By Zach Long
Posted: Tuesday July 16 2019
Chicago may not have a fancy nickname to express just how great of a music city it is, but the bounty of concerts and music festivals that take place here speaks for itself. When the weather is warm, there's at least one festival every weekend in Chicago. And no matter what time of year it is, a true music fan will appreciate the dive bars, dance clubs, blues clubs, amphitheaters, arenas and jazz clubs that host amazing performers every day. There's so much going on here that it can be hard to keep track of—that's where we come in. Before you go out to a show, take a look at our month-by-month picks of the best upcoming concerts in Chicago.
Curated by tastemaking music publication Pitchfork, this summer music festival typically boasts performances from the most of-the-moment acts. Taking place in Union Park, this year's lineup features headlining sets from pop-rock trio HAIM, Swedish electro-pop star Robyn and Motown R&B legends the Isley Brothers. The rest of the bill is equally exciting, featuring acts like Stereolab, Charli XCX, Pusha-T, Mavis Staples and Kurt Vile. With only three stages set amid a small park, it's easy to move around the fest and see all of your favorites while discovering some new music along the way. While you're there, don't forget to snag a souveneir from the record fair and sample some of the Chicago cuisine being cooked by local restaurants.
On her sophomore album LEGACY! LEGACY!, local poet and singer-songwriter Jamila Woods looks to the artists of color who came before her, devoting every track to a different pivotal figure. Each tribute provides a platform; a track devoted to actress Eartha Kitt expresses a desire to not compromise your values in the name of love while a song backed by a distorted guitar riff examines the life of blues guitarist Muddy Water and lashes out against the continued appropriation of black music. Harnessing arrangements rooted in jazz, house and blues music, Woods' appreciation for the lessons imparted by her forbearers takes the shape of insightful verses delivered with soul and reverence. Woods headlines the Art Institute Block Party, though you'll need to purchase a separate ticket to attend the show in the Rubloff Auditorium (the concert is not included in admission to the Block Party).
A multi-hyphenate performer who can drum, sing and dance (often in the span of a single track), Anderson .Paak is the kind of showman who makes pulling triple duty onstage look like a breeze. On his recent album Ventura, .Paak blends funky basslines and soulful vocals with the help of a long list of guest artists, including rapper Andre 3000, Motown legend Smokey Robinson and soul singer Lalah Hathaway. While his brand of R&B isn't always adventerous, he's the kind of artist who can take a simple song and craft an exhilerating live rendition. .Paak will curate the lineup of this free House of Vans show, with additional performers to be announced when RSVPs open to the public.
On its latest single "Tócamela," Los Amigos Invisibles sound like Venezuela's answer to Daft Punk, with retro synths blaring atop a funky bassline and jittery guitar riff (all that's missing is a bit of vocoder accompaniment). The trio has been making buoyant dance music since 1995, signing to David Byrne's Luka Bop label and accumulating a boatload of Latin Grammy nominations along the way. Flamenco-inflected insturmental rock trio City of the Sun opens this free Millennium Park Summer Music Series concert.
Wicker Park may be overrun with chain restaurants, boutiques and shoe stores, but the neighborhood still clears out Milwaukee Avenue for a street celebration each summer. The main attraction of the annual fest is the music lineup, which features sets from neo-soul outfit Durand Jones & The Indications, West Coast rockers Wavves, cinematic folk band Murder By Death and New Jersey punks Screaming Females. You'll also find plenty of delicious food, sales at local shops, daily fashion shows and twentysomethings watching the festivities from precarious perches on rooftops, balconies and fire escapes.
After last year's stripped-down, costume-less tour, parody-master “Weird Al” Yankovic returns with his most over-the-top production to date. The Strings Attached tour finds Yankovic fronting a show filled with costume changes, video montages and general tomfoolery—all with the support of a full symphony orchestra (in this case, the Ravinia Festival Orchestra). We're envisioning epic versions of tracks like "Amish Paradise," "Like a Surgeon" and "The Saga Begins" backed by lush string arrangements while Yankovic prances around the stage in a tailcoat—it promises to be a monumentally hilarious evening.
An activist, pastor, author and musician with a booming, soulful voice, Rev. Sekou is a performer who knows how to command the attention of a crowd, whether their sitting in church pews or pavilion seats. His debut album, In Times Like These, was produced by members of the North Mississippi Allstars and acts as a bluesy message of hope that argues for love and understanding during a tumultous time in the history of the world. New Orleans-based funky brass band Cha Wa opens this free Millennium Park Summer Music Series concert.
Early in her 2018 album, Isolation, Kali Uchis quips, “Why woud I be Kim? I could be Kanye” during a track that throws some shade at a controlling ex-boyfriend. The Colombian-American singer demonstrates a versatility that goes well beyond anything Ye has showcased lately, effortlessly flitting from sultry R&B numbers to Latin reggaetón anthems. Uchis headlines the annual Nelarusky benefit for Special Olympics Chicago, joined by local electronic duo Iris Temple and pop singer-songwriter Tatiana Hazel.
Beck's catalog vacillates between downbeat singer-songwriter fare (Morning Phase, Sea Change) and buoyant pop (Odelay, Colors), with very little middleground between his two musical modes. The past few years of his career have leaned into the latter category, epitomized by the rhythmic jangle of his latest single "Saw Lighting," which features vocals and production from Pharrell. Expect Beck to focus on his dancefloor-friendly cuts during his co-headlining tour with alt-rockers Cage the Elephant (who recently collaborated with Beck on a track called "Night Running"). The pair's stop at Northerly Island looks like a miniature festival of sorts, with support from indie stalwarts Spoon and local reggae-pop duo Wild Belle.
On her debut album, Miss Universe, 23-year-old Nilüfer Yanya takes her ruminations about dealing with a sea of conflicting emotions and turns them into empathetic R&B-inflected pop-rock anthems. Armed with a distinctive voice, a penchant for distorted riffs and some memorable saxophone melodies (provided by her bandmate Jazzi Bobbi), the British singer-songwriter is sure to be a fixture on 2019 year-end lists. London indie-pop artist Pixx opens the show.