Summer is in full swing and if you're not sipping cocktails on a rooftop bar, you should be soaking up the sun at a summer music festival. In July, Pitchfork Music Festival brings indie rock and hip-hop to one of Chicago's best parks and events like Wicker Park Fest and West Fest put talented acts on the streets. Plus, you'll find esoteric rockers Radiohead at the United Center, future-soul singer Janelle Monáe at the Chicago Theatre and the Foo Fighters in Wrigley Field. Slip on some shades and look at the bright calendar of July concerts in Chicago.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete calendar for concerts in Chicago
Concerts in Chicago in July
Relentless troubadour Neil Young has dabbled in everything from soul to psych, tried to launch an iPod for audiophiles, made an entire album protesting biotech corporation Monsanto and is now hard at work on a digital archive of his recorded output. For his latest set of gigs in Chicago, Young will perform solo at the Auditorium Theatre, where Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young once performed on their way to Woodstock. Expect a career-spanning show from one of the most eclectic and unpredictable artists of his generation.
Vocalist Josiah Wise presents a sultry, futuristic take on gospel music and R&B balladry inspired by his love of artists like Björk and Brandy, using his flexible voice to sing about his experiences as a black, queer man. Serpentwithfeet comes to Bottle in support of his debut album, soil, which features production by frequent Adele collaborator Paul Epworth. Philadelphia soul singer Lee Mo opens the show.
After appearing in films like Moonlight and Hidden Figures, sci-fi soul diva Janelle Monáe returns to outer space on her new album, Dirty Computer. The sprawling record features backing vocals from Brian Wilson, grooves that the late, great Prince gave his blessing and songs that reckon with Monáe's pansexual awakening. If the "emotion picture" video that Monáe released alongside the album is any indication, she'll wrap the funky, soul-searching songs into a visually-arresting, futuristic live performance. R&B duo St. Beauty open the show.
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. Folk-rocker Kevin Morby and local hip-hop emcee Joey Purp top this year's music lineup, joined by Chicago acts like Ohmme, Varsity and oddCouple. The event also features a Pet Fest and a Kids Fest, stocked with activities for your little ones and four-legged friends.
After Radiohead headlined Lollapalooza in 2016, we didn't expect to see the band in Chicago again anytime soon—at least not until it got around to recording another album. Thankfully, Thom Yorke and company are full of surprises, the latest of which is another North American tour in support of A Moon Shaped Pool that kicks off at the United Center. Radiohead's larger-than-life experimental rock is fit for an arena, but we're just as excited about the mind-blowing light 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 spin tracks for thousands of fans each summer, joined by a selection of guests, including production collective Basement Boys, remix artist Ralphi Rosario and local singer Sheree Hicks. Attendees can bring a picnic basket, set up a tent or hit the dance floor to groove along to a day of slick house beats.
Endearingly cheesy power-pop act Weezer and ‘90s alt-rock titans Pixies co-headline an evening of nostalgic melodies, taking audiences back to a time when MTV still played music videos and tracks like “Buddy Holly” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven” could become minor radio hits. Of course, both groups have soldiered on since their respective heydays, with reshuffled lineups, new music and a fair amount of legacy-building (not to mention Weezer's recent fan-requested cover of Toto's infamous song, “Africa”). English rockers the Wombats open the show.
Lincoln Park hosts a music festival devoted to jam bands, reggae and roots rock at this new event, which should provide a fitting comedown from Fourth of July celebrations. Reggae act Michael Franti and Spearhead headline the fest on Saturday night and Phish bassist Mike Gordon closes out the weekend on Sunday evening. Live in Lincoln Park also features sets from the Original Wailers, Collie Buddz, Cory Wong, Pimps of Joytime and more great acts.
