June Music Festivals 2011

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Oh, May, you’re such a tease. Now, June… June is a month that delivers on its promise. Sure, we may still catch a late night that’s cooler than desired (meteorologically speaking) here and there, but at the very least, our weekend street festival hungers are satiated. To be perfectly honest though, a lot of the festivals are, well, sort of lame. At least in the eyes and desires of a twenty-nothing music blogger. The phrase ‘Family Friendly’ or ‘Kids Area’ aren’t really what I’m looking for. I’m on the hunt for a mix of good street food, cold beer in plastic cups and the latest cutting edge music (no cover bands please). With so many festivals it’s hard to pick just one per weekend. After a careful investigation, here are my picks for what to enjoy for free / cheap in June.

Do Division (June 4 – 5)

When your fest is curated by both Subterranean and the Empty Bottle, you know it’s going to have some great music. The fest takes place on Division (duh) between Damen and Leavitt, a stage at each end and a flurry of tents in between. SubT makes a valiant effort at the Damen end by hosting local stand outs like Big Science and the Shams Band, but their choice to headline with cover bands irks me (as you figured out by now). With that said, the Blue Ribbon goes to the Leavitt Stage, which will provide sets from local garage rock redheads White Mystery, crate-digging Northeasterners Javelin, Cambodian funk outfit Dengue Fever and a bodacious booty-shaking weekend close out from Big Freedia.

Chicago Blues Fest (June 10 – 12)

My lack of blues knowledge is a perpetual embarrassment as music blogger and lover, especially hailing from Chicago. Alas, it’s essentially a formality on my part to mention the annual blues fest that takes place for free in Grant Park. Without household names, though, I regret to inform that there is nothing I can particularly recommend. However, if the weather holds, checking out some all-day free blues music in one of our city’s greatest parks really can’t be beat. Sit back and relax, or empathize with any of the countless musicians continuing Chicago’s rich blues tradition.

Taste of Randolph (June 17 – 19)

The Randolph Corridor in the West Loop has quickly become known for its eclectic, modern and innovative new restaurants. Despite the lack of actual music venues in the hood, the festival has managed to round up some pretty sweet and spicy tunes as well. Three days, two stages and one DJ booth provide plenty to choose from, locally and nationally. Representatives of Chicago include Northside funk-allstars JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, indie-poppers the 1900s and Gold Motel, the far out and all over In Tall Buildings and the cryptic surf rock of Merlin Wall. Other highlights include rockabilly stalwarts Reverend Horton Heat, ambient indie rockers Here We Go Magic and the African sounds of the Occidental Brothers Dance Band International.

Green Music Festival (June 25 – 26)

Expanding from Eckhart Park and taking over Damen Ave in Wicker Park, the Green Music Festival does more than provide you with environmentally friendly vendors and eco-awareness. Subterranean again provides the music here, and damned if they didn’t go all out for the headliners. Yo La Tengo, Les Savy Fav, and the Thermals should all be familiar to anyone in the indie community, particularly the latter; I’m pretty sure the Thermals play for free in this city every year. No complaints from me. It may not be entirely green to hire national bands that will have to travel here (c’est la vie), but there are plenty of local standouts as well. My recommendations go to the psychedelic Secret Colours, the get-up-and-dance Blane Fonda and the sure to be a kick in the ass Tight Phantomz.

Taste of Chicago (June 24 – July 3)

Ugh, it’s almost a mystery to me why I’m including this one. Never a fan of the Taste myself for its overpriced food and its contradictory claustrophobic-yet-outdoor atmosphere, they managed to get together a couple good bands that’ll make a visit worthwhile (not to mention, there are some people that even like the fest). The days have been generally segregated between musical genres (an unfortunately apt arrangement for how things happen in this city) as other festivals were cut and combined so as to keep the fest free for the public. So there’s the Country Day, the Irish Day, the Latin Day, the Gospel Day, etc. As for the rock day, definitely get there for Archie Powell & the Exports, Empires, and California Wives. The ubiquitous White Mystery makes another festival appearance, as does DC indie rock duo Generationals.

Andrew Hertzberg

About Andrew Hertzberg

If identity is an illusion, I’m a magician in training. And although Emerson was right in pointing out that “with consistency, a great soul has simply nothing to do” the one constant I don’t mind in my life is Chicago. Yes, even the boredom of her suburbs couldn’t suppress the glow of the city, my attraction as a moth to flame. The future is unwritten, the characters are ever-expanding, and the plot is a perpetual foray through rising actions, conflicts and falling actions; the setting, however, remains the same.

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