Summer concert preview
We go beyond Lollapalooza to pick the top 25 shows of the season, chat with the hottest acts coming our way and handicap the city's edgiest indie-rock fests: Pitchfork and Intonation. By TOC staff
City of Chicago festivals
Various dates, locations
It’s a good year for our city’s free fests: For starters, there’s the Gospel (Jun 2–4) and Blues (Jun 8–11) fests—we’ll be front and center for soul legend Bettye LaVette on Jun 8. And let’s not forget SummerDance, which runs Jun 15–Aug 27. One of the festival’s highlights brings Chicago acid legend DJ Pierre to Daley Plaza on Jun 26 for the weekly nomadic electronic night. Lastly, the normally so-so Taste of Chicago (Jun 30–Jul 9) has booked Kinks leader Ray Davies and psychedelic backwoods rockers My Morning Jacket who, simply put, kick ass.
Jackie Allen Quintet
Jun 9–10, Green Mill
Fresh off her 2006 Blue Note debut, longtime Chicago jazz vocalist Jackie Allen will likely dazzle her hometown crowd with cuts from Tangled, her best record yet. Allen’s Chicagocentric update of the Cassandra Wilson template is as artful and accessible as any jazz vocal record you’ll hear this year.
Jun 20, Aragon
There’s metal, and then there’s Slayer. Faster, louder, more intense and, okay, even more humorless than its closest competition, Slayer long ago set the gold standard by which all other headbangers would be judged. Listening to the band’s records is one thing, but seeing it live is another: It’s like laying your head down on the train tracks while a shipment of exploding dynamite rolls overhead.
Jun 13, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
If there’s one thing Bruce Springsteen has taught us, it’s never count the Boss out. Sure, Devils & Dust was an overly somber affair, but Springsteen followed it with a solo jaunt that found him rediscovering and reinventing songs even his die-hard fans had forgotten. And then there’s We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, Springsteen’s latest record, a sort of folk/big-band take on songs made famous by folk singer Pete Seeger. To do the rollicking hootenanny of a disc justice, Springsteen has hit the road with a massive 17-member band, and early reports peg their boogiefied protest songs as the most fun you’ll have all summer.
Jun 14–15 and 18–19, United Center
Madge’s last tour was visually spectacular but thematically muddled. This arena trek should be stronger, if only because Madonna is touring behind Confessions on a Dance Floor, her most consistent record in years. Early tour reviews have her poking fun at her horse-riding accident with an S&M–themed equestrian segment (riding crops! ouch!) and staging a fake crucifixion (with a designer crown of thorns, natch). Let’s see you top that, Mel Gibson.
Jun 19–20, Auditorium Theatre
Early reports of the group getting bumped from Millennium Park in favor of the CSO sparked fears Radiohead would skip Chicago entirely this summer. Thankfully, the band’s chosen instead to swing by the beautiful Auditorium Theatre for a two-night stand, which it will use to preview and test new material. Even if that means this tour is a tease for something much bigger once the new album comes out, who can resist?
B96 SummerBash with Mary J. Blige + Ne-Yo + Pink and more
Jun 24, Bridgeview Stadium
She’s the queen of hip-hop soul—whatever that means. All we know is that few singers bring as much passion to their music as Mary J. Blige, who draws from personal pain and experience to infuse even cover songs with a naked emotion that stirs the spirit—and moves the ass. Jammed onto this typically overpacked SummerBash bill are such major top-40 movers and shakers as Bow Wow, Rihanna, Sean Paul and others.
Jun 24–25, Union Park
The name and location remain the same, but the follow-up to last summer’s inaugural Intonation Festival has a flavor all its own. That’s mostly because Intonation 2 (see “?’Fork in the road,” page 28) is curated by Vice Records, which locked in such label staples as The Streets, The Stills, Bloc Party, Lady Sovereign and Norwegian indie-dance diva Annie. Look beyond the Vice roster, and you’ll find must-sees like Japanese noise legends the Boredoms, psych-rock recluse Roky Erickson, local hip-hop hopefuls Rhymefest and Lupe Fiasco, reunited sludge rockers Blue Cheer and one-man-band pop genius Jon Brion, who rarely sets foot outside of his Los Angeles home base.
New World Music’s Music Without Borders series
Jun 29–Aug 13, Pritzker Pavilion/Millennium Park
Are there two more appealing words than free concerts? The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs is hoping not, offering its Music Without Borders series at the Pritzker Pavilion. Mid-August sees Anoushka Shankar (Aug 13), daughter of sitar legend Ravi Shankar (and half sister to Norah Jones). Early July is Goran Bregovic and the Wedding and Funeral Orchestra, his Balkan brass band (Jul 10). But best of all is the double bill of Brazilian samba-pop favorite Seu Jorge and Mali’s blind husband-wife duo Amadou & Mariam (Jun 29), which has finally made a long-overdue splash in the U.S. with their inspired desert blues.
