Chicago truly comes alive in the summer and with that energy comes the return of festival season. With the ever expanding music festival scene this vibrant metropolis has to offer, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed in choosing which ones to attend.
So we did the heavy lifting for you and comprised the absolute best music festivals in or around Chicago, Illinois so that you can know without a doubt that your Chicago-festival season is in good hands.
No let’s dive into the list.
Lollapalooza @ Grant Park
Started in 1991 by Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell, Lollapalooza continues to hold down the proverbial fort in Chicago – expanding from a 3-day event to a 4-day festival. If there’s one festival that started it all in Chicago, it’s Lollapalooza. It remains a staple for a reason..because classics don’t die, they get better like fine wine.
Lollapalooza has morphed into one of the largest and most traveled to mega festivals in the world – bringing in the biggest stars on the planet to play in Chicago’s beautiful Grant Park. Set against the backdrop of Chicago’s magnificent skyline and the Lake Michigan, it’s hard to beat the experience of attending Lollapalooza. It’s almost a right of passage for any festival goer; like going to Coachella for the first time.
Lollapalooza weekend has something for everyone – from up and coming bands, to world class EDM DJs, to the top of the music charts. You can’t go wrong! Check out a small sample of what Lolla brings to the table with this article recapping Lollapalooza 2018 here.
Lollapalooza runs from July 28th -July 31st.
For more information or to purchase tickets go to Lollapalooza.com
Heatwave @ Douglas Park
Auris Presents has been cooking up some of the best events (and venues) Chicago has to offer.
Regularly churning out the best in Dance, Indie, and Hip-Hop concerts at their venues: Radius, Concorde, and Prsym, Auris Presents continues to expand as an integral part of Chicago’s music scene.
This time around, the good folks that have taken helm of Chicago’s dance music scene, are literally making waves with the addition of Heatwave – a one of a kind festival where Pop Art and Dance Music intersect. They continuously push the envelope forward with the unique events they produce on the regular.
One of the biggest draws to any good festival is its ability to awaken all of the senses.
With an All-Star DJ/producer line-up such as Zeds Dead, RL Grimes, and Above & Beyond (just to name a few), along with installations and multiple Pop-Art immersive environments to explore, Heatwave is sure to be the hottest ticket in town. You do not want to miss this one!
Heatwave runs July 16th-17th at Douglas Park.
For more information and or to purchase tickets, visit heatwavemusicfestival.com
Pitchfork Music Festival @ Union Park
Pitchfork always puts together one of the most eclectic festivals Chicago has to offer. It’s the no frills music festival for those that just want to go listen to music without all the “pomp and circumstance” most festivals are known for.
As one of the leading voices in the music industry, Pitchfork always puts together one of the most eclectic festivals Chicago has to offer. It’s the no frills music festival for those that just want to go listen to music without all the “pomp and circumstance” most festivals are known for.
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With a heavy focus on the vanguards of alternative indie, dance, hip-hop, rock, and even experimental music, PMF is the go-to festival to see the tastemakers of the industry in action.
If “High Fidelity” was an inspiration for a music festival, you better believe John Cusack’s character, Rob Gordon, would be curating this lineup with the best “Top 5” of each category imaginable. The whole indie vibe trickles down to every aspect of this festival from the performers, to the artisans, artists, vendors, and attendees.
Beyond the music, Pitchfork Music Festival has been the breeding grounds for activism at a festival; whether it’s providing tools for attendees to offset carbon footprint, registering new voters, or advocating for marginalized groups.
Pitchfork bridges the gap between music, culture, and the things that matter most.
Pitchfork Music Festival runs July 15th – July 17th at Union Park.
For more information or for tickets, go to pitchforkmusicfestival.com
Arc Music Festival @ Union Park
As the birthplace of House Music, Chicago is home to some of the most world renowned DJs, producers, and performers in the world. While there’s no shortage of EDM festivals, it’s Arc Music Festival that really hones in on the backbone of the dance music scene – House Music and Techno.
With performances from the likes of Carl Cox, to Derrick Carter, to Mark Farina, you would swear you landed in Ibiza and beelined to one of its iconic dance clubs. The heavy hitters attached to this festival are the who’s who in House and Techno music and are arguably the reason why dance music has been catapulted to where it is today.
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Setting the tone in 2021 for their inaugural year, Arc Music Festival makes its sophomore return as it seemingly encapsulates the feel of Chicago better than any other festival – as House Music is engrained in the very fiber of the city.
Produced by Auris Presents, Arc Music Festival is truly a one of a kind experience. Setting the skyline as a backdrop for the fest, it’s like taking the best dance club experience outside with all the bells and whistles to boot.
Falling on Labor Day weekend, there’s no better way to end the summer than with what will become a Chicago staple for years to come.
Arc Music Festival runs at Union Park from Sept. 2nd-4th.
Check out a snippet of the lineup and what’s in store at Arc Music Festival here.
Arc Music Festival runs Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 2nd-4th. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit arcmusicfestival.com
Riot Fest @ Douglas Park
When Riot Fest was first conceived, it originally started as a multi-venue festival. Quickly outgrowing the original concept, Riot Fest has since been unofficially closing out Chicago’s music festival season and what an encore to end with!
With a heavy focus on the full gamut of performers in the punk music scene – be it rock, indie, hip-hop, punk, or metal, Riot Fest stands on its own in the music festival world.
As a largely independently run festival, there’s no denying that Riot Fest lives up to its namesake. It rebels against the status quo and thankfully so.
In a world where a lot of festivals feel like they’ve been made by the same cookie cutter formula, Riot Fest takes what you think you know of festivals and slaps you in the face with the familiar teenage angst we once had as adolescents.
Known for literally getting bands together to play a long-awaited reunion show or getting bands to play the entirety of an album that put them on the map, Riot Fest is nostalgia personified. The festival is the closest you’ll ever get to something totally raw and we appreciate that.
With performances by the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Ice Cube, and The Misfits- playing the entirety of their critically acclaimed, “Walk Among Us,” Riot Fest is the perfect festival for anyone looking to reignite the fire that once burned from within.
Riot fest runs from September 16th-18th in Douglas Park. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit this link here.