Sacred Rose: Chicago’s newest music festival is a ‘choose your own’ affair

A new festival comes into full bloom this weekend in Chicago. Sacred Rose, held Aug. 26-28 at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, promises to be a “choose your own” musical adventure with dedicated stages for fans of jam bands, Americana, psych rock and other experimental styles.

The lineup includes Phil Lesh & Friends, Khruangbin, The War on Drugs, Umphrey’s McGee, STS9, Goose and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, and Margo Price will also be the artist-at-large appearing in surprise sets throughout the weekend. (Black Pumas were slated to appear as well but recently canceled all tour dates.)

Sacred Rose was the brainchild of Chicago-based festival and event producer Collectiv Presents after witnessing a shift in the audience engagement for North Coast, its perennial Labor Day weekend festival. Though North Coast also started in 2010 as a hippie playground combining funk, America, jam and electronic, it has changed in recent years to focus fully on EDM, which left a big opening for Sacred Rose to fill.

“In the early days of North Coast, it was a multi-genre festival, but over the course of time, as that fanbase grew older, the Venn Diagram of these music genres [we offered] started to shift outward and the common space in the middle started to shrink,” explains Collectiv Presents co-founder Michael Berg. By 2019, Collectiv Presents had shifted North Coast to an all-electronic format. But, says Berg, “From that point, we started thinking of how we can service this other part of our community being the jam band/indie rock/psych rock/Americana/funk side of things that all had a presence at North Coast and were a big part of our ecosystem, too.”

Thus, Sacred Rose was born — the name a combination of the Grateful Dead’s iconic art and imagery and Berg’s late grandfather Bert Rose, once a professional piano player in Chicago that turned him onto music at a young age.

Developing two niche events, Berg says, has paid off. With other events, “People might see a lineup poster with less names that they know and may start to see less and less value. By redefining it, now we are giving people more of what they want.” Berg also adds that not since the one-year Dave Matthews Band Caravan in 2011 has there been a jam band event of this scale in the area. “We feel like this is checking a box that hasn’t been checked for the Chicagoland area.”

Held one week before the Sept. 2-4 North Coast weekend at the same venue allows the team to purposefully use the space over two weekends with special build-outs that capitalize on a true festival experience. In addition to copious art installations, there will be chill areas like the Rainbow Lounge with colorful hammock seating, and the Collectiv Presents team will be turning SeatGeek Stadium’s sports dome into a “laser dome” with lighting and DJ sets akin to a Pink Floyd laser light show, Berg says.

Food options will also be plenty including vegetarian and vegan options. Vendors will include locals like Harold’s Chicken and Lou Malnati’s as well as Island Noodles and the very fitting Cosmic Charlie’s Grateful Grill. As of publication, VIP tickets are close to selling out and General Admission tickets are still available.

Here’s a look at five of the acts not to miss this weekend:

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

Paul Janeway of St. Paul and the Broken Bones.

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

One of the best in the modern neo-soul movement, this eight-piece ensemble from Birmingham, Alabama is nothing short of a spiritual orchestra. Led by charismatic singer Paul Janeway (a mix of Cee Lo Green, Al Green and Otis Redding) and a horn section, 90 minutes with them will make you a believer. (8:15 p.m. Friday, The Dreamfield Stage)

Phil Lesh & Friends

Phil Lesh

It wouldn’t be right to have an inaugural year of a jam band fest without one member of the Grateful Dead. Sacred Rose tapped renowned bassist Phil Lesh, though he’s not coming alone. The “friends” part includes Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline, among others, with fans now dubbing the once-in-a-lifetime set “Philco.” (sets at 9 and 10:45 p.m. Friday, The Canopy Stage)

Kitchen Dwellers

The Kitchen Dwellers

Courtesy Sacred Rose

The event also has a few off-the-cuff surprises too like this bluegrass-folk-rock fusion act who are inspired, as they say, by “American West wanderlust.” Having frequently worked with Leftover Salmon’s Andy Thorn, they’re fully vetted for this event. (2:15 p.m. Sunday, The Dreamfield Stage)

Hiatus Kaiyote

Hiatus Kaiyote

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Jazz, funk and experimental R&B all combine in beautiful harmony with this Grammy-nominated Australian quartet who have fans in Erykah Badu, Questlove and Drake (who featured enigmatic singer Nai Palm on his album “Scorpion”). Hiatus Kaiyote’s latest release, “Mood Valiant” is the band’s triumphant return after Palm recovered from breast cancer, with songs inspired by the journey. (5:15 p.m. Sunday, The Vega Stage)

Kamasi Washington

Kamasi Washington

Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

The Los Angeles jazz savant is turning the genre on its head with big energy and a playful attitude in regards to arrangements and collaborations — the most recent being a cover of “My Friend Of Misery” for Metallica’s “Blacklist” charity/anniversary album. Washington’s calculated takes on the saxophone are a real mood setter to wrap things up. (7:15 p.m. Sunday, The Vega Stage)

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