Summer is legitimately on. If you're not on a rooftop bar, you should be soaking up the sun at a summer music festival. In July, there's Pitchfork Music Festival for the indie kids, Chicago Open Air for the metal heads and a bunch of famous acts for everyone else—all taking over Chicago's best parks and arenas. You can see Andrew Bird at Ravinia, catch Jimmy Buffet at Wrigley Field or watch Solange close out Pitchfork in Union Park. Plus, there's Wicker Park Fest, West Fest and Tour de Fat, all packed with plenty of worthwhile acts to see. Explore our picks of the best concerts in Chicago in July.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete calendar for concerts in Chicago
Concerts in Chicago in July
If you thought the Grateful Dead's Fare Thee Well shows at Soldier Field marked the end of the legendary jam band... you were wrong. Made up of surviving core members of the Dead and fronted by guitarist John Mayer, Dead & Company reheats the familiar catalogue of genre-blending, psychedelic tracks. Our only question: With all the construction in Wrigleyville, where will diehard fans find room to hawk homemade tie-dye shirts and merchandise?
There's another street festival headed to Lakeview this year, taking up residence on a strip of Lincoln Avenue, right next to neighborhood's gargantuan new Whole Foods. Live on Lincoln is all about the music, including headliners like Minneapolis synth-pop act POLIÇA and funk band the Motet. Other notable groups on the bill include psychedelic soul act Chicano Batman and Brooklyn "powerfunk" outfit Turkuaz.
Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle wrote the forward to last year's Empty Bottle book, so he clearly appreciates the lasting influence of the Chicago rock club. Here, the group plays a special show at a venue they long ago outgrew, debuting tracks from its new album Goths, a relatively jaunty collection of songs that examine the ways in which we embrace and grow out of communities.
Returning to Pilsen's Addams/Medill Park, Ruido Fest fills a void in Chicago's summer festival scene: Latin American rock en español, pop and electro. Headliners include Texan Norteño act Intocable, Puerto Rican reggae band Cultura Profética, Mexican alt-rockers Molotov and pop singer-songwriter Julieta Venegas. Ther rest of the bill is equally exciting, with appearances from Columbian electro dup Bomba Estéreo, Chilean art-rocker (and son of director Alejandro Jodorowsky) Adan Jodorowsky and masked electronic act the Wookies.
Embarking on their first North American tour in nearly seven years, Gorillaz kick things off with a show at the Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island. The man behind the cartoon band, Damon Albarn, will be bringing the hip-hop and electronic tracks from the group's latest album, Humanz, to life, aided by Jamie Hewlett's signature animated visuals and a cast of collaborators. We're not sure who will show up to perform with Albarn, but Humanz is a record filled with Chicago talent, including singer Mavis Staples, producer Twilite Tone and house vocalist Jamie Principle. Sure, it may not be the Chicago-based festival that Albarn promised in an interview with Q magazine, but we'll still jump at the chance to rap along to "Clint Eastwood" on the lakefront. Tickets go on sale Friday, April 21 at 10am.
Virginia singer-songwriter Natalie Prass has a delicate, chirpy voice that sounds a bit out of place delivering heartbreaking ballads about loss and troubled relationships. Boasting production by fellow Virigian Matthew E. White, her self-titled 2015 debut was a soulful slice of country- and blues-tinged pop, rounded out by some gorgeous string and horn arrangements. She's joined by similarly rootsy young musician Angelica Garcia, performing behind her album, Medicine for Birds. This free concert is part of the 2017 Millennium Park Summer Music Series.
Growing up in a small village on an island off Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Totó La Momposina absorbed centuries of musical tradition from village wise women and drum-makers at a young age. Today, she brings the costal cumbia of her childhood to all corners of the world, armed with drummers, guitarists and an amazing voice that betrays a lifetime of experience. At Prtizker Pavilion, she's joined by Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Xenia Rubinos, who melds silky jazz vocals with hip-hop, rock and R&B production. This free concert is part of the 2017 Millennium Park Summer Music Series.
