On neighborhood streets, in downtown parks, on stage of the stunning Jay Pritzker Pavilion, even in Soldier Field stadium — music lives big in Chicago. Lollapalooza (it's FOUR amazing days long this year in celebration of its 25th anniversary) and the Chicago Blues Festival vie for the title of the city's largest summer music fests, but don't miss out on the top Chicago music festivals below for a full calendar of summer music.
And if you don't get your fill on these, check out our guide to all of the biggest 2016 Chicago events, from comic conventions, taco festivals and art fairs, to the gay pride parade and outdoor film series.
Start off the summer right, with fun tunes, good food and a chance to check out local arts and crafts vendors. Local tribute bands are ready to pump up the crowd at this Lakeview music fest! Performers include Catfight, Wedding Banned, 7th Heaven and Boy Band Review.
With a reputation for elevating the sometimes ho-hum music lineups found at weekend street fests, Do Division sets the bar high when it kicks off the beginning of each summer. Original bands and up-and-coming DJs make up the carefully-curated stages, booked by two of the top local music clubs: Empty Bottle and Subterranean. And with a suggested donation of only $5 for admittance, the festival concerts are a steal! Last year's headliners included Black Mountain, Nick Waterhouse and Temples. The 2016 lineup will be revealed soon!
Settle in for some powerful performances at the 31st Chicago Gospel Music Festival. The FREE admission festival celebrates the genre's foundational roots in Chicago and will bring together local and national artists to the stunning downtown stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. 2016 headliners include Percy Gray, Jr. & Joshua's Troop, New Direction, Chicago Mass Choir, and Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Choir.
The world's largest free blues festival has been busting out tunes for over 30 years. Grab a seat for daytime concerts on three stages in Grant Park and make your way to the Petrillo Music Shell for evening concerts under the stars. Expect over 500,000 people to swarm the FREE admission lakefront festival all weekend. This year's headliners include Shemekia Copeland, Fred Wesley and the New J.B.s, Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials, and Irma Thomas.
Join 100,000 fans at Jackson Park for Chicago's largest outdoor all electronic dance music festival, featuring top producers and DJs from all over the world. Celebrating five years, Spring Awakening will present six stages, with two main stages featuring both live electronic acts and world-renowned DJs, over the course of three mind-blowing days. This year's headlining artists include Above & Beyond, Borgore, Carnage, A-Trak, Crystal Castles, deadmau5 and more.
It's the nation's only FREE, outdoor classical music series of its kind! Comprised of the Grammy® nominated Grant Park Orchestra led by Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar and the award-winning Grant Park Chorus led by Chorus Director Christopher Bell, the festival have 32 spectacular summer concerts. Spread out on the Great Lawn or grab a seat near the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park for an alfresco picnic under the stars.
Chicago's 3-day country music festival takes place literally on Lake Michigan: Northerly Island is a 91-acre peninsula that juts right out into waterfront. Surround yourself with stellar skyline views and big name country acts. The outdoor amphitheatre, First MeritBank Pavilion, will house megastars Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum and Tim McGraw, as well as numerous other national artists.
Marking 20 years in 2016, Taste of Randolph overflows the streets of the West Loop neighborhood with food and music fans alike. Dozens of restaurants from Chicago's famed "Restaurant Row" set up booths along Randolph Street and three unique performance stages anchor the six-block stretch. Work off all those calories at the DJ dance stage, presented by neighboring nightclub The Mid, or kick back with eclectic indie sounds. Last year's performers included headliners Dinosaur Jr, The Dandy Warhols, Best Coast, Lettuce, Emancipator Ensemble and Tennis. Check back soon for 2016's lineup.
One part music + one part eco-living is the basic recipe behind this annual fest. Combine together for a fun time that is underscored by the idea of making environmentally conscious lifestyle choices. Concerts are programmed by Wicker Park's own Subterranean and just as big of a draw as the headlining performers (previous artists include Yo La Tengo, Manchester Orchestra, and Moon Taxi) is the fact that the second stage is powered by 8 stationary bicycles.
