It would be a boldface lie to say that Chicago visitors and residents don't love free stuff. In the summer, the city abounds with free outdoor concerts, festivals, art fairs and other weather-appropriate events. But while some might be quick to assume the fun - and the free stuff - has run out until next year, there are still plenty of concerts to be seen throughout the city with ticket prices that will be music to your ears.
Concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center
The answer to summers' Millennium Park free concert series, the Chicago Cultural Center throws shows all through the winter, the vast majority of which are free for all. This year Classical Monday Concerts continue along with kid-friendly series Juicebox and the popular summer series Loops & Variations moves indoors to continue highlighting the influence of electronic music on contemporary pop and rock. A slew of one-off concert also highlight the programming. Monthly concert calendars are available on the Cultural Center's website.
Live Music at Honky Tonk
Delicious Pilsen BBQ joint Honky Tonk is not only home spot-on St. Louis ribs, it's also a frequent venue for local and touring bands to set up shop. Blues, jazz, alt-country, all the usual suspects you'd expect to hear at a country-style smokehouse play here on the regular. There's no extra charge for concerts but you'd be crazy if you didn't try some of their bacon candy or house cocktails while you're there.
World Music Wednesdays at The Old Town School of Folk Music
One of this writer's favorite concert series in the city, Old Town School of Folk Music's free World Music Wednesdays is a risk-free way to experiment with new types of live music. Styles range from African to Latin to Middle Eastern and beyond and performers come from all across the globe to perform at the revered Lincoln Square venue. While the concerts are all free, donations are excepted if you feel so inclined. For more info on performers reservations, visit the Old Town School's website.
Extraordinary Popular Delusions at
Jazzy improv act Extraordinary Popular Delusions has owned the Monday night slot at cozy Lakeview venue Beat Kitchen for years. The reason: no show is quite the same so there's no chance of it getting stale. The band plays weekly in the bar's upstairs concert hall at 8 p.m. There's no cover but it is limited to concert goers 21 and older.
The Hoyle Brothers at the Empty Bottle
Despite the fact that it's been a Ukrainian Village staple for more than two decades, the Empty Bottle seems to be getting more press than ever lately. If you're interested in taking in its charming hole-in-the-wall appeal Friday evenings might be a good place to start. Local country diehards The Hoyle Brothers have a regular slot at 5:30 p.m. and the show is always free for anyone 21 or older.
DePaul University School of Music
It's true that this writer graduated from DePaul University but I wasn't a School of Music grad so this can't really be considered shameless self-promotion. The truth is that students are drawn from all corners of the U.S. to study at this competitive school and every concert I've had the pleasure of attending has been of professional quality. The school puts on choral, jazz, classical and contemporary concert regularly, most of which are free to the public. A full calendar can be found here.
BONUS: The Green Mill
While it's not free, the $4 cover charge at Green Mill's Sunday Soul Jazz Night won't break your bank. If you're looking for top quality music in one of the best jazz clubs in one of the best jazz cities in the country, consider coughing up a few bills for this experience.
*These concert series are actually offered year-round, however, we suggest capitalzing on them while the weather's cool.