Grant Park Music Festival

By Madeline Higgins

There's no summer quite like a Chicago summer: this mantra slips in and out of conversations with shifting frequency over the course of a calendar year. People utter it wistfully and occasionally in the dark of winter. Spring brings hopeful anticipation to their words. By midsummer, the usual unpredictable weather invites a sarcastic edge to Chicago's summer slogan. Through humidity and afternoon thunderstorms, Chicago remains an incredible place to enjoy the outdoors in the summer months.

The city offers a plethora of outdoor live music events to elevate your summer experience to its highest potential. Rooftop bars and restaurants on skyscrapers provide a contained setting for enjoying warm weather and live music, but nature's offerings provide a different experience at ground level. Below are live music events happening on Chicago's beaches and in its parks - whether regularly scheduled throughout the summer or single day events - this July.


Downtown Sound (through July 23)

Downtown Sound

Downtown Sound at Millennium Park has been rocking on Monday and Thursday nights for a month already, and it will continue to do so until July 23. This summer, the annual free concert series expanded from strictly Mondays to twice weekly for six weeks of regular programming. The Downtown Sound lineup has also diversified this year to include more contemporary artists, with an emphasis on electronic and world influences. This, paired with Grant Park Music Festival's classical performances (discussed below) ensures a fully packed schedule of live music in Chicago's most beloved park for the better half of July.

Location: Millennium Park
Admission: Free


Grant Park Music Festival (through August 22)

Grant Park Music Festival

Grant Park continues to dominate the in-park summer music scene with its annual 10-week classical music series, Grant Park Music Festival. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, plus select Tuesdays and Thursdays, join the Grant Park Orchestra at Jay Pritzker Pavillion as they perform concertos, symphonies, and more by a variety of historical and contemporary composers. July's series kicks off with the Independence Day Salute today, Wednesday, July 1, led by Christopher Bell and featuring guest pianist Terrence Wilson. The entire series is free to the public.

Location: Grant Park
: Free


Chicago Botanic Garden Summer Evenings (through September 7)

Chicago Botanic Garden - Carillon Concert

Located 30 minutes north of the Loop in Glencoe, the Chicago Botanic Garden offers 26 breathtaking exhibitions of nature on its 385-acre property. The Botanic Garden is well worth the drive - and on summer evenings, you can enjoy unique live music and nature simultaneously until 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Mondays host Carillon Concerts (pictured above), Tuesdays feature varying genres of Music on the Esplanade, Wednesdays' "Dancin' Sprouts" are tailored to kids, and Thursdays' Hot Summer Nights features artists of unique eclectic genres (similar to Tuesdays) each week. Coming up next on Thursdays? The Fantastic Toe Trippers (Americana) on July 2, Pranita (Bollywood) on July 9, and members of LamaJamal (Middle Eastern) on July 16. The garden also hosts mellow tunes from 10-11 a.m. on Tuesday mornings.

Location: Chicago Botanic Garden (1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, IL)
Admission: Free, but parking is $25 per car


Mamby on the Beach (July 11 & 12)

Mamby on the Beach-2015

Head a few miles south to Oakwood Beach on Saturday, July 11 and Sunday, July 12 for the first ever Mamby on the Beach Festival. Mamby is React Presents' resurrection of a weekly unified-energy themed Chicago party from the mid-2000s. The goal of the reincarnation? "To reflect the unparalleled experience of Chicago in the summer and preserve the history of Chicago as the home of house music." With an eye-catching lineup of both rising artists and old names - including Trax Records' Chicago legend Farley Jackmaster Funk, LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, and recent internet-buzzworthy producer Zhu - Mamby will certainly accomplish this goal. The festival has distinguished itself as a must-see for dance music fans yearning for a peaceful summer vibe: on the beach, in the sun, and significantly less crowded than June's annual electronic festival, Spring Awakening.

Location: Oakwood Beach
There are two remaining price brackets of wristband sales: $119 then $149 (plus fees) for two day. single day tickets are currently available for $67.50, but will rise to $85 (plus fees) when those sell out. Both days of the festival are 18+. Purchase here:
Lineup (schedule TBA):


The Dock at Montrose Beach (July and August)

The Dock Montrose Beach

One of three full-service restaurant/bars on Chicago's many beaches and the only one with consistently booked and attention-grabbing live music, The Dock keeps its event schedule packed on every night of the week. Reggae Wednesdays with DJ Shottas and guests - one of few consistently scheduled reggae nights in Chicago - are a well-known treat among Chicago reggae lovers; June saw both DJs and live bands gracing the sand. Regular reggae nights will continue on Wednesdays at the Dock and on Saturdays at Ohio Street Beach's Caffe Olivia from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Peruse The Dock's daily schedule if reggae isn't for you - with different music planned for every night of the month, you're bound to find something that suits your taste.

Location: The Dock at Montrose Beach (200 W Montrose Harbor Dr.)
Free most nights, but check the website for exceptions (
July schedule to be posted soon on The Dock's website. Peruse last month's musicians below:!live_music/ctr7


Pitchfork Music Festival (July 17-19)

Pitchfork Music Festival - MIA

A yearly favorite for crowds and critics alike, Pitchfork's 2015 festival boasts an impressive lineup of cutting-edge artists and revitalized cult followings alike - from every genre and every corner of the Internet. From the Riot Grrrl movement's Sleater-Kinney and decade-spanning Wilco, to Chicago breakouts Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa, to PC Music's Sophie and A.G. Cook, Pitchfork is sure to draw a diverse and enthusiastic crowd of below-the-pop-radar music fans. Travel to Union Park the weekend of July 17 to catch Future Brown, Jamie XX, Shamir, ILoveMakonnen, Mac DeMarco, Panda Bear, Ariel Pink, Madlib & Freddie Gibbs, Kurt Vile, The New Pornographers and more. Details on tickets below.

Location: Grant Park
Three day passes are sold out, but single day passes for each day of the festival are currently on sale for $65
Lineup (schedule TBA):


Shipwrecked Boat Series (July 4 & TBA)

It's not exactly on a beach, but it is on the water! Shipwrecked, Chicago's music-oriented yacht party, brings live music to Lake Michigan's shores on a bi-monthly basis. Passengers board the 150-foot Anita Dee II at Navy Pier's Dusable Harbor and set off on a three- or four-hour cruise with live DJs, drinks, and - forget rooftops - a laketop breeze. The first edition of this month features a Fourth of July day party from 1 to 4 p.m., with the second July edition to-be-announced.

Location: Dusable Harbor at Navy Pier
Admission for July 4 + Lineup:
Pre-sale: $39.74, Early Bird: $60.74, General Admission: $71.24


Photos: Jay Pritzker Pavilion by Christopher Neseman; Grant Park Music Festival by Cassy Gerber; Carillon Concert Series courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden; Pitchfork Music Festival by Erez Avissar;