More than Lollapalooza: Chicago's summer music festivals

    Missed Coachella because of midterms? Sad you can’t go to Sasquatch because of finals? No need to fret, because Chicago is home to a myriad of well-known — and lesser-known — outdoor summer music festivals. Not all the lineups are complete, but so far it looks like this year the Midwest will be giving Bonnaroo and Outside Lands a run for their money. Take advantage of the very local Wicker Park Fest and North Coast Music Festival, which are bringing in some big names this year at bargain prices compared to the typical triple-digit tickets of other festivals. So pack some sunscreen, shades and your best neo-Bohemian threads and hop on the El to see some of the best music this side of the Mississippi.

    North Coast Music Festival

    Dates: Friday, September 2 to Sunday, September 4
    Location: Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL
    El Stop: Ashland-Lake, Green/Pink
    Price: $95 for a three-day pass

    North Coast Music Festival 2010. Photo courtesy of the extinction blues on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons.

    Suffer from split-music personality? Then celebrate Labor Day weekend by sticking around Union Park for the North Coast Music Festival, which is from September 2 to 4 and covers all the musical bases from Top 40 radio hits to underground dance DJs. And though the entire lineup hasn’t been announced yet, known headliners include a variety of artists from rapper Wiz Khalifa to gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello. Other highlights include trip-hop DJ duo Thievery Corporation and Swedish synth-pop band Little Dragon. But don’t miss chillwavers Neon Indian’s set, which is sure to filled with plenty of fun vibes and floaty synths that will just make you want to head bob and sway along. Three-day passes for the festival are available for $95, however, be sure to also get tickets for the slew of official after parties. The after parties will all feature extra sets by performers such as The Disco Biscuits and Boys Noize at various clubs around the city with prices ranging from $5 to $25. Buy your tickets now, because for the price of a concert T-shirt you’ll never wear again, you can finish the night off right with a heavy dose of dancing, DJs and debauchery.

    Wicker Park Fest

    Dates: Saturday, July 23 and Sunday, July 24
    Location: Milwaukee Avenue, from North Avenue to Wood Street
    El Stop: Damen, Blue
    Price: Suggested $5 donation

    The giant block party that is Wicker Park Fest in 2008. Photo courtesy of subbu4 on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons.

    Catch the Metra or take the Blue Line to über-hip Wicker Park for the eighth annual Wicker Park Fest on July 23 and 24. It’s always a big community event that only requires a suggested donation of $5 to see a great lineup filled with big-name buzz bands that would make even Pitchfork a tad jealous. Attracting a crowd of over 52,000 people last year, this neighborhood block party on steroids is set to be even bigger this year with acts such as folk rockers Blitzen Trapper and all-girl supergroup Wild Flag, which is made up of members from Sleater-Kinney, Helium and the Minders. The rest of the lineup still has yet to be announced, but with acts such as Stereogum sweethearts Wavves headlining, it’ll be difficult not to enjoy this bargain of a show, especially because tickets for any of one of these acts usually goes for at least double that. So stick around for all-day DJs and local Chicago favorites Flosstradamus and California Wives, all the while spending that money you saved on three-day festival passes on overpriced concert food and band merch.

    Pitchfork Music Festival

    Dates: Friday, July 15 to Sunday, July 17
    Location: Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL
    El Stop: Ashland-Lake, Green/Pink
    Price: $45 for a one-day pass

    Fans dance at the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival. Photo courtesy of weeklydig on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons.

    Online indie music tastemaker, Pitchfork, is having their annual summer festival at Union Park in the Near West Side neighborhood from July 15 to 17. This year’s lineup has been carefully curated and consists of some of the most buzzed-about bands this side of the blogosphere, including Toro Y Moi and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Three-day passes are already sold out, but single day tickets for every day are still available for $45 each. If you only have the funds for one day though, go Saturday when the best up-and-coming bands, such as the heavily 80s-influenced Twin Shadow and one-man shoegaze band Wild Nothing, are playing. Other highlights include performances by noise rock act HEALTH, the dreamy, R&B-inspired How to Dress Well and folksy, lo-fi artist Kurt Vile. Big names such as Animal Collective, Neko Case, Cut Copy and Fleet Foxes will also be there, as well as Internet sensation Das Racist. In addition to music, the festival will have food vendors and specialty fairs as a way to support the local Chicago arts community. So pick up some papier-mâché crafts and plop down with some PBR to enjoy a slew of Pitchfork-approved music and, of course some “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.”


    Dates: Friday, August 5 to Sunday, August 7
    Location: Grant Park, 337 E. Randolph Street
    El Stop: Lake, Red
    Price: $215 for a three-day pass

    The famed Lollapalooza sign marks the entrance to the festival. Photo courtesy of Fuzzy Gerdes on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons.

    Now in its 20th year, Lollapalooza is as much a Chicago institution as other nearby Loop landmarks like the Bean and Sears Tower. This year’s lineup features over 130 acts, ranging from big names such as rapper Eminem, British hit-makers Coldplay and hip-hop soul singer Cee-Lo Green to new buzz-bands such as the folk/dream pop-influenced duo Wye Oak, ethereal alterna-rockers Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and the catchy, energetic The Joy Formidable. Held in historic Grant Park, this year’s festival, running from August 5 to 7, will have gourmet food vendors at the aptly named Chow Town, as well as an emphasis on eco-friendliness that includes a “Rock and Recycle” program and “Green Street,” which according to the website will show how “Lolla is one of the most environmentally friendly music festivals in the world.” Don’t miss sets by dance-punk duo Death From Above 1979, who are reuniting after five years and whose appearance caused a riot at Austin’s SXSW, as well as Bright Eyes, who are sure to play plenty of their old and best known songs off staple albums such as Fevers and Mirrors and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. Other acts to catch include sassy, surf rock band Best Coast, glitchy, electronic duo Crystal Castles and psychedelic prog-rockers Portugal. The Man. And while early bird tickets are sold out, regular three-day passes are still on sale for $215. And trust us, you’ll want to catch Dave Grohl dancing to Deadmau5, not to mention a Taylor Momsen meltdown as she’s mangling the words to Muse.


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