Sometimes in the city of hustle and bustle, we tend to forget about the softer, quieter side of things. We've got plenty of electrically-charged rock ‘n roll but there's something especially soothing about folk music, something that makes you appreciate your American roots. 

Key Players

Andrew Bird - Arguably Chicago's best known folk musician, this 40-year-old violin virtuoso isn't afraid to venture into the realms of rock and pop while keeping the acoustic spirit alive in his music. 

Poi Dog Pondering - Though they've made homes out of Hawaii and Texas in the past, Poi Dog Pondering have been longtime Chicago residents. With a geographical background like that, you can only imagine the influences this collective brings to the table. They've been pushing the boundaries of folk music since the ‘80s and continue to grow an unwavering fanbase here in the Windy City. 

Jonas Friddle - This Chicago folk singer had perhaps the best year of his career in 2013, winning the revered John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Catch Friddle teaching at the Old Town School of Folk Music and playing around town with his band The Majority. 

The Giving Tree Band - From the edge of Chicago (Yorkville to be exact) comes a band who perfectly exemplify the bond that modern rock and classic folk music share. A wide array of instrumentation from slide guitars to the mandolin make for complex compositions and compelling live shows. 

Ha Ha Tonka - Though the band is named after a park in their native Missouri, the fact that Ha Ha Tonka is now stationed in Chicago and signed to beloved local label Bloodshot, we tend to call them our own. The band's latest album, Lessons, is compfire music through and through. 

Essential Spots

Old Town School of Folk

Old Town School of Folk Music - When discussing folk music and Chicago, the Old Town School is simply impossible to leave out of the conversations. With two locations, the school houses some of the best concerts in town, sells essential gear for any aspiring musicians and offers top-quality lessons to teach you the skills you'll need before you get on stage. 

City Winery - The City Winery's concert dining experience lends well to the the calming, melodic qualities of folk sounds. We presume this is why they book this type of genre so often. 

Uncommon Ground - Uncommon Ground is a menagerie when it comes to its musical calendar. Mostly made up of singer/songwriters, it's not rare for a folk artist to find his or her way to the stage. 


Schubas - This longstanding Lakeview classic has a beautiful concert hall that commonly hosts folk acts both local and touring. 

Must See Shows

Traditional Irish Session Night at The Abbey Pub (Every Sunday) - If it's Irish folk your yearning for, the Abbey Pub hosts a weekly affair with acclaimed flute and whistle player Larry Nugent. It's a traditional Irish session accompanied by $4 Guinness with no cover charge to hold you back. 

Rivals of the Peacemaker at Martyrs (December 28)Rivals of the Peacemaker are the perfect example of how folk rock dances the lines of roots rock and blues. There's never anything wrong with that though! They've got a great live show with a strong supporting bill to boot: Falldown, Elisa Grace and Adam Levy (who had recorded with the likes of Norah Jones, Amos Lee and M.Ward). Tickets are $10. 

Jonas Friddle and the Majority at the Hideout (January 4) - Like we mentioned above, Jonas Friddle's songwriting is award winning and it deserves to be heard in its live form. Catch him with his band The Mjority the one of Chicago's homiest venues, the Hideout, on January 4. Tickets are just $10. 

The Giving Tree at Concord Music Hall (January 10) - Aforementioned Chicago-area band The Giving Tree is taking part in the Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival early next year. We recommend checking out the entire festival but this show in particular. They play January 10 at Concord Music Hall. Buy your tickets now. 

Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys at the Old Town School of Folk Music (January 11)Ralph Stanley is 86 years old. During his long, prosperous life he's managed successful careers both as a solo artist and with the Clinch Mountain Boys, won a Grammy Award for his contribution to the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack ("O Death"), been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and inspired countless other banjo players. Now he's finally ready to retired. Stanley brings the Clinch Mountain Boys to Chicago one last time on his farewell tour. See him January 11 at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Tickets are on sale now. 

University of Chicago Folk Festival at mandel Hall (February 14-16) - Dates for the 2014 installment of the University of Chicago Folk Festival have just been announced. Mark your calendars for February 14-16 at Mandel Hall in Hyde Park. Performer announcements to come.