Things to do in Chicago for music fansMary Houlihan – For the Sun-Timeson September 16, 2021 at 5:35 pm

Welcome to our highlights for concerts, festivals and live music in Chicago. From free shows at Millennium Park to large festivals like Ravinia and Lollapalooza, and intimate shows at small local venues, our guide has all the latest music entertainment. Bookmark this page and check back for updates on concerts and events.

Riot Fest

WHAT: Riot Fest returns with a massive lineup including a Sept. 16 preview party with Patti Smith, Morrissey, Alkaline Trio, Joyce Manor, WDRL and Kristeen Young. The following three days include performances by The Smashing Pumpkins, Coheed and Cambria, Lupe Fiasco, Run the Jewels, Faith No More, Vic Mensa, Gogol Bordello, Slipknot, Machine Gun Kelly, The Flaming Lips, Devo and more.

WHEN: From Sept. 16-19

WHERE: Douglass Park, 1401 S. Sacramento

TICKETS: $45 (Thu preview party), $124 (Fri-Sun), 3-day passes begin at $199. For updated information regarding the festival’s Covid 19 vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

Mdou Moctar

Mdou Moctar WH Moustapha Photo

WHAT: Mdou Moctar’s home is Agadez, a desert village in rural Niger, where inspired by traditional Tuareg melodies and videos of Eddie Van Halen’s six string techniques, he mastered the guitar and created his own burning style. With the recent album, “Afrique Victime,” the oft-hailed “Jimi Hendrix of the Sahara” mixes contemporary Saharan music and rock on songs that are poetic meditations on love, religion, women’s rights, inequality and Western Africa’s exploitation at the hands of colonial powers.

WHEN: 9 p.m. Sept. 17

WHERE: Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln

TICKETS: $18, $20. For updated information regarding the venue’s Covid 19 vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

Alligator Records All-Star Concert

WHAT: Celebrate an iconic Chicago record label at the Alligator Records All-Star Concert. Featured performers are Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, Wayne Baker Brooks, Nick Moss Band, Billy Branch, The Cash Box Kings and Shemekia Copeland.

WHEN: From 5:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 18

WHERE: Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Randolph.

TICKETS: Admission is free. For updated information regarding the venue’s Covid 19 vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

Chicago Sinfonietta

Tessa Lark Lauren Desberg

WHAT: The Chicago Sinfonietta opens its season with “New Folk,” a concert featuring Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” followed by guest violinist Tessa Lark in Michael Torke’s “Sky,” a fusion inspired by Irish reels and American bluegrass, and William Dawson’s “Negro Folk Symphony,” a piece informed by traditional spirituals.

WHEN/WHERE: At 8 p.m. Sept. 18 (Wentz Concert Hall, North Central College, 171 W. Chicago, Naperville; $49, $62) and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20, (Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; $22-$62).

INFO: For updated information regarding the concert’s Covid 19 vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

Ear Taxi Festival

Matt UlerySally Blood Photo

WHAT: The Ear Taxi Festival with its spotlight on new and experimental music begins with a Spotlight Series from Sept. 16-29 followed by a Mainstage Series Sept. 30-Oct. 4. The opening weekend is packed full of performances: rhythm is image (Sept. 16), Matt Ulery’s Mannerisst 11 (Sept. 17), Quijote Duo (Sept. 18), Kosmologia (Sept. 18-19), Fifth House Ensemble (Sept. 19), Fourth Coast Ensemble (Sept. 19) and Koeun Grace Lee (Sept. 19).

