A Guide To Chicago’s Summer Music Festivals

Summer is right around the corner – despite the fact that we’ve had gloomy, chilly weather for months and shows no signs of slowing down. I’m getting excited for the sunshine with a post featuring some of the best Chicago music festivals happening this year: it’s truly amazing how many there are and how cheap (or free) a lot of them are! I haven’t been to all of these festivals: just about half, I’d say, and I’m excited to check more out this year.

Below are eight different festivals you should check out (eight for 2018) including lineup highlights and pricing information. Enjoy!

House of Vans Summer Concert Series

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Dates: May 31-August 8
Lineup Highlights: Vic Mensa, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Princess Nokia
Price: Free (RSVP for each show opens on select dates. Click here for info).
Location: 113 N Elizabeth St / West Loop

The House of Vans is a special event space that hosts a variety of music performances, pop-up exhibits and shops and special workshops. With only three locations in Chicago, Brooklyn and London, this location has been open for just about a year and a half and recently announced this concert series taking place this summer. The best part – it’s completely free. If you want to get in on the action, all you have to do is visit the House of Vans website, pick a show you want to see, and RSVP for free. I’m hoping to check out Unknown Mortal Orchestra on July 27.

Ribfest Chicago

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Dates: June 8-10
Lineup Highlights: The Band Camino, Yoke Lore, Ra Ra Riot
Price: $10 suggested donation upon entry
Location: Lincoln / Irving Park / Damen near Irving Park

I have not attended this festival before – it’s funny because I grew up in Naperville and we have a Ribfest event like this as well. I hadn’t even really heard about this festival much until I got an email from Bandsintown that Yoke Lore was playing a show in Chicago! (Many of you would already know that I’ve seen him a couple times and really enjoy his music). Unfortunately I’m seeing Middle Kids the same night he’s performing at Ribfest – this is a great festival with bands that I really enjoy! If you’re looking for a casual festival focused on food with some musicians performing all weekend, this is a great place to spend your weekend.

Millennium Park Music Series

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Dates: June 18-August 16
Lineup Highlights: The Aces, Bahamas, Whitney
Price: Free
Location: 201 E Randolph St, Chicago

I’ve lived in Chicago for the past 6 years or so and I’ve still never seen a movie or performance in Millennium Park! This is going to change for me this weekend because I’m going to see Bon Iver perform (his first show in Chicago in seven years!) When I saw the lineup for the free music series this summer, I knew I would be going at least once, if not more. I’m most excited to check out The Aces in June and will hopefully make it back for another show later this summer. It’s a great activity for a weekday evening and of course – we should be taking advantage of the fact that it’s free.

Taste of Randolph

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Dates: June 15-17
Lineup Highlights: Allen Stone, Mondo Cozmo, Overcoats
Price: Suggested $10 donation upon entry
Location: Randolph & Peoria / West Loop

I went to this festival for the first time last year to check out Dawes and I honestly had a blast. It was a super low-key relaxed vibe and felt different because there was an older crowd and people were there to enjoy the food and the environment, when I’m used to a lot of belligerent younger people at festivals like Lollapalooza. I am SO excited to see Overcoats again – they released one of my favorite albums of 2017 and I’m definitely planning on getting the front row for their set. Allen Stone is also a living legend – I’m hoping to see him too! (But he’s playing on Father’s Day, so it’s TBD at this point).  Be sure to go with an appetite!

Mamby On The Beach

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Dates: June 23-24
Lineup Highlights: Spoon, Grizzly Bear, LΓ©on, Grandson, Cold War Kids, St. Lucia, Honne, Mansionair
Price: 2-day pass: $109, 1-day pass: $79
Location: Oakwood Beach

I personally think that Mamby on The Beach is one of Chicago’s most unique festivals. It’s only a few years old and I think they’ve continuously done a great job at creating solid lineups. I went last year for the first time to see Local Natives and I had such a great time, the atmosphere is a little more laid-back than Lollapalooza and the environment isn’t nearly as overwhelming since the grounds are a lot smaller and things are more contained. They have really cool aspects of the festival like being on the beach (hence the name) and lots of food vendors and even a silent disco. I have been contemplating going this year, but I will probably end up at a day of Pitchfork instead.

Taste of Chicago

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Dates: July 11-15
Lineup Highlights: Brandi Carlile, BJ The Chicago Kid, The Flaming Lips
Price: Free (Ticketed seating is $25)
Location: Grant Park

I think I have only been to Taste of Chicago a few times throughout my lifetime, which is weird because i’ve lived in Illinois my entire life. If I am not mistaken, The Taste is one of the biggest free food festivals in the world, if not the biggest, so I think it’s cool that they manage to also curate a really interesting music lineup – the three artists I listed above as highlights are so ridiculously different from each other, it’s guaranteed to pull in a wide demographic. The last time I went to Taste, I saw fun. – I think it was in 2012 – and I had a blast.


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Dates: July 20-22
Lineup Highlights: Tame Impala, Courtney Barnett, Fleet Foxes, The War on Drugs, Lauryn Hill, Chaka Khan
Price: 3-day passes: $175, 1-day pass: $75
Location: Union Park

I’m going to be honest when I say that I’ve avoided going to Pitchfork in year’s prior because I really don’t think I would fit in and am worried about feeling uncomfortable or out of place. It’s super silly because I know that people aren’t paying attention to each other and are focused on the music, so I’m really hoping I go this year! I like a handful of artists performing on each day, but I’m seriously considering going on Friday this year to see Tame Impala and Courtney Barnett (among a couple others). The lineup is great this year and if you’re looking for a smaller and cheaper alternative to Lollapalooza, this is it.


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Dates: August 2-5
Lineup Highlights: Arctic Monkeys, Bruno Mars, Vampire Weekend, Dua Lipa, St. Vincent, Khalid, Post Malone, Chrvches, Camila Cabello
Price: 4-day passes are sold out. Only Thursday & Sunday passes are still on sale for $120 plus fees. VIP 4-day passes are $2200 plus fees (wow).
Location: Grant Park

As we all know, I’m a veteran Lollapalooza attendee and would always encourage people to check it out if they haven’t before. The festival can be overwhelming quite often but there’s really nothing like being in the middle of Grant Park enjoying beautiful weather and great music with 100,000 other people. If you’re really looking for the ultimate festival experience, this is the one that I would recommend. I personally think that the price is worth it – considering I can see up to 40 acts in 4 days (if I tried really hard) and you really can’t put a price on that.

Do you have any plans to attend any of these festivals during the summer? Let me know in a comment below!

– Kristin


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