The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events produces and promotes music festivals along the lakefront, downtown, and throughout the city. Regardless of your music preference, the lineup of festivals has something for everyone. In the event you already have plans to visit Chicago this summer, or need an excuse to head to the “Windy City,” in an upcoming summer, here is a quick overview of highlights from this summer’s schedule:
Summer Camp * May 22-24
Summer Camp was the first festival of the season, hosted in Three Sisters Park, Chillicothe, just north of Peoria and about a two and half hour drive from Chicago. Since the first Summer Camp Music Festival was held in 2001, the Festival has grown to more than 20,000 attendees, hosting more than 100 bands on 7 stages over 4 days. The list of performers this year included The Steve Miller Band, Umphrey’s McGee, Widespread Panic, Moe., John Butler Trio, and Krewella. Make sure to remember a tent if you plan to attend this festival!
Chicago Gospel Music Festival * May 29-31 The 30th Chicago Gospel Music Festival was held in Millennium Park (which is located within the city’s larger Grant Park) and showcased the best in local, national, and international Gospel Music performers. Musicians included Ricky Dillard & New G, Anita Wilson and Jonathan McReynolds, Brian Courtney Wilson, The Brown Sisters, and many more. Admission to this outdoor festival is free!
Ravinia * June 13 - September 12
The Ravinia Festival, 111 years old this summer, is North America’s oldest outdoor music festival, presenting more than 140 different events throughout the summer. Ravinia will attract about 600,000 attendees, and events will cover all genres from classical music, to jazz, to theater, done over the course of three months. Over the years, this festival has been a destination for some great artists, including George Gershwin, Louis Armstrong, and Yo-Yo Ma. This year will highlight performances from Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Steely Dan, Aretha Franklin, Sheryl Crow, Blondie, Melissa Etheridge, and Santana. For a complete schedule of events visit: http://www.ravinia.org/Calendar.
Chicago Blues Festival
* June 12-14
Celebrating its 32nd year, the Chicago Blues Festival is the largest free blues festival in the world. It remains the largest of Chicago’s Music Festivals. This three day festival was held on five stages in Grant Park, and this year’s headliner was Chicago legend, Buddy Guy. The list of other performers included Zora Young, Syl Johnson, Taj Mahal Trio, and Toronzo Cannon. The legacies of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon were celebrated during this year’s festival.
Windy City Lakeshake
* June 19-21
Country music fans were excited this year as this brand-new country festival made its debut, landing some pretty big names for its first year. Held at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island, this festival hosted performers like Brad Paisley, Clare Dunn, Florida Georgia Line, and Dierks Bentley. 3-day general admission and 3-day grandstand tickets were sold, but fans could also purchase VIP passes. VIP attendees hung out in the exclusive “FIAT” lounge and were privy to shaded reserved seating, elevated views, and upgraded food.
*June 24-28, June 30-July 6
Summerfest was held at Henry Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee, just over 90 miles north of Chicago. Celebrated as the “world’s largest music festival” it spanned a total of 11 days and included over 800 acts and 1,000 performances, which were enjoyed by more than 900,000 fans. The idea of Summerfest dates back to the late 1960s. Over the years, the permanent 75-acre festival site has seen great growth and enhancements, including capital improvements and new partners, vendors, and exhibits. The 2015 lineup included The Rolling Stones, Carrie Underwood, Kings of Leon, Keith Urban, Stevie Wonder, Bastille, Zac Brown Band, and Ed Sheeran.
Lollapalooza * July 31-August 2
As if the middle of the summer in Chicago isn’t hot enough, the Lollapalooza festival really turns up the heat. This festival, held in Millennium Park, is the jackpot of music festivals. General admission and 1-day passes are already sold out, so the only way to get in now is by purchasing a 3-day VIP pass, which are also going fast! The VIP pass grants entrance into the two “Lolla Lounges” that include catered food, mini-spa treatments, golf cart shuttles to the viewing platforms, and premium sightlines. This year’s anticipated lineup includes performances by Paul McCartney, Sam Smith, Kid Cudi, Metallica, Florence + the Machine, and Alabama Shakes.
Chicago Jazz Festival
* September 3-6
Hosted in Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center, this year’s 37th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival will toast to 100 years of Billie Holiday, 50 years of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and 25 years of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Since 1979, the festival’s mission has been to showcase Chicago’s vast jazz talent alongside national and international artists. The festival promotes appreciation for all forms of jazz through quality live performances, and is the largest free jazz festival in the world. This year’s top headliners include Muhal Richard Abrams, Jose James, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Henry Butler.