Chicagoans are getting their favorite events back this summer, although some come later than usual. Like many others, the Millennium Park Summer Concert Series is getting off to a late start this year, its 10 shows being scheduled to unfold starting August 2nd until September 16th. This summer tradition was really missed last year, when the annual series of free concerts at Pritzker Pavilion was cancelled, like basically all large crowds events, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The concerts in Millenium Park are not the only free outdoor events people could finally attend. After it has been limiting events for more than a year, Gallagher Way — the plaza right next to Wrigley Field—invited Chicagoans to various free summer attractions, from Music Box Theatre-run movie screenings to art markets and concerts.
All pavilions operating at full capacity and no prior reservation needed
According to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Event’s website, all Pritzker Pavilion events will operate at full capacity and no advance registration will be needed to access the lawn or seating area inside the pavilion. And, as usual, people will be allowed to bring their own food and beverages, including alcohol, when they come to the Millennium Park for the show. These rules might however change, since, as the DCASE website also states, “all summer events will adhere to the latest public health and safety guidelines.”
Since 2021 is the Year of Chicago Music, the lineup of concerts consists mainly of local artists and organizations, featuring shows curated by long-running LGTBQ+ party Slo ‘Mo, musician Andrew Sa, DJ Alejandro Ayala, the Goodman Theater and the Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL), among others. The shows are celebrating Chicago’s music scene, while finding possibilities to further support our local musicians.
All shows start at 6 pm and last about 2 and a half hours, and although individual lineups are still being completed, we currently can inform you about the 10 shows which are already on the schedule.
The divas evening: Akenya & Friends + Mermaid
Female-powered R&B, house, disco and pop songs are the attractions of the evening curated by singer-songwriter Akenya when local musicians and vocalists will help celebrate LGBTQ+ party Slo ‘Mo’s 10th anniversary. Local soul and R&B duo Mermaid—which formed when Candace Quarrels and Brittany Campbell met as performers in the Chicago production of Hamilton—open the show.
An evening of healing through the power of music
The voices of the Muslim diaspora in Chicago will invite you to this evening of music which features as master of ceremonies Jacinda Bullie and has a lineup of performances by Binta Diallo, Kayem, Tammy McCann, Rhymefest, Ronnie Malley, Maimouna “Mumu Fresh” Youssef, Drea d’Nur and Rami Nashashibi.
Andrew in Anotherland
You are invited to a screening of country crooner Andrews Sa’s latest cinematic work, featuring local filmmakers, artists and musicians. Andrew Sa is best known for his appearance at the Hideout’s Cosmic Country Showcase. After the movie’s premiere, a group of musicians featured in the film will turn in a live performance on the Pritzker Pavilion stage.
King Hippo, Natural Information Society and the Drum Divas set the stage on fire
DJ and producer Alejandro Ayala (a.k.a. King Hippo) co-curates an evening of music where the stage will be surely set on fire, featuring Joshua Abrams’ avant-garde ensemble Natural Information Society and the all-female African drummer group Drum Divas.
Jazz fusion and deep house with Afrodjia Social Club + Proximity
First, the Silver Room and Connect Gallery present a program called Proximity, with bassist Micah Collier and Electec exploring the sounds of house music, footwork, bebop and soul. Then, DJ Sadie Woods, performing under the name Afrodija Social Club, comes with the gift of jazz fusion, tropical disco and deep house music, featuring guest musicians and performers.
The play Zulema, a performance of the Goodman Theatre, is part of a tour that will stop in 10 Chicago parks. The play follows a young Mexican girl on her musical journey through Chicago, complete with music and dance from the Sones de México Ensemble.
Contemporary Indigenous Voices: Leonard Sumner + Lyla June + Tall Paul
Sicangu Lakota hip-hop artist Frank Waln co-curates an evening of performances by Indigenous musicians, including Anishinaabe singer-songwriter Leonard Sumner, Navajo and Cheyenne musician Lyla June and Native American rapper Tall Paul.
CIVL Summer Concert
The Chicago Independent Venue League co-curates a pairing of local acts, including retro soul and funk musician Neal Francis and a headline performer that remained unannounced.
Angel Meléndez & the 911 Mambo Orchestra
Exploring the golden age of salsa music in Chicago (the late ’60s and early ’70s), local composer and trombonist Angel Meléndez performs a program inspired by the Numero Group’s 2011 release Cult Cargo: La Salsa Boricua de Chicago. If you have salsa moves get ready to dance!
The Chicago Chapter of the Recording Academy celebrates 60 years of supporting Chicago musicians. Contemporary ensemble Eighth Blackbird and a selection of special guests will be performing.
If you have a business trip or a vacation in Chicago planned between August 2nd and September 16th, be sure to go enjoy at least one of these free music events. For all the rest of your evenings, make sure you have a local hangout stop that’s conveniently located close to your hotel. Even better, we can help you find a hotel that even has the best bars right in the same building. All you have to do is check out this local guide to Chicago hotels with rooftop bars, which include some of the best rooftop bars in the city.