For 11 weeks each summer, the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park blossoms into a downtown dance party. The FREE series SummerDance welcomes the sounds of 44 different live bands over the course of the season, from Indian to African to Cuban and more. But don't just sit on the sidelines and listen! This festival will have you on the 4,900-square-foot, open-air dance floor with introductory one-hour lessons by professional instructors, followed by the two-hour concert performances.
Rachael Ray's Feedback in Chicago is a celebration of two of her favorite things: music and food - inspired by her beloved festival during SXSW in Austin. Chicago's iconic Lincoln Park Zoo is the backdrop for this signature all ages, family-friendly event and the resident animals will be in attendance as well. Feedback will feature some of Rachael's favorite musicians as well as food creations + beer & wine pairings curated by Rachael herself. Artists announced so far include Grace Potter and Lee Fields & The Expressions.
Old St. Pat's Church, Chicago's oldest public building and a treasured historic landmark, knows how to throw a party! Locals know this West Loop block party as a big bash for singles to meet and mingle — it's a 21 and over event. For the music lover, it's an easy match too as the festival lineup draws big national acts every year with concerts presented by radio stations WXRT and WKQX. Popular artists such as Guster, G. Love & Special Sauce, Third Eye Blind, and The Mowgli's have performed in the past!
Encased meats and indie music acts will be in the spotlight at this second annual fest just two blocks north of the busy intersections of Addison Street and Elston Avenue. Adding to the weekend's happenings will be arts & crafts and activities for kids.
Burgers & beats: this year's 26th anniversary event brings musical fireworks to Chicago's Jackson Park over Independence Day weekend. What started as a small gathering has grown into a massive 50,000 fan celebration — one of the oldest and largest house music festivals in the world. In between all the music, dancing and socializing, it's tradition to pitch tents and grill out each day in a true family reunion atmosphere. Hosted by the Chosen Few DJs, the "Woodstock of House Music" has lined up performances by Wayne William, Jesse Saunders and Alan King for 2016.
Chicago's premiere lakefront music festival returns over the 4th of July holiday weekend at Oakwood Beach. Featuring an all-inclusive and diverse musical experience, Mamby is where indie and electronic meet for a weekend of fun under the sun. 2016 headliners include Chet Faker, Milky Chance, Atmosphere, Chromeo and more. From dancing with the sand beneath your feet to cooling off with a refreshing dip in the lake, Mamby On The Beach offers an unmatched setting in Chicago that gives attendees a chance to get away from the city without ever having to leave.
The mother of all food festivals is celebrating 36 years of delicious food and great music! Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park packs a massive crowd for evening headliner performances, which are FREE admission for lawn seating and as low as $18 for pavilion seats. Major music artists will rock the stage in 2016, including The Roots, KONGOS, The Decemberists, Billy Idol and The Isley Brothers featuring Ronald and Ernie Isley.
With more than 50 acts on the lineup, this annual dance party is a gathering of global music drawing artists from Africa, New Zealand, Haiti, Brazil and beyond. Two outdoor stages and two indoor stages curate an international soundtrack like no other: imagine American folk rock straight from the Midwest + Cajun French music hailing from Louisiana + roots reggae birthed from the island of Dominica. Combine these beats and rhythms with craft beer, family fun, a craft market and plenty of food vendors for a full weekend of activity that shows off the eclectic tastes of its Lincoln Square neighborhood.
West Fest shows why West Town is one of the hottest up-and-coming destination neighborhoods in the city. Along the streets you'll notice the emphasis is on "local" — from the restaurants and cafes to the independent artisan shops and retail boutiques. Many are represented here at the festival, and for music, the nearby club Empty Bottle books the Main Stage.
Union Park on the city's Near West Side plays host to this internationally known, indie-rock centric festival, welcoming banner artists such as Broken Social Scene, Brian Wilson and Beach House in 2016. Pitchfork spans three days, attracts some 50,000 attendees annually and draws performers from various backgrounds, including alternative rock, rap and hip-hop, electronica, avant-garde rock and hardcore punk. The highly popular fest also features local vendors selling crafts, gifts and much more.
