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Chicago Festivals: Summer Music Guide

April showers bring May flowers…and the start to the music festival season. This year brings more and bigger festivals to Chicago than ever before.

No matter what your musical tastes, there is a festival that’s right for you. They can even help you save a couple bucks in the long run.  “There is an undeniable economic advantage,” says Nick Harris, Loyola Phoenix Diversions editor and music columnist.  “For just a couple hundred dollars you can potentially see dozens of concerts.”

Festivals are growing and expanding, says Harris, as the record industry declines.  “It’s hard to make any money on records anymore, so bands survive by playing as many shows to as many people as possible,” Harris says.

Lineups and dates have been announced–read on and find out what music festival fits your needs.

Electric Daisy Carnival

When: Fri-Sun, May 24-26

Where: Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet

Festival hours: 5pm-4am daily

Tickets: 3 day regular admission: $175, 3 day regular + camping: $295

Lineup: David Guetta, Armin van Buuren, Avicii, Kaskade, Above and Beyond, and more

Go to this if you are: a glowstick fanatic

The festival started in 1997 in Los Angeles, and is widely known as the North American electronic music festival.  Last year it took place in Las Vegas and attendance reached 325,000.  This is the first time Chicago will host the traveling festival.  The festival, with its electronic bands and DJs, has more of a rave atmosphere than a traditional music festival.  Promoters say tickets sales will be capped at 90,000 per day, but the speedway can hold up to 100,000 people a day.

Warped Tour

When: Friday, July 20

Where: First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre

Festival hours: 11am-9pm

Tickets: One day pass: $47.50

Lineup: Motion City Soundtrack, Hawthorne Heights, Forever the Sickest Kids, Man Overboard, Chiodos, and more

Go to this if you are: a sk8r boi (or gurl)

Warped Tour is a music and extreme sports festival travelling the U.S. since 1994.  Sponsored by skateboard shoe brand Vans since 1995, it represents punk, ska, and hardcore bands.  In 1998, the tour expanded and became international, including locations in Australia, Japan, Europe and Canada. Traditionally, bands at Warped Tour are from smaller, independent labels in the punk rock scene.

On the sports side, the tour includes a half pipe for skaters and bikers.  It also features merchandise booths hosted by the bands, record labels, and non-profits to sell goods, creating a flea-market-like atmosphere.

Each year, the tour sells a compilation CD featuring songs by the artists that performed.


When: Fri-Sun, July 19-21

Where: Union Park

Festival hours: Friday: 3pm-10pm, Sat/Sun: 1pm-10pm

Tickets: 1 day pass: $50, 3-day pass: $120

Lineup: Bjork, R. Kelly, Belle & Sebastian, MIA, Joanna Newsom, Solange, Yo La Tengo, and more

Go to this if you: want to try out your new fedora

Held over 3 days and hosted by Pitchfork Media, Pitchfork Music Festival showcases a mix of alternative and mainstream artists. It has everything from indie rock, rap & hip-hop, and electronica to hardcore punk and jazz. The annual festival began in 2005 and has remained a Chicago favorite ever since.  This year, 46 bands will play on three different stages.


When: Fri- Sun, August 2-4

Where: Grant Park

Festival hours: 11am-10pm

Tickets: 3-passes: $235 (SOLD OUT), 1-day pass: $95 (SOLD OUT), 3-day 2-person travel package: $1,599 (SOLD OUT)

Lineup: The Cure, Mumford & Sons, Nine Inch Nails, Phoenix, The Postal Service, Vampire Weekend, and more

Go to this if you: like to strip down your swim suit on a hot day

Lollapalooza turned heads this year when both its 3-day and 1-day passes sold out in record time.  For the first time since the festival’s inception, tickets sold out before the lineup was officially announced. Many tickets were snatched up by scalpers and resale sites like StubHub and Craigslist.  Festival tickets are still available through these sites at inflated prices.  For example, 1-day passes on StubHub run for as much as $350 instead of their original $95.

The festival was started in 1991 by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell.  Last year, the festival hosted over 100 bands and 300,000 people over a 3-day period.  Lollapalooza highlights popular alternative rock, punk rock, hip hop, DJs, and even comedy performances.  It also offers Kidzapalooza—a family stage for concert-goers who want to attend the festival with children in tow.

Spring Awakening

When: Fri-Sun, June 14-16

Where: Soldier Field

Festival hours: Friday: 3:30pm-11pm, Sat/Sun: Noon-11pm

Tickets: 3-day general admission: $160, 3-day VIP pass: $210

Lineup: Bassnectar, Calvin Harris, Moby DJ, Auto Body, The Crystal Method, Boys Noize, 12th Planet, and more

Go to this if you: looove ecstasy

Spring Awakening is Chicago’s premier EDM (Electronic Dance Music) Festival.  The festival was founded in 2008 by React Presents and took place inside the Congress Theater, but after two years it outgrew the venue and moved outdoors.  In 2012, it became the first all dance music event to take place inside and outside of Soldier Field.  It features three stages and 103 acts.

The Cheaper Alternative

Want to enjoy outdoor music this summer without breaking the bank?  Chicago’s Millennium Park offers a free concert every Monday for ten weeks, beginning on May 27 and ending July 29.  The series is presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and takes place at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

“I think it’s amazing that living in this city means that I can go see world class performances for free,” Harris says.

This summer the concerts will feature such acts as Oscar-winning Glen Hansard, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dawes, Dan Deacon and more.

Music Festival Tips

Music festivals can be hectic, hot, and overcrowded.  Here are some tips on how to beat the heat and stay connected this summer.

1. Avoid dehydration

Even though bathroom breaks are annoying, it’s important to stay hydrated.  Some festivals don’t allow you to bring in water, and bottled water can be as much as $5, so bring one or more empty water bottles with you to refill throughout the day.

2. Apply sunscreen

Nothing ruins a three day festival more than getting sunburned on the first day…pack some SPF 30 and reapply throughout the day.

3. Get a festival map

Keep a map of the festival grounds and schedule with you at all times to avoid getting lost and missing your favorite shows. “It’s easy to end up spending the whole day just figure out what’s going on and where,” says Harris. “Don’t let that be you.”

4. Choose a meeting  place

Decide on a place and time to meet up with your friends in case anyone gets lost.  It’s not a safe bet to rely on cell phones at festivals, as reception generally fails since there are so many people packed in one place.

5. Appropriate Footwear

You’re going to be standing and stepped on all day—choose comfortable shoes that you won’t miss should they get ruined. “DO NOT wear flip flops,” Harris says.

Check out this poll to see who else is attending your favorite festival: http://poll.fm/46r4d

Photo: Max Rasche/Our Vinyl


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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.