FitzGerald’s American Music Festival
Jun 30–Jul 3, FitzGerald’s
FitzGerald’s is so warm and welcoming, you could imagine hanging out there without a note of music in the air. Of course, it’s impossible to imagine FitzGerald’s without music, especially when it comes to its annual Fourth of July weekend festival. This year’s lineup features a bevy of rock, blues, folk, and roots acts, including Brave Combo, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, the Blasters and more. FitzGerald’s is expanding to multiple stages and a covered courtyard this year, replete with tasty Cajun eats and cold beer that helps the tunes go down that much easier.
MasterBaTour with Ministry + Revolting Cocks
Jul 1–2, House of Blues
At one point, Ministry ruled the Chicago rock roost. Drugs and a move to Texas set the industrial pioneers back, but in recent years the group has roared back to top form. Ministry is a draw in its own right, but the dorkily named “MasterBaTour” also resuscitates the industrial-rock supergroup side project the Revolting Cocks, featuring Al Jourgensen and whomever he deems an honorary Cock. Relive the glory days of Wax Trax by dressing up like a rock & roll cowboy, taking a shot of some rattlesnake venom and bringing the hedonistic sleaze like the end of the world was yesterday and the whole country has tomorrow off.
Nine Inch Nails + Bauhaus + Peaches
Jul 1, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
Cleaned up, postrehab and pumped up like an industrial-rock Hulk, Trent Reznor continues to lay waste to mike stands and vocal cords as Nine Inch Nails. The group’s With Teeth proved it remains a strong commercial prospect, but it’s onstage that Reznor and cohorts, bloodied and unbowed, really pay the bills. Reznor has invited reunited goth-punk godfathers Bauhaus to open, and pays it forward, too, by tapping electro-sex provocateur Peaches to play first. Bust out the eyeliner and black clothes if you must.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Jul 8, Ravinia Pavilion
Ravinia’s music director, James Conlon, has a long history of distinguished work in the opera pit, and it’s opera experience that’s needed to lead Verdi’s Requiem. The long expanses of solo singing bring the opera house inside the church and cry out to have someone keep it all together. Requiem is also one of the great choral show-off pieces, and when the CSO Chorus lets loose in the Diesirae, watch out. The terrified cries of the damned are punctuated by bass-drum thwacks so loud that no sunburned drunk could talk over them.
Folk and Roots Fest
Jul 8–9, Welles Park
The Old Town School of Folk Music’s spot in the history books is secured, but that’s no reason for the half-century–old institution to slow down. Every summer, the school invites the faithful to its Lincoln Square location for two inevitably gorgeous days of food and music that offer fun for hipsters and families alike. This year’s lineup places an emphasis on musicians from Louisiana (like Irma Thomas), with money raised going to the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic. But expect a much wider array of round-the-world attractions, from reliable local Robbie Fulks to the Congolese Kekele and the Sierra Leonean Refugee All Stars.
Jul 13, Charter One Pavilion
Rumors of record-label repression proved false, and while some prefer leaked early versions of songs from her third album, Extraordinary Machine, many more have come around to the mostly rerecorded released version (produced not by longtime foil Jon Brion but by Dr. Dre’s right-hand man, Mike Elizondo). The results are pure Apple: angsty, distressed and ruefully funny. Knowing that she’s no longer being groomed for mainstream success seems to have lightened the load on Apple a little—there have been no reports of onstage fits or nervous breakdowns (knock on wood).
Grant Park Orchestra
Jul 28, Pritzker Pavilion
Bruckner’s long symphonies can seem to drag on forever, but Grant Park has brought in cucumber-cool Emmanuel Villaume to lead the Symphony No. 7. Villaume’s French background and tastes—he led a laserlike performance of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe last summer—should keep the symphony on the straight and narrow. He’s joined by the regal pianist Louis Lortie for Liszt’s pounding Totentanz (Dance of Death), a work that’s as over the top as Gehry’s sails on the Pritzker Pavilion.
