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Chicago Music Festival Guide

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Chicago in the summer is a place of beauty. When I think of all the endless activities that go on in this city, one idea sticks out above all others: festival season is arriving. Chicago has some of the most famous and heavily attended music festivals in the country. This guide will provide you with all of information you need for cheap street fests as well as the major festivals within Chicago.

2015 Festivals (By Date):

Spring Awakening (June 12-14)

Price: $189-$239

Ages: 18+

Spring Awakening will bring over 100,000 party people to Soldier Field in early June, according to React Presents. Since the first year I attended in 2012, Spring Awakening has changed a lot in size and appeal. A once relatively unknown dance music festival has turned into one of Chicago’s biggest summer draws: a massive outdoor rave. A crowd of ages ranging from 15-30 adds to the energy and excitement of the atmosphere. The lineup of over 80 artists includes names like Zedd, Diplo, Flosstradamus, and Jack Ü.

Acts to look for: Hucci, Keys N Krates, Figure, DJ Sliink

Chicago Blues Festival (June 12-14)

Price: FREE

Ages: All

This three-day Blues-based festival located in Grant Park has been a tradition in Chicago since its debut in 1984. This festival represents the history and importance of the Blues genre in Chicago. The fest hosts six different food vendors and unleashes great talent among Blues musicians. This year’s lineup includes Zora Young, Clarence Carter, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal Trio and several others.

Acts to look for: Buddy Guy, enough said.

Taste of Randolph (June 19-21)

Price: $10 Suggested Donation

Ages: All

This West Loop street festival will return for its 19th year at 900 W. Randolph Street. It incorporates six blocks of some of the city’s best food and musical acts along the three-day event to attract massive crowds of all ages. Taste of Randolph has had big names perform in the past including My Morning Jacket and Drive By Truckers. This year they bring names like Dinosaur Jr., The Dandy Warhols, Best Coast, and many more. They are also including a DJ dance stage hosted by the Mid to bring in a more diverse crowd of attendees.

Acts to look for: The Dandy Warhols

Square Roots Festival (July 10-12)

Price: $5 Suggested Donation

Ages: All

Located in the heart of Lincoln Square (on Lincoln Avenue between Montrose and Wilson), the Old Town School of Folk Music will host its annual street festival including a long list of food vendors and store fronts. The music lineup incorporates over 50 acts, ranging from bluegrass and folk music to beatboxing and guitar workshops. With four stages (two outdoor and two indoor) this nearly free music festival is a great place to enjoy good music, good food, and unique people. If you’re a fan of indie music, I wouldn’t miss this one.

Acts to look for: Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate, Ivan & Alyosha, Caught a Ghost

Windy City Smokeout (July 10-12)

Price: $40-$100

Ages: All

Right next to the Chicago river (near Chicago and Halsted), this lesser-known country music festival will throw down its three-day party accompanied by world-famous BBQ. Located downtown at 560 W. Grand, WCS fest includes a lineup of 19 diverse country music acts. It also includes the country’s top pitmasters and BBQ specialists showing off their top flavors. It has been hailed by a list of critics from the Chicago Tribune to Eater NY.

Acts to look for: Kacey Musgraves, Pat Green, Chris Young, Lee Brice

Mamby On The Beach (July 11-12)

Price: $99-$200

Ages: 18+

With the loss of Wavefront music festival in 2014, React Presents is bringing back another beach-themed music festival with a different approach to summer music events. The festival takes place at Oakwood Beach and it is the only festival that allows you to swim in Lake Michigan. The focus of this festival is to “preserve the history of Chicago as the home of house music,” according to mambybeach.com, the event’s website. One of the coolest

aspects of this festival is that they have so much Chicago talent on the lineup like Autograf, Louis the Child, and Felix Da Housecat. Some musical acts include Empire of the Sun, Passion Pit, Phantogram, and Röyksopp.

Acts to look for: Passion Pit, Cashmere Cat, Louis the Child, Zebo

West Fest (July 11-12)

Price: $5 Suggested Donation

Ages: All

Considered one of Chicago’s most popular street fests by the Chicago Tribune, West Fest returns this summer for its 11th year. Located on Chicago Avenue between Damen and Wood, this fest focuses heavily on the musical acts that perform live over the two days. However, there are also food vendors, live art making, a kids festival, and a pet festival (yes, for your attending dogs). Music critic Greg Kot has hailed West Fest as having one of the top music lineups of the summer. The fest offers two stages: one for bands and one specifically for DJs. The 2015 lineup includes Dead Moon, Murder City Devils, Mark Farina, and Derrick Carter.

Acts to look for: Derrick Carter

Pitchfork Music Fest (July 17-19)

Price: $65-$180

Ages: All

The Union Park-based music festival will be hosting its 10th year in Chicago with a lineup worth checking out. This festival focuses solely on new and emerging music, so it’s a great choice if you’re tired of the over-commercialized and overpriced Lollapalooza-type events. Over the course of three days, Pitchfork presents an array of over 40 different acts to enlighten the independent music listener. It focuses a lot of the talent on rap and hip-hop, but it also incorporates indie, alternative, and electronic music. It hosts about 50,000 people over the course of the weekend, and has over 50 local vendors to provide an experience beyond the music, supporting Chicago arts as a whole. The lineup includes Wilco, Sleater-Kinney, Chance the Rapper, and many more gifted artists.

Acts to look for: Vic Mensa, ASAP Ferg, ILoveMakonnen, Run the Jewels

Wicker Park Fest (July 25-26)

Price: $5 Suggested Donation

Ages: All

This two-day street fest is one of Chicago’s most popular. Located on Milwaukee Avenue between North Avenue and Paulina Street, Wicker Park Fest incorporates some of the best musical acts, talented artists, and finest local vendors in the city. The music lineup holds over 30 acts, many of which are extremely popular for a $5 event.

Acts to look for: RJD2, Reverend Horton Heat, Odesza

Lollapalooza (July 31-August 2)

Price: SOLD OUT (However, you can find tix from $148-$392 on StubHub)

Ages: All

Chicago’s largest music festival returns to Grant Park in 2015 with a long list of blended genres and artists. A tradition in Chicago since 2005, Lollapalooza racks in a crowd of over 160,000 people along the three days. I have always had mixed feelings for Lolla. It usually has a decent lineup with acts that I am dying to see; however the crowd of frat boys and overserved teenagers can get conflicting. If you are attending this year, be aware of the massive amount of drunk suburban kids claiming that they are Chicagoans and the amount of commercialized aspects that go with this festival. If you can get past that, you are golden. This year’s lineup includes Paul McCartney, Metallica, Bassnectar, Kid Cudi and many more.

Acts to look for: ASAP Rocky, RL Grime, Tyler the Creator, Alison Wonderland

North Coast Music Fest (September 4-6)

Price: $159

Ages: 17+

My personal pick of all Chicago fests, North Coast Music Festival will celebrate its sixth year at Union Park. North Coast brings in talent from all over the world, well-known and underground artists of all kinds. The last few years focused primarily on DJ sets; however, several known rappers, indie bands, and folk groups perform over the three-day festival too. North Coast offers very relaxed vibes compared to other larger music festivals; however, it encompasses the diversity of stages, the size of the park, and the strength of volume that any large music festival would withhold. Expected attendance is around 58,000 over the three-day event. The 2015 lineup includes The Chemical Brothers, D’Angelo and The Vanguard, Porter Robinson, Knife Party, and many more.

Acts to look for: Jauz, Snails, Trippy Turtle, The Glitch Mob

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