A bunch of buzzy bands pile into town for the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, Pitchfork Music Festival, Lollapalooza and North Coast Music Festival, but tickets don’t come cheap. These modest but expertly curated homegrown street fests offer the same caliber of talent for a lot less strain on your wallet.
Chicago Folk & Roots Festival, July 9, 10
Comparable to Dave Matthews Band Caravan
The Old Town School of Folk Music’s annual outdoor endeavor offers a more diverse lineup than every city street fest combined, let alone the marquee-name fests, running circles around the DMB Caravan (at a steep discount, too, compared to the DMB day rate of $85). Headliner Delbert McClinton’s racked up multiple Grammys with his blues-laced Americana, a merciful alternative to Dave’s Adam Sandler–ian yelp. Rockabilly filly Rosie Flores serves up Bloodshot cool in a sweet ’n’ twangy package, while the weekend’s Cajun fix comes courtesy of the Lost Bayou Ramblers. Day two shakes things up even more with Saharan guitar hero Bombino, roots reggae righteousness from the Abyssinians, Haiti songman BèlO and Congolese rapper Baloji, whose stamp of approval comes from tastemaker Damon Albarn. Cuban flute phenom Maraca closes out the exotic weekend, a musical safari without the immunization shots and flight layovers. Welles Park and Lincoln Ave between Montrose and Sunnyside Aves. Donation $10 per day, kids and seniors $5.
West Fest, July 9, 10
Comparable to Lollapalooza, North Coast Music Fest, Pitchfork
This perennial West Town favorite registers the indie pulse and acts as somewhat of an incubator for the bigger-name outings as well. It’s not too hard to imagine the country-fried ladies of Those Darlins or the black-metal deconstructionists in Liturgy commanding a stage at Lollapalooza. Hell, it’s kinda hard to believe headliner Local H hasn’t already. Add maximum-R&B funnyman King Khan—whose court-holding antics were a highlight of the ’08 Pitchfork Fest—and soul survivor Syl Johnson into the mix and you’ve got a winning cast, not to mention a potentially crunk after-party. Even the club kid–courting North Coast Music Festival gets a run for its money (ahem, $95 for a three-day weekend as opposed to 10 suggested bones here) with a booming DJ stage, boasting deck sets from DFA Records fave the Juan MacLean and house legend Derrick Carter. Suffice it to say, if you dig Lolla’s Perry’s stage lineups but could do without the glowsticks and tweens, go West. Chicago Ave between Wood St and Damen Ave. Donation $5 per day.
Wicker Park Fest, July 23, 24
Comparable to Pitchfork
The curators of Pitchfork Music Festival are undoubtedly crushing on Wicker Park Fest. Seriously, they get weak in the knees thinking about it, and with good reason: It’s the most substantial rival to Pitchfork, engulfing the Crotch in indie rock for $40 less per day. It’s a virtual body blow to Pitchfork’s ego that a bourgie neighborhood’s backyard bash landed the Chicago debut of Wild Flag, the supergroup culled from former members of Sleater-Kinney and Helium (see “Raising the Flag,” page 27). And that barely scratches the surface of this overstuffed program. Really, it’s just a case of picking your poison, be it punk (Off with Their Heads, Dead to Me, Riverboat Gamblers, Murder by Death), folk (Joe Pug, Ha Ha Tonka) or electro (Flosstradamus, El Ten Eleven). The presence of indie all-stars and P4k/Lolla vets Blitzen Trapper and Wavves simply confirms this as the bargain-basement equivalent of the entire fest circuit. Milwaukee Ave between Wood St and North Ave. Donation $5 per day.