Americana singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile belts out impactful anthems about empathy and motherhood on her latest album, By the Way, I Forgive You. A skilled lyricist (who has been covered by the likes of Adele, Dolly Parton and Pearl Jam), Carlile's folk, country and rock ballads betray a contemplative outlook on the world that still seems wise beyond her years. Blues and soul singer Martha Redbone and her Roots Project band open the show.
Two decades ago, Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) and Talib Kweli—two of hip-hop's most conscientious emcees—joined forces as Black Star. Now the pair has a new record produced by Madlib on the way and is taking the stage in anticipation of its release. Nevermind that Yasiin Bey announced his retirement from the music industry back in 2016—we're just happy that Black Star is rising, once more. L.A. musician and activist Madame Gandhi opens this Taste of Chicago concert.
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." For the second summer in a row Buffet and the Coral Reefer band will pack Parrotheads into the Friendly Confines for an evening of songs about drinking (and eating cheeseburgers) by the beach. ‘70s soft-rock icon Boz Scaggs opens the show.
Alt-country, folk and Americana music take the spotlight at Square Roots, a street festival that takes over the main drag of Lincoln Square. Alt-country pioneers the Jayhawks, Americana explorer Pokey LaFarge, and Appalachian folk duo the Handsome Family are among the headlining acts on the diverse music lineup. The event also features multiple craft beer gardens, food from local restaurants and a market stocked with goods from area businesses.
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 musicians. Sample smoked meats cooked by BBQ masters from Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennesee while you listen to twangy tunes from the likes of Brett Eldredge, Brothers Osborne, Ashley McBryde and Aaron Lewis. Dust off your cowboy hat, tie a bib around your neck and dig into this weekend of delicious meat and music.
Oklahoma weirdos the Flaming Lips have been mining various strains of psychedelia for the past 35 years, but the group's confetti-covered live performances backed by costumed dancers are where it has always shined brightest. Touring behind a new collection of the band's greatest hits, Wayne Coyne and his band will bring their falsetto philosophizing and outrageous (not always family-friendly) stage show to the Taste of Chicago. Mexican garage rockers Le Butcherettes and local singer-songwriter Half Gringa support.
Classic rock titans Journey and Def Leppard both started in the late ’70s, released career-defining singles in the ’80s and have spent the ensuing decades shifting their lineups. But thanks to ubiquitous songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” both bands are still touring and introducing audiences to songs that haven’t become karaoke staples. This co-headlining bill is the kind of concert that you’d usually have to take a midnight train to Northerly Island or Tinley Park to see, but it’s coming to Wrigley Field for one hot, sticky sweet night of triumphant stadium rock anthems.
George Clinton (a.k.a. the Godfather of Funk) recently announced that he'll hang up his hat and retire from touring with Parliament Funkadelic in 2019. Before that happens, you'll get at least one more chance to see him fronting the modern incarnation of P-Funk, which incorporates hip-hop arrangements and dancing contortionists amid renditions of classic tracks like "One Nation Under a Groove" and "Give Up the Funk." Local singer-songwriters BJ the Chicago Kid and the Boy Illinois open the show.
Though he often plays second fiddle to A$AP Mob figurehead A$AP Rocky, Ferg is easily the hip-hop collective's most reliable MC, especially when it comes to crossover features (you've heard him on tracks from Ariana Grande and Fall Out Boy). His recent mixtape, Still Striving, attempts to balance his street-smart bravado with his art school roots, contrasting his days of hustling with the fashionable circles he now inhabits. IDK open the show.
The daughter of famed sitar player Ravi Shankar (most famous for introducing the Beatles to the stringed Indian instrument), Anoushka began training under the tutelage of her father at the age of seven. Her recent record, Land of Gold, is a cinematic tribute to the plight of refugees around the world, featuring intricate sitar compositions as well as contributions from the likes of M.I.A. and German singer Alev Lenz. British reggae artist Hollie Cook opens this Millennium Park Summer Music Series concert.