Chicago's heavy metal and modern rock music festival is back for a second round of mosh pits, returning to Toyota Park in Bridgeview. This year, headliners include face-painted rockers KISS, nu-metal stalwarts Korn and mumbling heavy metal icon Ozzy Osbourne. Attendees will also be able to enjoy a craft beer tent (serving Iron Maiden's Trooper Beer, naturally) and vendors serving "gourmet man food," which is very similar to the fare you'll find at any other music festival.
If the Pitchfork Music Festival lineup doesn't satisfy your hunger for extended instrumental arrangements and spontaneous improvisation, perhaps three nights with jam band titans Phish will do the trick. Fronted by Trey Anastasio (who acted as frontman of the Grateful Dead during the group's Fare Thee Well concerts at Soldier Field), the Vermont group's concerts are typically a potent cocktail of guitar solos and thick clouds of pot smoke. While the hipsters are in Union Park swaying to LCD Soundsystem, the hippies will be taking over Northerly Island.
It's all about triumphant returns at this year's Pitchfork Music Festival, where fest alum LCD Soundsystem and Solange will be joined by reinvigorated alternative hip-hop outfit A Tribe Called Quest as the weekend's headliners. The rest of the three-day event should be equally joyous, filled with hotly-tipped bands, a tent back with records and some free kefir samples (probably).
No name is more synonymous with island-themed restaurant chains and tropical menswear than Jimmy Buffett, a former country artist best known for his beach bum anthem, "Margaritaville." You'll know you've showed up to the right place when you see the Parrotheads (clad in Hawaiian shirts) tailgating in parking lots ahead of Buffett's concerts—we're not exactly sure where they'll find the space to kick back with tiki drinks in Wrigleyville. ‘80s pop rock act Huey Lewis and the News (immortalized in American Psycho) open the show.
Folk rock quartet Big Thief hail from Brooklyn, but a few decades ago, the band's more subdued ballads wouldn't have sounded out of place in the in the cafés and bars of Greenwich Village. The group's Saddle Creek debut, Masterpiece, balances out its quieter moments with some bursts of noisy energy, providing contrasting backdrops for singer Adrianne Lenker's thoughtful narrative lyricism. Harmonizing New York City electro-soul duo Overcoats open the show. This free concert is part of the 2017 Millennium Park Summer Music Series.
Adult-contemporary mainstay James Taylor returns to the North Side ballpark for the second summer in a row, still touring behind Before This World—his first album of original songs since 2002. He'll be joined by legendary blues singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt and her band.
Blurring the line between alt-country and Southern rock, Drive-By Truckers balance twangy ballads and distortion-laden anthems on its latest album, American Band. Far from a jingoistic suite, the record attempts to unpack the experience of living in a politically and economically divided nation. Boston folk-rock trio Honeysuckle open the show. This free concert is part of the 2017 Millennium Park Summer Music Series.
Violinist and whistler Andrew Bird brings his giant rotating horn speakers and precisely looped compositions to the Ravinia Festival. His most recent album, Are You Serious, found the singer-songwriter re-embracing a straight-ahead rock sound reminiscent of his 2007 release Armchair Apocrypha. Of course, you never know where Bird's setlist will go—expect to hear some expansive instrumental compositions and covers of Handsome Family songs.
The self-billed "blind couple from Mali," who were discovered by Stevie Wonder and have recently collaborated with the likes of Santigold and TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone, bring its guitar- and vocal-laden Afro-pop songs to Millennium Park. Local Native American hip-hop artist Frank Waln opens the show. This free concert is part of the 2017 Millennium Park Summer Music Series.
For the very first time, New Belgium Brewery moves its signature celebration of bikes and beer to Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island. With the expanded venue comes an even bigger headliner: hip-hop outfit and Tonight Show house band the Roots. You can also expect to see an eclectic mix of circus performers, vaudeville acts, magicians and comedians roaming through the beer-soaked festivities. We'll miss the traditional bike parade through Logan Square (it's not happening this year) but at least a portion of proceeds from the event will benefit local non-profit West Town Bikes.