It's almost a wrap on 2019, but some of the best concerts in Chicago take place on the final evening of the year. If don't feel like spending the night at New Year's Eve parties but can't imagine staying in, you can always head to Chicago's best music venues to ring in 2020 at a New Year's Eve concert. This year, stoner-metal act Sleep brings sludgy riffs to Thalia Hall, party animal Andrew W.K. headlines the Concord Music Hall and a stacked lineup of DJs gets behind the decks at Smart Bar. Find the best year-end rock, hip-hop and electronic shows with our guide to the Chicago New Year's Eve concert lineup.
RECOMMENDED: Our guide to New Year's Eve in Chicago
New Year's Eve concerts in Chicago
What better way to greet a new decade than at a concert headlined by "Party Hard" singer, motivational speaker and perennial Riot Fest performer Andrew W.K.? Expect aspirational rock anthems, a few lengthy diatribes about positivity and plenty of crowd surfing at this New Year's Eve show, which also features a performance from local hip-hop duo Air Credits and a DJ set from Riot Fest talent buyer Buck Foley.
Downstate Illinois band American Football released a single self-titled album 1999, creating a cult-classic that combined emo songcraft and post-rock instrumentation. After going on a self-imposed hiatus for more than a decade, brothers Mike and Nate Kinsella reunited the group to cut another self-titled LP and repeated the feat earlier this year (much to the chagrin of record store clerks everywhere). American Football will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its debut LP with a trio of shows at Schubas Tavern, playing a different setlist littered with deep cuts from across the band's catalog each night. If you were lucky enough to see the band back when they were headlining Fireside Bowl, these intimate gigs will probably bring back some memories.
Founded as a hip-hop cover band, this Canadian jazz-fusion combo imagines what it might sound like if Dave Brubeck started jamming with the Boards of Canada. While founding member and keyboardist Matt Tavares recently left the group, the remaining members are moving forward with touring keyboardist James Hill, who has been playing with the outfit since 2017. There's still plenty of life in the progressive arrangements that populated BadBadNotGood's 2016 album, IV, but we're hoping to hear a few fresh cuts at the band's final two shows of 2019. Bassist Junius Paul opens the show of December 30 and free jazz clarinetist Angel Bat Dawid supports on New Year's Eve.
Pretty much the ultimate stoner-metal band, California trio Sleep attained legendary status in the ’90s on the strength of its sludgy, slo-motion songcraft. In 2018, the group released The Sciences, a concept album based around a "Marijuanaut" that contained the band's first new music in more than a decade. Sleep will headline three end-of-the-year shows at Thalia Hall, culminating with a New Year's Eve performance that will double as a celebration of recreational weed's legalization in Illinois at the stroke of midnight. Experimental singer-songwriter Circuit des Yeux supports on December 29, droning jazz act Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society opens on December 30 and Seattle heavy metal band Big Business joins the bill on December 31.
Ready to send off 2019 while sweating on the dance floor? Smart Bar's annual New Year's Eve party brings together the club's residents (Ariel Zetina, DJ Heather, Michael Serafini, Olin, Phillip Stone, Sevron and Sold) for an evening of electronic music accompanied by an art installation by Manifest. You can show up early to groove your way into a new decade or arrive fashionably late after 2am to take advantage of a reduced cover fee.
This killer soul-music party sets up at the Freehand on New Year's Eve, bringing along crates of dusty grooves and rare soul records that keep the dance floor packed with moving bodies. Resident DJs Scott "Sloppy White" Williams, Dave Mata, Duke Grip and Mo Manley provide the soundtrack throughout the evening, spinning tracks that will fill the final hours of 2019 with upbeat grooves. Each ticket includes a hand-drawn portrait by artist Michael Goldberg, a palm reading and a midnight champagne toast.
Iowa singer-songwriter William Elliot Whitmore is a one-man band, playing guitar and banjo while stomping on a kick drum at his solo shows. His recent album for local label Bloodshot Records, Kilonova, pays tribute to 10 artists who have inspired him with covers of songs by the Magnetic Fields, Johnny Cash and Bill Withers. The clear-eyed lyrics and punk-rock spirit of these musicians can be heard in Whitmore's own songs, which combine elements of country, folk and blues. Whitmore headlines Sleeping Village on New Year's Eve, joined by some special guests.
Groove to the rhythms of the past as you move toward the future at this annual New Year's Eve dance party, featuring Northern Soul, Motown hits and regional cuts supplied by the Windy City Soul Club DJs. Dress to impress and enjoy an all-vinyl soundtrack to your rug-cutting antics as the clock inches toward midnight and the dawn of a new decade.