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 Kendrick Lamar at United Center 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?
Chicago's annual celebration of house music continues as a full-fledged two-day music festival in Jackson Park. Throughout the weekend, the Chosen Few DJs will be joined by guest selectors and live performers, including vocalists CeCe Peniston and Donna McGhee.
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.
Canadian pop singer Alessia Cara got her start doing acoustic cover songs on YouTube before she was discovered and signed to Def Jam Recordings—a typical millennial success story. Her 2015 debut, Know-It-All, demonstrated her R&B chops, but it's her vocals on the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned "How Far I'll Go" (from Disney's Moana) that you're most likely to recognize. During her performance at Taste of Chicago, she's joined by Chicago vocalist Eryn Allen Kane, who developed her soulful pipes singing in church.
Ben Harper is a musical chameleon of sorts, shifting from bluesman to folk singer to soul crooner. His latest album, Call it What it Is, finds him reuniting with band the Innocent Criminals on a collection of songs that unflinchingly confront recurring instances of police violence in the U.S. He'll be joined at Taste of Chicago by local rockers Twin Peaks, whose recent live album, Urbs in Horto, does an excellent job of capturing the group's energetic performances.
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.
Befitting its location on the hip Chicago Avenue corridor, West Fest can be counted on for a great sleeper of a summer street fest bill. Occuring the weekend before Pitchfork Music Festival, it's a great way to ease into the summer festival mindset without having to purchase a pricey wristband. This year, the Empty Bottle brings reunited punk-funk act ESG, Australian rockers Royal Headache and indie folk act Woods to the fest. The DJ stage features house music selectors Miles Maeda, Mark Farina and Derrick Carter.
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.
Michael Angelakos' latest collection of life-affirming synth-pop, Tremendous Sea of Love, is a self-released gift to his fans (who didn't have to pay a cent for it). Amid Passion Pit's latest batch of chirpy anthemic choruses and gentle ballads, there's a sense of joy and freedom that somehow outshines the most upbeat portions of the project's previous LPs. Local indie rockers the Kickback open this Taste of Chicago concert.
Formed as an R&B trio in 1958, the O'Jays weathered the changing tides of the music industry throughout the decades, becoming the face of Philadelphia soul and dipping their toes into disco. These days, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers (featuring founding member Eddie Levert) are still traveling the world, performing a catalog of familiar tunes, including the theme song to an NBC reality show that argulably launched a certain real estate mogul's political career. Chicago-native Maurice Jackson and the Independents (best known for their 1972 single "Leaving Me") help close out the 2017 Taste of Chicago concert series.
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.
Recorded in the months after the 2016 election, Brooklyn folk-rockers Woods' new album, Love is Love, doesn't wallow in anger and defeat. Instead, the group gets lost in psychedelic guitar riffs and brass-driven melodies throughout a collection of songs that celebrate the power of compassion, especially in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity. Quilt drummer (and Woods keyboardist) John Andrews and his band the Yawns open the show.
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).
The jangling refrains of Chicago indie-rock quartet Ne-Hi traffic in pre-mature nostalgia, wistfully looking back on (relatively) recent youthful dalliances on the band's latest single, "Stay Young." The group's sophomore LP, Offers, provides a bittersweet soundtrack to cracking open beers with a friend as the sun sets on a beautiful summer day. More than any other promising young band in the city, Ne-Hi's barrage of reverberating guitars and whistful lyricism fosters a very specific feeling. Local indie-pop act Parent opens this Pitchfork Music Festival aftershow.
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.
Downstate Illinois band American Football released a single self-titled album 1999, but group's combination of emo songcraft and post-rock instrumentation has cemented it as a cult classic. Brothers Mike and Nate Kinsella made lightning strike twice when they reunited the group last year to cut another self-titled LP (much to the chagrin of record store clerks everywhere). After its Sunday afternoon set at Pitchfork Music Festival, American Football heads back inside for this intimate Empty Bottle set.
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.
If you're a fan of classic hip-hop, the lineup for the Art of Rap Tour might remind you of the track list of a hip-hop CD-R your best friend burned for you in the ‘90s. The bill includes original Ruff Ryder DMX, golden age emcee Rakim, conscious rapper KRS-One, New York duo EPMD, two members of the Wu-Tang Clan (Raekwon and Ghostface Killah) and Chicago group Crucial Conflict. Dig out your Lugz, windbreakers and flannel—this is the throwback concert you've been waiting for.
Constellation hosts a benefit gala for Edgewater's non-profit Experimental Sound Studio, headlined by long-running genre-fusing instrumental outfit Tortoise, who will perform two sets that explore the group's varied discography. The evening will also feature performances by experiemental composer Helen Gillet, ambient electronic artist TALsounds and a special collaboration between guitarist Jeff Parker, cornetist Ben LaMar Gay and cellist Tomeka Reid.
During the most patriotic of months, it makes sense to celebrate homegrown music. Folk rock and Americana artists get their own summer bash in the form of the Great Lawn, which sets up a stage on the outskirts of UIC campus in July. Folk rockers Houndmouth headline on Saturday, while Greensky Bluegrass turns in two sets on Sunday evening. The remainder of the lineup features folk duo Shovels and Rope, indie rockers Dr. Dog and Todd Snider's blues rock super group Hard Working Americans.
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.
There may only be a single Beatle onstage, but a McCartney concert is the closest you’ll come to seeing the loveable Liverpool lads reunite. Still touring behind his 2013 LP, New, Macca mostly ignores his more resent work in favor of hits from his early solo records, Wing and—of course—the Beatles. His unabashed embrace of nostalgia make it a hard day’s night you won’t soon forget.
DAMN. With just one word, the title of Kendrick Lamar's latest album encapsulates the excitement and disbelief of fans and contemporaries alike. Nimbly bobbing between topics like race, politics and the pressures of success, Lamar's latest LP is a showcase of not only his rapid-fire poetic flow, but his ability to mold each stanza into a small piece of a sprawling hip-hop narrative. It's a feat that promises to be equally impressive when pulled off in front of an audience. Texas trap emcee Travis Scott and "Cha Cha" rapper D.R.A.M. open the show.
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.
The Crotch hosts this hipster-friendly fest that features three stages of Pitchfork-quality tunes on the cheap. While you're not shopping at record stores and vintage shops, drinking beer or eating donuts, you can catch concerts on three different stages. In 2017, prolific indie rock outfit Guided By Voices, Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree and psych-rock duo Jeff the Brotherhood headline the fest.