BBQ, bands & beer! The killer country music lineup at this summer fest features 12 top country acts across three days. This year's stage-stompers include 2016 ACM Nominee Old Dominion, trailblazing singer-songwriter Billy Currington and chart-topper Chase Rice. But that's not all! This riverfront party is a triple threat: fuel up with some of the top 'cue from Chicago and premier pitmasters from across the US. And stay hydrated with pours from the country's top craft brewers, a new component for this festival now in its fourth year.
In celebration of its big 15th anniversary, over 50,000 are expected to attend the three-day food and music bash, which encompasses the picturesque riverfront green setting of Ward Park in the heart of River North. ToRN 2016 features non-stop live music highlighted by electrifying party and tribute bands, including Lucky Boys Confusion, Sixteen Candles, Rod Tuffcurls & The Bench Press, Boy Band Review and more.
In addition to two stages of live entertainment by some of Chicago's and North America's finest bands, more than 80 of the neighborhood's lush residential gardens will be open for the public to explore. The weekend also includes food and, for children and families, the Kids' Corner with entertainment and activities.
While some Chicago street festivals are known for a standard lineup of cover bands that play up all the familiar tunes, Wicker Park Fest breaks the mold. Three stages of live action are programmed by Subterranean, a mainstay in the music scene. The festival regularly boasts local and national acts that are praised by critics as being a reflection of the neighborhood: hip, diverse and eclectic. This year's lineup will be announced soon.
One of the world's premier music festivals makes its annual return to Chicago's Grant Park. Lolla rocks out with the biggest names in music (Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, LCD Soundsystem, J.Cole, Lana Del Rey among them in 2016) across all the genres: hip-hop, electronica, reggae, indie, modern roots and more. Fuel up at Chow Town, the "food fest within a music fest" that serves up gourmet festival grub. And if kids are in tow, bring them along! Kidzapalooza entertains future singers with rock-star yoga, funky hairstyling, prop-filled photo shoots, hip-hop workshops and kid-friendly performances.
Chicago's inaugural Reggae Fest sets out to make its anticipated debut this summer. With live reggae of the "highest caliber" programmed by Wicker Park's infamous music venue, Subterranean, Reggae Fest Chicago will bring an authentic, family-friendly island style vibe to the Windy City masses. Featuring two live music stages, Reggae Fest Chicago will be a One Day, One Love celebration of various reggae genres including ska, reggaeton, roots reggae, Caribbean dance hall, Spanish reggae and world music.
Close out the summer at one of Chicago's most eclectic music festivals with names like ODESZA, BASSNECTAR and ZEDD. Held in Union Park, North Coast Music Festival has transformed from an electronic-focused event to one that includes hip-hop, indie, funk, jam bands and everything else sprinkled in between. No matter what what tunes you prefer, you will find it at this end-of-summer celebration.
The longest running of the city's lakefront music festivals, Chicago Jazz Festival has been a Labor Day weekend tradition for over 30 years. Known for its artistic creativity, the festival promotes awareness and appreciation for all forms of jazz through FREE, quality live musical performances at two stunning downtown venues, the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. This year's lineup includes trumpeter, composer and bandleader Orbert Davis; late bass legend Charlie Haden's politically-charged Liberation Music Orchestra; The Bad Plus; and an all-star celebration of Cuban percussionist Candido Camero's 95th birthday.
An inaugural event, this 3-day festival celebrates hip hop old and new, with legends like Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, Trina, Slick Rick and Twista sharing the stage with emerging talents like local Chicagoans Spenzo and Stunt Taylor. Over 125 artists and DJs will fill out the lineup and Addams/Medill Park will serve as the outdoor venue.
This city-wide, multi-venue, 11-day festival has attracted over 600,000 concert-goers and has presented more than 600 artists and ensembles from over 80 countries since it began in 1999. FREE performances take you into at all of Chicago's top live clubs, while marquee names also take to the gorgeous, open-air stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.
Bridging the generations of punk rock fans for a decade, Riot Fest has
become one of the most unique and popular music fests in Chicago. A mash
up of big-name artists head to Douglas Park in 2016: The Flaming Lips, Morrissey, The Original Misfits, Ween, Death Cab for Cutie and Rob Zombie are among the 100+ bands. The rock ‘n roll carnival (yes,
there are rides) will be taking over the neighborhood with three days of
loud music, local food and colorful festivities.