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Summer Guide: Follow the Music

The biggest and best of the music fests


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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.  6/5-6/6, 11 AM-9 PM, Millennium Park, Michigan & Randolph, 312-742-1169,

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.  6/5-6/6, noon-10 PM, Division between Ashland and Leavitt,, $5 suggested donation.

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.  6/11-6/13, 11:30 AM-9:30 PM, Grant Park, Columbus and Jackson, 312-744-3315,

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.  6/11-6/13, Fri 5-10 PM, Sat noon-10 PM, Sun noon-5 PM, Lincoln between Irving Park and Warner,, $5 suggested donation.

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.  6/12-6/13, noon-10 PM, Milwaukee between Armitage and Rockwell, 773-934-6451,, $5 suggested donation.

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.  6/18-6/20, Fri 5-11 PM, Sat 2-11 PM, Sun 2-10 PM, 900 W. Randolph,, $5 suggested donation.

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.  Sat 6/19, 9 AM-9 PM, Marquette Park, 6734 S. Kedzie, 773-434-4626,

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.  6/25-7/4, 11 AM-9 PM, except Sat 7/3, 11 AM-7 PM, and Sun 7/4, 11 AM-6 PM, Grant Park, Columbus and Jackson, 312-744-3315,

Green Music Fest Eco-friendly weekend with music by the Wailers, the Aggrolites, David Bazan, Cloud Cult, Maps & Atlases, and Fang Island.  6/26-6/27, noon-10 PM, Chicago between Ashland and Noble,, $5 suggested donation.

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.  7/1-7/4, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118,, four-day pass $100 (on sale 6/4 through Ticketweb), single-day pass $30.

African/Caribbean International Festival of Life Shaggy, Mighty Sparrow, Calypso Rose, and Gramps Morgan are among the handful of performers that have been announced.  7/2-7/5, noon-10 PM, Washington Park, 5531 S. King Dr., 312-427-0266 or 312-559-1212,, $15 after 5 PM, $10 before 5 PM, $5 children and seniors, $30 for a four-day pass.

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.  7/9-7/11, Fri 6 PM-midnight, Sat noon-midnight, Sun noon-11 PM, Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox, 773-282-7035,, $14, $8 in advance, $7 seniors, free for kids under 12.

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.  7/10-7/11, noon-9:30 PM, Welles Park, 2333 W. Sunnyside, 773-728-6000,, $10 suggested donation, $5 kids and seniors.

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