Arkestra, serves as the bandleader of the adventurous multi-cultural jazz outfit Sons of Kemet. The group's recent album, Your Queen is a Reptile, incorporates elements of bebop, reggae, dub and Afrobeat, resulting in a funky collection of tracks that present an intriguing blend of genres. Canadian singer-songwriter Mélissa Laveaux opens this Millennium Park Summer Music Series concert.
The breakout star of One Direction takes over the stage with support from rising singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves, who blends country and disco on her song-of-the-summer contender, "High Horse." After several albums of cynical, subversive balladry, the Texan embraces a more positive perspective among the cinematic tracks of Golden Hour. Think Taylor Swift with genuine attitude (and, y'know, actual twang) and a lovely voice.
Relentless troubadour Neil Young has dabbled in everything from soul to psych, tried to launch an iPod for audiophiles, made an entire album protesting biotech corporation Monsanto and is now hard at work on a digital archive of his recorded output. For his latest set of gigs in Chicago, Young will perform solo at the Auditorium Theatre, where Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young once performed on their way to Woodstock. Expect a career-spanning show from one of the most eclectic and unpredictable artists of his generation.