Summer is legitimately on. When you're not hanging out on a rooftop bar, you should be soaking up the sun at a summer music festival or taking advantage of the weather at an outdoor concert. July brings Pitchfork Music Festival, Lollapalooza and a bunch of famous acts to Chicago's best parks and arenas. You can see Adele at the United Center, Coldplay at Solider Field and the Alabama Shakes at the Civic Opera House. 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
In the tradition of the Eagles' infamous Hell Freezes Over Tour, the original members of Guns N' Roses have buried the hatchet and reunited for the Not in This Lifetime Tour. Well, most of them, at least—lead singer Axl Rose will be joined by top hat-wearing guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan. Expect the setlist to lean heavily on classic records like Appetite for Destruction and largely gloss over the more recent Chinese Democracy. Hopefully it all goes more smoothly than the band's infamously problematic Use Your Illusion Tour.
2015's Strangers to Ourselves proved that indie stalwarts Modest Mouse still have plenty of nautical allusions left to sing about. After a headlining set at last year's Riot Fest, Issac Brock and his band return to Chicago for a show on Northerly Island with alt-rockers Brand New, who have been teasing a new album for 2016.
React Presents, the fine folks behind Spring Awakening, deliver another killer festival—on a beach! The South Side sand show takes place on Oakwood Beach, featuring a mix of indie, electronic and hip-hop acts. The 2016 lineup includes Animal Collective, Santigold, Chet Faker and Chromeo. There's also an extra stage to the south of the beach the year, for even more lakefront fun.
Chicago's annual celebration of house music, the Chosen Few Old School Reunion Picnic, gets a makeover this summer, transforming into a full-fledged two-day music festival in Jackson Park. On Saturday, guests can pack a basket and take in performances from the event's namesake DJs, as well as guests like Joe Claussell, Harry Dennis and Curtis McClain. Sunday's lineup highlights soul, R&B and jazz performers, including vibraphone player Roy Ayers and R&B singer Cheryl Lynn.
After settling into a Monday through Friday gig as the house band for The Tonight Show, you'd think that the Roots might slow down its touring schedule. But Questlove and company still take their hip-hop, soul and jazz act on the road, living up to their reputation as one of the hardest working bands around. Don't worry if you missed out on the group's 2013 release Undun—funky renditions of tracks by artists like Guns N' Roses and Bo Diddley typically fill out the Roots' setlists. Chance the Rapper affiliate Donnie Trumpet opens the show.
Unquestionably one of the greatest pure-pop singer-songwriters of the last several decades, Kiwi troubadour Neil Finn—of Split Enz and Crowded House renown—comes to Ravinia behind the 2014 release Dizzy Heights, his first solo LP in more than a decade. Stalwart Boston alt-rock outfit Guster (perhaps best known for its late ’90s single "Fa Fa") opens up the show.
Elle King isn't the first to adorn pop songs with blues, rock and country trappings, but her 2015 debut, Love Stuff, seems to have struck a chord. The singer (who is the daughter of comedian Rob Schneider) is best known for anthems like "Ex's & Oh's" and "America's Sweetheart," which you've definitely heard in bars and Ubers. You'll also be hearing them while you finish your Rainbow Cone at Taste of Chicago this year, where King will be joined by South African alt-rockers Kongos and LA pop group Transviolet.
At some point within in the past few years, the Decemberists made the transition from quirky indie-folk band to Americana institution. Gone are the days of sprawling, progressive albums based on Japanese folk tales—Colin Meloy and his band are consummate troubadours, grounded in tradition and unafraid to emulate their heroes (surely you heard the group's glorified R.E.M. tribute album, The King is Dead). The band will tote its banjos and accordions to the Taste of Chicago, where it will be joined by rootsy Austin musician Shakey Graves.
We're prepared to extend the title of "honorary Chicagoans" to Bully—after all, the group's mastermind Alicia Bognanno lived in the city while interning at Steve Albini's recording studio Electrical Audio. That's also where the band's ‘90s alt-rock-inspired debut, Feels Like, was recorded, filled with grungy guitars and snarling, visceral vocals. This is the kind of music that begs to be witnessed in a dark, dingy room while clutching a can of cheap beer (that must be why Bully is playing at the Empty Bottle).