TICKETS/INFO: Prices and locations vary. For a complete schedule and updated information regarding the festival’s Covid 19 vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

‘Feelin’ Groovy Series’ at The Hideout

WHAT: As part of the city’s Chicago in Tune Festival, The Hideout’s “Feelin’ Groovy” series features conversations with key figures from Chicago independent record labels and live sets of music from musicians that span genres and generations. Upcoming are Cedille Records president Jim Ginsburg with Black Oak Ensemble (Sept. 13), Thrill Jockey founder Bettina Richards with Thalia Zedek Band (Sept. 15), Teklife co-founders of Ashes57 and DJ Spinn with a performance by DJ Spinn (Sept. 16), Sooper Records co-founder Nnamdi with Sen Morimoto, Drag City director of sales Rian Murphy with Lama Lobsang Palden and Jim Becker (Sept. 22) and Sonorama Discos co-founder Marlowe Baca with Dos Santos (Oct. 1).

WHEN/WHERE: All are at 6 p.m. outdoor at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia.

TICKETS: Admission is free. For vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

Ifetayo Ali-Landing(C) Earl E. Gibson III


Megan Thee Stallion (pictured at Lollapalooza in July) is a Summerfest headliner.Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

WHAT: Long the cornerstone of Milwaukee’s festival season, Summerfest returns to the city’s lakefront with a lineup including headliners Luke Bryan, Chance the Rapper, Twenty One Pilots, the Jonas Brothers, Chris Stapleton, Zac Brown Band, Dave Chappelle, Megan Thee Stallion, Miley Cyrus, Guns N’ Roses and the Hella Mega Tour with Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer.

WHEN: Sept. 1-4, 8-11 and 15-18 in downtown Milwaukee.

TICKETS: For a complete schedule, ticket prices and updated information regarding the festival’s COVID-19 vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

World Music Wednesday

Bomba con Buya Amy Young Photo

WHAT: The Old Town School of Folk Music’s weekly showcase of world music and dance, returns beginning Sept. 1 with Jazz a la Mexicana, a concert featuring traditional and folkloric Mexican music mixed with jazz. A celebration of Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center’s 50th anniversary follows on Sept. 8 with performances of Puerto Rican bomba music by Bomba con Buya and Mancha E’ Platano. The current roster of concerts runs through Dec. 1.

WHERE: Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln

Admission is free, a $10 suggested donation is appreciated. For updated information regarding the venue’s Covid 19 vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

House City Series

DJ TraxmanCourtesy Chicago Park District

What: The Departments of Cultural Affairs and Special Event’s tribute to house music continues with House City, a new series of free events popping up throughout the summer in the neighborhoods that helped create the house music genre over 35 years ago.

When/Where: vent dates and communities are July 23 in South Shore, July 31 on the Southeast Side, Aug. 14 in Humboldt Park, Aug. 28 in Englewood, Aug. 29 in Lakeview, Sept. 12 in South Shore and Sept. 19 in Bronzeville. DJs playing include Traxman, Lori Branch, Deeon, Elbert Philips, Duane Powell and more.

Info: For locations and times, visit

Chris Foreman Courtesy Origin Records

Chris Foreman at the Green Mill

What: The Green Mill has reopened and that means the return of Chris Foreman, a Friday night fixture at the popular jazz club. Foreman, a jazz organist blind since birth, is a master on the Hammond B3 and regarded as Chicago’s best. His playing is a blend of blues-gospel and jazz honed in his professional experience, which has included work with Hank Crawford, Albert Collins, Bernard Purdie, The Deep Blue Organ Trio and The Mighty Blue Kings.

When: 5-7:30 p.m. Fridays

Where: The Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway

Cost: No cover charge


Ravinia Festival

What: The Ravinia Festival, the oldest outdoor music festival in the country, returns with reduced capacity. As usual, the lineup is a varied slate of music from classical to pop, jazz and rock. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra returns for a six-week run with conductor Marin Alsop leading seven concerts in her first season as Ravinia’s chief conductor. Also on the roster are: Garrick Ohlsson, Cynthia Erivo, Counting Crows, Kurt Elling, Brian McKnight, John Hiatt and the Jerry Douglas Band, The Roots, John Legend, Madeleine Peyroux, Midori, Joshua Bell, Pinchas Zukerman, the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Joffrey Ballet.

When: July 1-Sept. 26

Where: Highland Park

Tickets: prices vary


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