After a two-year delay and some unsuccessful starts, summer music in the city is back. With an abundance of new, locally created music festivals and performances by some of the city’s brightest acts, it’s never been a better time to check out music in the city. Here’s a guide to some of the most worthwhile events taking place this summer. See also the Tribune’s guide to Lollapalooza, Ravinia and other big-name music events at www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/music.
1. Sueños Music Festival: Many internationally successful acts will make an appearance at the first-ever Sueños Music Festival, which features artists from across the Latin diaspora, including global superstars Ozuna and J Balvin. But fans are sure to enjoy the sounds of local acts, including DJ Miriam, a Guatemalan American DJ based in the city. May 28-29 in Grant Park, 337 E. Randolph St.; tickets: $275-$1,500 at suenosmusicfestival.com
2. Phoebe Bridgers: Phoebe Bridgers had made a name for herself before the pandemic but her career reached stratospheric new heights (at least in the indie world) thanks to the June 2020 release of her sophomore album, “Punisher.” Multiple Grammy nominations, including one for best new artist and a crop of new fans have turned Bridgers into something of a rock darling whose success should only go up from here. Catch her at her biggest local show yet. 8 p.m. June 4 at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, 1300 S. Linn White Drive; tickets $39-$59 at livenation.com
3. Hyde Park Summer Fest: What began as a celebration for beer lovers has grown into one of the city’s most exciting music festivals this summer. This year’s revamped Hyde Park Summer Fest is steeped in nostalgia for elder millennials and Gen Xers who are sure to love sets by artists such as Busta Rhymes, Ashanti, Lupe Fiasco, BJ the Chicago Kid and Jhene Aiko. June 11-12 at Midway Plaisance, 59th St. and Dorchester Ave.; tickets $75-$400 at hydeparksummerfest.com
4. A Day in the Country: After a temporary hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 14th annual A Day in the Country music festival returns to Chicago. Celebrated local artists such as Andrew Sa and out-of-state acts like West of Texas will make appearances during the all-day event, which promises to bring a mix of country, Americana and honky tonk to the city. 2 p.m. June 12 at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; tickets $20 at etix.com
5. International Anthem Presents: Daniel Villarreal, Anteloper, and Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer: International Anthem has become one of the city’s most celebrated labels due to its impressive roundup of artists who often bridge the gap between musical genres like jazz, rock and funk. This label showcase, performed in the round, is also a triple album release featuring musicians with Chicago connections, whether they currently live here or did once in the past. 8:30 p.m. July 8 at Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport Ave.; tickets $20 at eventbrite.com
6. Doja Cat: During the pandemic, few artists thrived as much as Doja Cat, who garnered multiple Grammy Awards and No. 1 singles after years of hustle in the music scene. Charismatic and multitalented as both a rapper and a singer, Doja Cat continues to garner new fans through her off-kilter videos, meticulous live performances and goofy yet lovable personality. Surprisingly, she is the opening act here for The Weeknd, but that shouldn’t diminish the star power of her show. She’ll then appear as a headliner at Lollapalooza on July 31. 6:30 p.m. July 24 at Soldier Field, 1410 Special Olympics Drive; tickets $81-$350 at ticketmaster.com
7. Windy City Smokeout: What began as a small, local barbecue festival has grown into one of the country’s most massive and celebrated country music festivals. This year, the Windy City Smokeout is even bigger than ever, with a “who’s who” of contemporary country music acts on the lineup, including superstars like Miranda Lambert, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw and Sam Hunt. It was just named “Festival of the Year” by the Academy of Country Music. Aug. 4-7 at the United Center Parking Lot, 1901 W. Madison St.; tickets $44.95-$2,000 at windycitysmokeout.com
8. Elton John: The Elton John Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour (sadly) continues, here in February and making one more pass through Chicago this summer. Thankfully, there are a variety of ticket options available to ensure fans of all stripes get a chance to see the Rocket Man once last time before he retires. 8 p.m. Aug. 5 at Soldier Field, 1410 Special Olympics Drive; tickets $55 and up at axs.com
9. Charles Stepney: Out of the Shadows: May kicks off the “Summer of Stepney,” which will culminate in “Out of the Shadows,” a grand event in celebration of the underrated Chicago soul music legend who worked with such local legends as Muddy Waters; Minnie Riperton; and Earth, Wind & Fire. Those unfamiliar with Stepney’s work will be in for a treat, as they discover the legacy of one of Chicago’s changemakers. For this tribute performance, the newly formed ensemble Rotary Connection 222, under the musical direction of bassist and bandleader Junius Paul, will showcase some of Stepney’s best and brightest work. 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18 at Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St.; free, more information at chicago.gov
10. Leon Bridges and Little Dragon: The Leon Bridges that audiences used to know has flourished into an accomplished, multifaceted and genre-bending artist of the highest order. During this set, he’s sure to play many of his throwback soul hits, but fans should eagerly dive into his newer tracks, which incorporate elements of R&B, pop and psych rock. Openers Little Dragon, a band that is never afraid of a smooth groove, is a perfect match for Bridges’ impeccable sound. 8 p.m. Aug. 24 at Credit Union 1 Arena at University of Illinois Chicago, 525 S. Racine Ave.; tickets $23-$230 at ticketmaster.com
Britt Julious is a freelance critic.
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