Pitchfork Music Festival
Jul 29–30, Union Park
With 41 bands spread over two days, Pitchfork’s first proper festival (spun off from last year’s Pitchfork-curated Intonation Festival; see “?’Fork in the road,” page 28) would be a bargain at twice the $30 price of a double-day pass. On one hand, there are such marquee acts as Yo La Tengo, Spoon, Devendra Banhart, the Futureheads, Matmos and Ted Leo. On the other hand, there are the must-see reunions, like Mission of Burma (back and better than ever) and Os Mutantes (minus singer Rita Lee). And given the ’Fork boost, relatively fresh acts like tapes ’n tapes, Band of Horses, Jens Lekman and Art Brut won’t stay that way for long.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Jul 30, Ravinia Pavilion
Pianist Jorge Federico Osorio has called Chicago home for years and will begin teaching at Roosevelt University next fall, but he rarely performs here. The Mexican pianist lights up the music of Latin America, as he did last summer with the Grant Park Symphony and on his recent recordings (Cedille), but he performs Mozart tonight. On the schedule are Concertos Nos. 14 in E flat major and 23 in A major, where Osorio’s lyrical playing and delicate touch will be a nice fit with the haunting second movement.
Aug 4–6, Grant Park
Lollapalooza’s second Chicago-exclusive stand features names from Lolla’s distant past—Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth (see “The Youth of today,” page 24)—as well as the more recent past (like Death Cab for Cutie, which played last year). But the three-day, 130-plus-band lineup features so many highlights drawn from the margins as well as the spotlight that it’s hard to know where to start. Wilco and Kanye West get their big homecomings; international pop star Manu Chao makes a rare appearance; Ween and Gnarls Barkley bring the weird; collective-minded Canadian acts Stars, Feist and Broken Social Scene try to break bigger; and a host of indie hopefuls and major-label players all mingle together in this, alt-rock’s most famous pupu platter.
Aug 15, United Center
Remember when Natalie Maines slammed Bush onstage in 2003? Yeah, everyone does. And yeah, three years later, the head Chick is still living it down among right-wing fans. What, Neil Young can rant all he wants, but three Texas ladies can’t? Hopefully the group’s latest release, the Rick Rubin–produced Taking the Long Way, will end the ridiculous controversy. The trio is totally unapologetic about their anti-W words (the first single is the aptly titled “Not Ready to Make Nice”), and the pop-tinged disc may be the trio’s best work yet.
Durban-Chicago: Ernest Dawkins and New Horizons + Mandingo Griot Society
Aug 17, Pritzker Pavilion
Saxophonist Ernest Dawkins, one of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians’ most eloquent practitioners of hard and free bop, incorporates jazz legends from South Africa into his hard-swinging New Horizons ensemble. Gambian kora player Foday Musa Suso and his Mandingo Griot Society merge the worlds of Africa and Chicago with help from one-time Chicago percussionists Hamid Drake and Adam Rudolph.
Europe-Chicago: Ken Vandermark’s Territory Band 6, featuring Fred Anderson + Fred Anderson Trio
Aug 24, Pritzker Pavilion
While Chicago’s free-jazz legends are treated like movie stars in Europe, they just as often play to loyal but meager crowds in their hometown. The city finally celebrates scene elder and AACM saxophonist Fred Anderson in a big band that merges Scandinavian free-jazz stars with Chicago’s own. MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant winner Ken Vandermark composes several new works that feature Anderson in his first showcase as a big-band soloist.
Aug 25, United Center
Colombia’s hottest (legal) export still sparks debate; like, is Shakira better as a brunet or as a blonde? Is her Spanish singing superior to her English vocals? Does the belly-dancing sex symbol have anything going on upstairs, or is the action all, you know, down there? Any way you slice it, she’s a crossover superstar, the poster child for a new pop world where borders mean a heck of a lot less than what you wear and how you move onstage. In other words, she’s smarter than you think. But the scantily clad writhing doesn’t hurt, either.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Sept 3, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash need Neil Young more than he needs them. His new album, the punky (in spirit) Living with War, is more vital than anything his erstwhile bandmates have released in decades. Yet Young often brings out the best in his fellow survivors. This is being called the Freedom of Speech ’06 tour, so expect ample speechifying in addition to those inimitable songs and harmonies. And of course, expect those famously jagged Young guitar solos to light up the night like fireworks.
Touch and Go Records 25th anniversary celebration at the tenth annual Hideout Block Party
Sept 8–10, Hideout
Even though it got its start in the Detroit hardcore scene, Touch and Go has become one of Chicago’s most prestigious local labels—it could be argued that it, along with Drag City and Thrill Jockey, is one of the three main pillars of local indie rock. Over the years, Touch and Go has given us several of our favorite bands, dozens of which are returning the favor by taking over the Hideout Block Party for a three-day bash: Shellac, Ted Leo and Pinback are all on board, as well as reunions of the Didjits and Jesus Lizard precursors Scratch Acid (both with all original members). For us, it’s the street fest to beat this year, and it’s for a good cause: All of the ticket profits will be donated to Tuesday’s Child, Literacy Works and the Thomas Drummond Elementary School.
For complete venue information.