Like many of our favorite events, the Millennium Park Summer Music Series is getting off to a late start this year, with 10 shows scheduled between August 2 and September 16. Frankly, we're just thankful that the annual series of free concerts at Pritzker Pavilion is happening at all—for many, it's a summer tradition that was greatly missed when it was canceled (along with just about every other in-person event) last summer.
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This year's lineup of concert leans heavily on local artists and organizations, featuring shows curated by long-running LGTBQ+ party Slo 'Mo, musician Andrew Sa, DJ Alejandro Ayala, the Goodman Theater and the Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL), among others. It's especially appropriate as 2021 is the Year of Chicago Music, a time during which the city is celebrating the local music scene and attempting to find ways to further support the musicians who call Chicago their home.
According to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Event's website, all Pritzker Pavilion events will operate at full capacity and no advance registration will be required to gain access to the lawn or seating area inside the pavilion. And, as usual, you'll be able to bring your own food and alcohol into Millennium Park to enjoy during the show. Just be aware that those rules are subject to change, as the DCASE website also states that, "All summer events will adhere to the latest public health and safety guidelines."
Want a peek at what you can expect from this year's Millennium Park Summer Music Series? Many of the individual lineups are still being finalized, but here's what we currently know about the 10 shows on the schedule. (Unless otherwise noted, all shows run from 6–8:30pm)
I'm Every Woman: Divas Through the Decades with Akenya & Friends + Mermaid
LGBTQ+ party Slo 'Mo celebrates its 10th anniversary with an evening of local musicians and vocalists (curated by singer-songwriter Akenya) covering female-powered R&B, house, disco and pop songs. Local soul and R&B duo Mermaid—which formed when Candace Quarrels and Brittany Campbell met as performers in the Chicago production of Hamilton—open the show.
A Night of Healing, Truth & Restorative Love
Highlighting the voices of the Muslim diaspora in Chicago, this evening of music features master of ceremonies Jacinda Bullie and performances by Binta Diallo, Kayem, Tammy McCann, Rhymefest, Ronnie Malley, Maimouna "Mumu Fresh" Youssef, Drea d'Nur and Rami Nashashibi.
Andrew in Anotherland
Best known for his appearances at the Hideout's Cosmic Country Showcase, country crooner Andrew Sa presents a screening of his latest cinematic work, featuring local filmmakers, artists and musicians. After the premiere, a group of musicians featured in the film will turn in a live performance on the Pritzker Pavilion stage.
Preservation of Fire
DJ and producer Alejandro Ayala (a.k.a. King Hippo) co-curates an evening of music without boundaries, featuring Joshua Abrams' avant-garde ensemble Natural Information Society and the all-female African drummer group Drum Divas.
Afrodjia Social Club + Proximity
Performing under the name Afrodija Social Club, DJ Sadie Woods presents an evening of jazz fusion, tropical disco and deep house music, featuring guest musicians and performers. Before that, the Silver Room and Connect Gallery present a program called Proximity, with bassist Micah Collier and Electec exploring the sounds of house music, footwork, bebop and soul.
The Goodman Theatre presents a performance of the play Zulema (part of a tour that will stop in 10 Chicago parks), which follows a young girl from Mexico as she take a musical journey through Chicago, complete with music and dance from the Sones de México Ensemble.
Contemporary Indigenous Voices: Leonard Sumner + Lyla June + Tall Paul
Sicangu Lakota hip-hop artist Frank Waln co-curates an evening of performances by Indigenous musicians, including Anishinaabe singer-songwriter Leonard Sumner, Navajo and Cheyenne musician Lyla June and Native American rapper Tall Paul.
Sooper and Friends + Neal Francis
In association with the Chicago Independent Venue League, local label Sooper Records presents sets from Sen Morimoto and Monobody, with support from retro soul and funk musician Neal Francis.
Angel Meléndez & the 911 Mambo Orchestra
Local composer and trombonist Angel Meléndez performs a program inspired by the Numero Group's 2011 release Cult Cargo: La Salsa Boricua de Chicago, exploring the golden age of salsa music in Chicago during the late ’60s and early ’70s.
The Chicago Chapter of the Recording Academy celebrates 60 years of supporting Chicago musicians, presenting contemporary ensemble Eighth Blackbird and a selection of special guests.