Top 5 Chicago Music Events

Lollapalooza dominates with big names, while Pitchfork draws from the fringe. Other acts certainly hold their own.

By Derrick Teo Wee Ghee

No matter that the “summer” so far has been, in terms of the weather, a tepid affair at best. For the next three months, the Windy City’s music scene promises enough treats to make it a thoroughly enjoyable break, even if the clouds stay in the sky until September. (Okay, maybe not.) Here are Chicago’s five hottest upcoming summer music events:


This is the boss of all Midwest music festivals. For one, the lineup is massive. With a staggering 84 acts performing over three days, you’ll surely get full use of the slightly pricey 3-day passes. The eclectic mix of headliners alone—Depeche Mode, Jane’s Addiction, Tool, The Killers, Kings of Leon, and Beastie Boys—is a good sign that you’ll get what you came for, no matter what that may be. While all of these crowd-pleasing acts are shoo-ins for festival fun, I think the best musical experience will come from Animal Collective (touring their mind-melting latest album Merriweather Post Pavilion), Bat for Lashes, and Arctic Monkeys, as well as MSTRKRFT and KiD CuDi on the DJ stage. Lollapalooza, however, still has not released the time schedules, so be prepared to feel a stab in your heart when you discover that your two must-see-or-die acts play at exactly the same time. (Grant Park, August 7-9, $190 for 3-day passes)

Pitchfork Music Festival

The young upstart on the festival block, Pitchfork plugs the gaps in Lollapalooza’s sweeping dominance and picks up those who can’t take the heavily corporate environment of Lolla. This year’s festival has a new gimmick: On “Write the Night” Friday, Built to Spill, the Jesus Lizard, Yo La Tengo, and Tortoise will play set lists determined beforehand by the ticket buyers. The main lineup is rather indie-rock leaning, but the Pitchfork Festival features more genre-bending bands throughout the three days. Must-sees are Grizzly Bear, whose new album Veckatimest is an awesome mind-blowing pop concoction, and The National, fresh from curating the all-star charity compilation Dark was the Night. The Danish band Mew is also playing, with the release of their much-awaited album on the horizon. (Union Park, July 17-19, $35 for day passes)

Jóhann Jóhannsson

There’s something about modern classical music that screams “pretentious” and which probably doesn’t fit with anyone’s idea of summer. Jóhannsson’s music, though, will provide an elegant respite from all your wild summer festivities. Don’t worry about the fact that he’s also a conceptual artist, or that he’s from Iceland (gasp!). His compositions are grand, sweeping, and, at the same time, highly accessible. No need to fret about having to exercise any brainpower; this is a good way to relax during the summer and still maintain intellectual cred. (Lakeshore Theatre, June 29, $15)

Veils with Foreign Born

You want melodrama? The Veils will give you melodious drama in the form of meticulously crafted songs that will have you tapping your feet regardless of the band’s gut-wrenching lyrics. While their members aren’t known for consistency during shows, when they hit their stride they’re positively magnetic. To offset the noir feel of The Veils’ music is Californian band Foreign Born and its heartfelt, jangly, and summer-ready tunes. (Empty Bottle, July 23, $12)

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

From the ashes of seminal alt-rock collective Pavement rose Stephen Malkmus and his band the Jicks. Malkmus plays the guitar like he’s mastered Guitar Hero—just less flashy, more realistic, and much more accomplished. His skillful guitar jams exude an easy coolness that partner his cryptic and winding lyric-stories, the band’s laidback style, and a warm summer night with a beer in your hand. (Bottom Lounge, July 2, $17.50)