Concerts in Chicago in July
Taking place on the weekend after the Fourth of July, you can count on West Fest to continue the celebration with delicious food, cold beverages and a music lineup stacked with exciting local bands and intriguing touring acts. This year, the street fest boasts sets from Welsh indie-rockers Los Campesinos!, experimental pop artist John Maus, dark electronic duo Boy Harsher and psychedelic Columbian outfit Combo Chimbita. The event also features a Pet Fest and a Kids Fest, stocked with activities for your little ones and four-legged friends.
Famously crafted from hours of heady jam sessions, Built to Spill's 1999 release Keep it Like a Secret distilled the band's twisting guitar solos and jangling melodies into a concise collection of songs that have remained an indie rock touchstone. 20 years later, Doug Martsch and the current lineup of Built to Spill are marking the album's anniversary with a special tour, where you're likely to hear tracks like the knotty ballad "Carry the Zero" and the classic rock cliché-ridden anthem "You Were Right." Brazillian rockers Oruã and Montreal synth-pop act Wetface open the show.
In 1990, a group of Chicago house DJs and a small group of friends gathered in Jackson Park for an impromptu concert. Today, the Chosen Few DJs (Wayne Williams, Jesse Saunders, Tony Hachett, Alan King, Andre Hatchett, Terry Hunter and Mike Dunn) spin tracks for thousands of fans each summer, joined by special guest performers like producer David Morales, Motown star Thelma Houston, disco singer Taana Gardner and house music vocalist Lady Alma. Attendees can rent a spot for a tent on the lawn or grab general admission tickets and spend the entire day grooving on the dance floor.
Armed with a sharp wit and a penchant for shredding, Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett has quickly become one of indie rock's guiding lights, graduating to increasingly large festival stages and collaborating with the likes of Phillidelphia rocker Kurt Vile. Her latest album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, reflects on the trials of being a woman in the music industry, clapping back at critics and anonymous internet commenters through a collection of empowered anthems. During her performance at Taste of Chicago, Barnett will be joined by young New York rockers Sunflower Bean.
Blending the rhythms of traditional cumbia and salsa with electronic production, Columbian duo Bomba Estéreo were putting a contemporary spin on Latin music long before Latin trap and reggaeton entered the mainstream (the group's 2015 song "To My Love" became a nightclub fixture last year thanks to a remix from Puerto Rican DJ Marcos "Tainy" Masís). And while the group has spent much of its career bringing its buoyant live set to stages across the globe, it hasn't forgotten about its home—Bomba Estéreo is currently spearheading a campaign to stop deforestation in its native Columbia. During the band's concert at Taste of Chicago, they'll be joined by Puerto Rican reggae act Cultura Profética.
Long Island trio De La Soul's 1989 debut 3 Feet High and Rising is among the rap genre's most vaunted records, harnessing an inspired collection samples and introducing comedic skits to the hip-hop vernacular. Even 30 years after its release, it's an album that sounds ahead of its time—albeit one that you can't easily stream, thanks to the group's fractured relationship with its label, Tommy Boy Records. While younger audiences likely know Posdnuos, Trugoy and Maseo for their collaborations with Damon Albarn's Gorillaz project, we're hoping that De La Soul digs into the classics during their Taste of Chicago set, which features an opening set from local rapper Taylor Bennett.
Trafficking in the same blend of impassioned folk rock and sleek pop balladry that sent acts like Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers to the top of the charts, Ontario outfit the Strumbellas just want you to sing (and stomp) along to its anthemic refrains. Headlining a bill that includes Los Angeles pop-rock act Lovelytheband (they wrote a song about Coachella) and synth-pop group Joywave, this might be the best Taste of Chicago show to attend if you merely want some pleasant background music to enjoy while you focus on digging into your meal.
It has been nearly two decades since India.Arie's debut record Acoustic Soul tore up the charts, went double platinum and garnered a boatload of Grammy nominations. In the years since, she's released a steady stream of R&B albums, collaborated with Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock and performed aboard "inspirational cruises" organized by Oprah Winfrey. At Taste of Chicago, she'll perform with support from soul singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello and R&B singer Bilal.
Alt-country, folk and Americana music take the spotlight at Square Roots, a street festival that takes over the main drag of Lincoln Square. This year, alt-country stalwarts Son Volt headline the event (perhaps frontman Jay Farrar will patch up his differences with former Uncle Tupelo bandmate Jeff Tweedy onstage?), joined by rootsy rock outfits Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. The weekend will also host a 25th anniversary celebration for local label Bloodshot Records, with performances from Mekons, Murder by Death and some yet-to-be-announced guests. When you're not parked in front of a stage, you'll find open jam sessions, dance parties and family-friendly activities that make this fest feel like a gigantic neighborhood block party.
Spend a weekend eating barbecue and listening to country music at the Windy City Smokeout, which fills a parking lot with some of the country's best pitmasters and a stacked lineup of twangy musicians. Sample smoked meats cooked by barbecue masters from Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee (as well as local favorites like Smoque and Bub City) while you listen to tunes from the likes of Chris Young, Old Dominion, Cole Swindell and Ashley McBryde. Dust off your cowboy hat, fill your pocket with moist towelettes and dig into a weekend of delicious meat and music.
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.
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 typically features some notable touring acts and a long list of local performers. You'll also find plenty of delicious food, sales at local shops, daily fashion shows and twentysomethings watching the festivities from rooftops and balconies.
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.
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.