It's been a quiet five years since the last Duran Duran album, but the Britpop act has finally broken the silence with its 14th studio album Paper Gods. The new record sticks to the synth-drenched, new wave sound that the group helped popularize in the ’80s, with help from guest vocalists such as Lindsay Lohan and Janelle Monáe. Daft Punk collaborator Nile Rodgers (who also appears on Paper Gods) opens the show with his band Chic.
Alt-country and Americana music are the two presiding genres at the annual Square Roots festival, which returns to Lincoln Square in July. Presented in conjunction with the nearby Old Town School of Folk Music, attendees can take in sets from more than 70 bands spread across two indoor stages and two outdoor stages. Meanwhile, a craft beer tent serves up more than 40 different brews, including special batches and limited released procured for the event.
Returning to Pilsen's Addams/Medill Park, Ruido Fest fills an empty void in Chicago's summer festival scene: Latin American rock en español, pop and electro. The 2016 edition of the event brings variety of Spanish-speaking acts to the stage, including headliners such as Argentinian ska band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Chilean rockers La Ley and Mexico City pop rock outfit Maldita Vecindad. Other notable artists on the bill include Mexican punk rock band Le Butcherettes, experimental electronic musician Helado Negro and hardcore synth outfit Hong Kong Blood Opera. ¡Qué bueno!
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. Empty Bottle programs the main stage, pulling together a lineup that includes reunited indie rockers Luna, Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn and grunge-y Nashville act Bully. The DJ stage boasts sets from local selectors Mark Farina, Derrick Carter and Jevon Jackson. If you can stomach yet another summer street festival, it's the perfect lead-in to the Pitchfork Music Festival the following weekend.
New Belgium Brewery brings its signature celebration of bikes and beer to Palmer Square for another year of freaky fun. The day begins with a bike parade and continues with circus performers and live music in Palmer Square Park—this year, Dr. Dog and Mucca Pazza headline. The environmentally conscious festival benefits West Town Bikes and culminates with one lucky attendee trading his or her car in for a brand new bicycle.
English rockers-turned-adult contemporary mainstays Sting and Gabriel team up for a joint arena tour, digging into their respective catalogs, both together and solo. For anyone who has wanted to hear "Sledgehammer" and "Roxanne" in the span of a single concert, this is your chance.
Rivers Cuomo's cheesy power pop may not be as heartfelt as it was during the ‘90s, but Weezer's modern-day output can still be endearing at times. The Gen X stalwarts most recent release—another self-titled disc referred to by fans at The White Album—takes a page out of the Beach Boys' book with odes to "L.A. Girlz" and "California Kids." Don't worry—Weezer is well aware of its nostalgic appeal, so some of your favorite Pinkerton jams will likely make the setlist. Emo rockers turned glam-pop purveyors Panic! at the Disco open the show.
Hello, it's Adele. On the heels of selling 5 million copies (and counting) of her new album 25, the English superstar is crossing the pond to embark on a U.S. tour. With numerous chart-topping singles, a trio of multi-platinum albums and one of the most memorable Bond themes to her name, she can easily claim the title of the Queen of Pop (the kind that you listen to when you're feeling a little sad).
The eldest son of famed Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, Femi grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and joined his father’s band while still a teenager. In the ’80s, he started his own band, the Positive Force, drawing inspiration from big band funk and jazz. Chicago rapper ProbCause, who has collaborated with fellow native sons such as Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa, opens up the show. This free concert is part of the 2016 Millennium Park Summer Music Series.
Formed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1980, quirky punk rock trio the Violent Femmes were forbearers of the alternative rock movement who found mainstream acclaim. The group disbanded in 2009 after bassist Brian Ritchie lambasted frontman Gordon Gano for authorizing the use of "Blister in the Sun" in a Wendy's commercial. The pair settled their differences in 2012, reuniting at Coachella and later appearing at Riot Fest in Chicago. Here, the group plays a special concert benefitting the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
A former art teacher who turned her attention to haunting alt-folk music, Marissa Nadler has moved from finger-picked balladry to heavier, rock-influenced tunes that recall the work of contemporaries like Chelsea Wolfe and Angel Olsen. Nadler's latest album, Strangers, presents some of her most expansive songs to date, filled with wailing organs and string arrangements that add a bit of color to her foreboding lyrics. At the Bottle, she's joined by ambient guitar droner Wrekmeister Harmonies and gothic Portland duo Muscle and Marrow.