If you're searching for a fest that showcases rising bands, underground legends and mainstream performers with strong independent roots, look no further than the Pitchfork Music Festival. The Union Park fest features headlining sets from Aussie psych outfit Tame Impala, folk-rockers Fleet Foxes and R&B singer Ms. Lauryn Hill (performing her 1998 debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill). You'll want to show up early to catch sets from funk legend Chaka Khan, electronic duo Mount Kimbie, experimental collective This is Not This Heat and a host of other compelling performers.
It's the last hurrah for the Vans Warped Tour, the roaming summer music festival that bolstered the careers of acts like Fall Out Boy, Sublime and even Katy Perry. For its final stop in Chicagoland, the tour comes to the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Tinley Park, with six stages of music, plenty of merch and the opportunity to mingle with rising punk, emo and metal acts. Headlining acts include Reel Big Fish, Bowling for Soup, 3OH!3 and Knuckle Puck.
Chance the Rapper headlines and produces an epic Special Olympics 50th Anniversary Celebration on Northerly Island, complete with a stacked lineup of performers and artists. R&B star Usher, synth-pop act Francis & the Lights, Motown legend Smokey Robinson, alt-rocker OAR and singer-songwriter Jason Mraz are among the star-studded cast of supporting acts. Of course, there will be plenty of people showing up to see if Chance has any surprises in store—after all, he did manage to get Kanye West to show up to the last fest he threw.
There are few acts more exuberantly joyous than Sylvan Esso, the unlikely duo of singer Amelia Meath (formerly of acapella folk trio Mountain Man) and producer Nick Sanborn. Together, the pair makes slick, efficient electro-pop that balances emotionally resonant lyricism with danceable beats—your feet will start moving in spite of themselves. Milwaukee indie-rock collective Collections of Colonies of Bees opens the show.
Made up of musicians who've played with the likes of Toots & The Maytals, Lee “Scratch” Perry and the Revolutionaries, the Kingston All Stars gathers some of the most talented reggae session players onstage. For this Millennium Park Summer Music Series concert, the group will be joined by dancehall DJ and vocalist Sister Nancy, who you may recognize as the vocalist on the classic reggae track “Bam Bam” (which Kanye West sampled on “Famous”). Multicultural Chicago-based group Funkadesi opens the evening.
Wicker Park may be overrun with chain restaurants and gigantic 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 Pitchfork-quality music lineup, which features synth-pop act Porches, punk rockers Against Me!, stoner metal act Red Fang and singer-songwriter Ezra Furman. You'll also find plenty of delicious food, sales at local shops and twentysomethings watching the festivities from rooftops and balconies.
While you shouldn't hold your breath for the latest My Bloody Valentine album that frontman Kevin Shields has recently been promising (the group's third record, mbv, took 22 years to come to fruition), you're guaranteed to hear some high-volume, woozy shoegaze on its latest tour. Pack some earplugs—Shields live performances almost always approximate the experience of blasting Loveless on your car stereo, sending the group's layered melodies ricocheting through the venue.
Dave Grohl saw his very first punk rock show at the Cubby Bear in 1983, so the Foo Fighters’ return to Wrigleyville is a homecoming of sorts. During the band’s last visit to Wrigley Field (in 2015) Grohl had a giant cast on his leg and had to play the show from atop an ornate throne, adorned with guitar necks. This time around, he’ll have the run of the Friendly Confines—we’re imaging a rendition of “Best of You” performed while rounding the bases or a version of “Learn to Fly” sung from atop the Wrigley scoreboard.
You might feel like you have to be in the proper mood to listen to a sad song, but singer-songwriter Aimee Mann specialized in slow-moving, downcast ballads that are so beautiful and poignant, you don't necessarily have to shed a tear. Mann's Grammy-winning 2017 album, Mental Illness, might be her most melancholy collection of tracks to date, but her witty lyricism and pop sensibility makes it all the more enjoyable. Banjo-playing British folk singer-songwriter This is the Kit opens this Millennium Park Summer Music Series concert.