In Chicago, when the warm weather comes, seemingly every nook, niche, and neighborhood throws its own street fair. In the old days, you could expect cover bands and locals only playing to the fried-cheese crowd, but increasingly neighborhood fests are partnering with actual music biz types to draw top-notch bookings. Add to these the bigger spectacles of Blues Fest or Pitchfork and you could practically have the majority of your weekends planned through September. Below are our picks. —Kevin Warwick
Chicago Gospel Music Festival Headliners include Hezekiah Walker & the Love Fellowship Choir, Byron Cage, Fred Hammond, and Richard Smallwood.
Do-Division Street Fest & Sidewalk Sale Two stages of music programmed by the Empty Bottle and Subterranean/House Call Entertainment, featuring YACHT, the Ponys, the Hood Internet, Pelican, the Night Marchers, the Good Life, and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. Other highlights include a DJ stage at the Wicker Hand Car Wash and a sprawling sidewalk sale.
Chicago Blues Fest Featured artists include James Cotton, Otis Taylor, Bobby Parker, Hubert Sumlin, and Guitar Shorty. The Petrillo Music Shell hosts an homage to Chicago blues each night, including a Zora Young tribute to Howlin’ Wolf on Friday, a living history of Chicago blues with Billy Boy Arnold, Billy Branch, and John Primer on Saturday, and a “Chicago Blues Reunion” featuring Barry Goldberg, Corky Siegel, and Nick Gravenites on Sunday.
Ribfest Chicago The rib spectacular offers an impressive cast of headliners on two stages, including Califone, the Whigs, Bottle Rockets, and Langhorne Slim. Those Darlins, Generationals, These United States, and Robbie Fulks also perform.
Metronome Celebration Lineups curated by the Empty Bottle, MP Productions, the Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival, and the Congress Theater feature Akron/Family, Split Lip Rayfield, Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, Alejandro Marcovich, Pegboy, and others.
Taste of Randolph Street Marquee acts include Lucero, Superchunk, One Eskimo, Mucca Pazza, and the Waco Brothers; the food, from a slew of West Loop restaurants, is also better than your average street-fair fare.
Takin’ It to the Streets Organized by Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), with four stages of music featuring Mos Def, Brother Ali, Tinariwen, and Kindred the Family Soul, as well as an international bazaar, a family zone, and a three-on-three basketball tournament.
Taste of Chicago The annual gluttonfest features entertainment by classic and current musical performers at the Petrillo Music Shell, including Salt-n-Pepa, Bell Biv Devoe, Gavin Rossdale, Los Lobos, Trey Songz, the Steve Miller Band, and Passion Pit.
Green Music Fest Eco-friendly weekend with music by the Wailers, the Aggrolites, David Bazan, Cloud Cult, Maps & Atlases, and Fang Island.
FitzGerald’s American Music Festival The festival’s 30th edition features three stages of music occupied by the likes of Bonerama, Willie Nile, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Trombone Shorty, Jon Dee Graham, and James Hunter, among others.
African/Caribbean International Festival of Life Shaggy, Mighty Sparrow, Calypso Rose, and Gramps Morgan are among the handful of performers that have been announced.
Irish American Heritage Festival The Elders, Scythian, Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul, the Tossers, and the Makem & Spain Brothers perform at this 25th annual festival. Other entertainments include Irish dance demos, a mashed-potato eating contest, and the “Hooley Hookup,” a matchmaking event.
Chicago Folk & Roots Festival The Old Town School of Folk Music’s diverse fest features Etran Finatawa, the Budos Band, Red Baraat, Shemekia Copeland, and Les Saltimbanks.
West Fest In addition to a music lineup programmed by the Empty Bottle with Fucked Up, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Small Black, Class Actress, and Bloodiest, the West Town festival also incorporates PUPfest (Protecting Urban Pets), with educational materials on pet training and health, free product samples, and a charity dog wash.
Pitchfork Music Festival The premier indie festival, with sets by Pavement, Modest Mouse, Broken Social Scene, LCD Soundsystem, Big Boi, Lightning Bolt, Panda Bear, Raekwon, St. Vincent, Beach House, Liars, Sleigh Bells, Real Estate, and many others.
Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival A free trolley helps attendees navigate this expansive festival presented by I AM Logan Square (Independent Artists and Merchants of Logan Square), featuring dozens of gallery exhibitions, local music on two stages, and the Logan Square Farmers’ Market on Sunday.
Wicker Park Fest Cap’n Jazz, Holy Fuck, lants and Animals, Baroness, Torche, Fun., Boombox, Gaslamp Killer, and Local H headline.
Lollapalooza A staggering number of both seasoned veterans and up-and-comers, including several alumni of Pitchfork ’09. Big-name acts include Soundgarden, Green Day, Lady Gaga, Arcade Fire, the Strokes, Phoenix, MGMT, the Black Keys, Devo, Grizzly Bear, Hot Chip, Cypress Hill, and the National. The schedule has yet to be announced.
Neon Marshmallow Fest The experimental/noise fest’s inaugural edition features performances by Government Alpha, Astral Social Club, Noveller, Unfact, Emeralds, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Carlos Giffoni, and U.S. Girls.
Caribbean Festival Celebrating island culture with arts and crafts, dominoes tournaments, and live reggaeton, calypso, gospel, and R & B; acts TBA.
African Festival of the Arts Details on this year’s festival have yet to be released; headliners last year included the Ohio Players, Booker T. Jones, Ahmad Jamal, and George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic.
Chicago Jazz Festival Performers and schedule TBA.
¡Viva! Chicago Latin Music Festival Salsa, reggaeton, Spanish pop, mariachi, norteña, and more. Performers and schedule TBA.