Norwegian singer-songwriter Jenny Hval doesn't seem to mind if her listeners feel a bit uncomfortable—the otherworldly tracks she creates are rife with references to sex, gender and the physical act of rebirth. Hval's 2015 release Apocalypse, Girl flirts with pop songcraft and traditional structures, but spoken word interludes and field recordings counterbalance its more conventional inclinations. Chicago-based experimental folk act Circuit des Yeux opens the show, fronted by the unmistakable baritone of singer Haley Fohr.
Formed by roommates Max Kakacek and Julian Ehrlich (former members of the Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, respectively), Whitney has quickly solidified itself as one of the year's most hotly-tipped bands. Cue the breathless praise for the band's debut, Light Upon the Lake, which puts a lovelorn, soulful spin on warm folk rock that is firmly indebted to the Band and Crosby, Stills & Nash. If you're looking for a more intimate glimpse at one of the buzzed-about acts on the Pitchfork Music Festival bill, this official aftershow is the place to be. Toronto rocker Michael Rault and local pop crooner Jimmy Whispers support.
The highlight of the summer for indie snobs returns to Union Park for another year of the Best New Music. Be prepared for another weekend of vintage clothing, dusty baseball diamonds and ironic mustaches as hotly tipped acts and legendary artists take the stage. This year, Canadian post rock collective Broken Social Scene, Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson (playing Pet Sounds), earnest folk rocker Sufjan Stevens and steamy R&B crooner Miguel top the bill. Oh yeah—hipster-approved pop starlet Carley Rae Jepsen is also performing.
Chicago has EDM, jazz, blues and psych-rock festivals, but until now, the city has never hosted an event that exclusively showcases modern rock and metal artists. That will change when Chicago Open Air debuts at Toyota Park in July (during the same weekend as the Pitchfork Music Festival), an event that will be headlined by German industrial metal act Rammstein. The fest will also feature craft beer and something called "gourmet man food."
After self-releasing 11 records on Bandcamp, 24-year-old Will Toledo's rough-hewn melodies and earnest lyricism caught the attention of Matador Records, who released his indie label debut, Teens of Style. More than a year later, Toldeo is learning how fickle the music industry can be—Cars frontman Ric Ocasek rejected the use of a sample of "Just What I Needed" on Car Seat Headrest's latest album, Teens of Denial, just before its release, forcing Matador to destroy all physical copies. The updated version of the record (sans Cars samples) should be ready just in time for this official Pitchfork Aftershow.
Carpenter didn’t just direct seminal thrillers like Escape From New York and The Thing, he also composed their creepy, synthesizer-ridden soundtracks. He expands upon the aesthetic with both of the recent Lost Themes albums, creating original electronic arrangements that would be at home on the score of yet another Halloween sequel. Expect to hear some of Carpenter's latest work and classic cues from his films during the rare live performance.
Recording under the alias of Porches, Aaron Maine has managed to create the musical representation of the shy, awkward teenager in every John Hughes movie. The band's latest, Pool, mixes ‘80s-style synth pop with introspective lyricism, aided by backing vocals from Maine's girlfriend Greta Kline (of Frankie Cosmos). Come to this official Pitchfork Aftershow prepared to slow dance under the twinkling Empty Bottle disco ball.
As you might expect from a musician with a Ph.D in composition, the music that Holly Herndon makes is extremely brainy, utilizing customized vocal processors and dealing with the realities of existing in an increasingly connected world. But Herndon also spent some of her formative years living as a high school exchange student in Berlin, absorbing its dance music culture. Her experience is reflected in the scattered rhythms and intricate arrangements of Platform—bring your thinking cap and your dancing shoes to this official Pitchfork Music Festival aftershow.
Nigerian singer-songwriter King Sunny Adé was scheduled to perform at Pritzker Pavilion last year, but had to cancel the show due to visa problems. He'll make it up to us this year with a set of his distinctive juju music, which blends traditional African music with Western pop stylings. Local Afro-soul singer Ugochi kicks off the evening, backed by the Afro Soul Ensemble. This free concert is part of the 2016 Millennium Park Summer Music Series.
Not content to remain dormant for more than a few months at a time, garage rocker Ty Segall returns with yet another side project, called GØGGS. Segall's latest batch of propulsive, fuzzed-out riffs teams him with Ex-Cult frontman Chris Shaw and his longtime Ty Segall Band collaborator Charlie Moothart. During its first night at the Bottle, the group will be joined by Running and Choke Chains; on the second evening, Absolutely Not and Soddy Daisy support.
Alabama neo-soul quartet return for more smokey old-time rock ’n’ soul on its sophomore album, Sound & Color, mixing up authentic and respectful R&B with bluesy arrangements that recall the Black Keys. Lead singer Brittany Howard is a far more commanding presence than Keys' frontman Dan Auerbach, passionately delivering heartfelt lyrics alongside ripping guitar solos. It might seem impossible, but Alabama Shakes have the chops that can make a cavernous venue like the Civic Opera House feel intimate.
Balancing glam rock panache with psychedelic pop strangeness, BØRNS has put former magician Garrett Borns back into the spotlight. Touring behind its 2015 release, Dopamine, the band conjures up a radio-friendly spin on the shimmering, retro-styled production favored by acts like Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
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 2016, hyper-literate folk trio the Mountain Goats, reunited San Diego punks Rocket from the Crypt, cheerful indie pop act Alvvays and scrappy Canadian rockers Pup headline the fest.
After flirting with EDM on the breakup (sorry, "conscious uncoupling") album Ghost Stories, Coldplay embraces the dance floor wholeheartedly on its latest, A Head Full of Dreams. And you know what? It suits them. The buoyant beats and jittery guitars aren't groundbreaking, but these songs are a nice change of pace from Chris Martin's usual overwrought balladry. The band may claim that this is its last record, but it sound more like a new beginning.
If you're reading this, it might already be too late to get tickets to see Drake in Chicago. The Canadian rapper is arguably the biggest rapper in the game, whipping fans into a frenzy with a consistent stream of singles, mixtapes and featured verses—he's the Steven Spielberg to Kanye's George Lucas. The hip-hop heavyweight's latest, Views From the 6, finds him in a characteristically confessional and confrontational mood, contrasting the spoils of fame with the mundanities of everyday life. Drake's What a Time to Be Alive collaborator Future opens the show.
2016 isn't just the 25th anniversary of Lollapalooza, it also marks a quarter-century since Jane's Addiction's first breakup in 1991, shortly after the release of its album Ritual de lo Habitual. The alt-rock pioneers are back in town to play Lolla (lead singer Perry Farrell is the festival's co-founder, after all), but the band is also taking some time to play a two-night stand at Metro. Philadelphia shoegazers Nothing support.
Set between Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline, Lollapalooza is the city's largest music festival, boasting numbers of attendance well in the six digits on a regular day. Large stages, big acts and huge crowds. Taking over all of Grant Park, Lollapalooza is one of the best festivals in the country with a sweet bonus—no camping. To celebrate the festival's 25th anniversary, this year there will be four days of music (instead of three). Start stretching your legs and stocking up on sunscreen.
Long Beach rapper Vince Staples is cut from the cloth of ‘90s West Coast hip-hop—a young man grappling with the environment he grew up in through the power of poetry and music. His debut album, Summertime ’06, swims with nostalgic tracks that draw melancholy comparisons to the violence and voyeurism of the present. At this official Lollapalooza aftershow, Staples is joined by St. Louis rapper Smino.
Ghost combines the creepy theatricality of black metal—evil clergy outfits, band members known collectively as a Group of Nameless Ghouls—with crisp, hook-crammed rock and roll. In Chicago, the anonymous Swedish act has a reputation outside of its Satantic music—the band served as the inspiration for a controversial Kuma's Corner burger that featured an unblessed communion wafer and a red wine reduction. Local "murder metal" band Macabre joins Ghost at this official Lollapalooza aftershow.
As one of the last remaining legendary Chicago blues players, Buddy Guy is a performer who epitomizes a very specific era in the city's musical history. If you've never caught him playing at his eponymous Chicago club, you know what to expect: Screaming vocals, blazing guitar solos and a few random expletives. Co-headlining the gig is British guitarist Jeff Beck, a storied sideman who has played beside artists like Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, Brian Wilson and more. Some of Beck's earliest influences were blues artists like B.B. King, so a a few impromptu collaborations with Guy seem likely.