Chicago Festivals Beyond Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza is lighting up the blog universe here, there, and everywhere as its opening on Friday nears. But I find myself desiring a bit of perspective.  That is, an exploration beyond celebratory “Must See” and “Guide To” lists ranging from alternative weeklies and digital outlets to the mildly contrarian (though vital) opinions of local tastemakers like Greg Kot, Jim DeRogatis, et al. on the Clear-Channelization and/or Snobification of the outdoor music festival.

Chicago Festival History

If Chicago’s motto Urbs in Horto had an addendum it might be with music. Historically, the performance of music in outdoor public spaces has made for strange bedfellows.

Political Correctness Festival

In 1914, Chicago’s Civic Music Association began promoting “music for the people” at parks around the Chicagoland area. Some of these events included “Americanization” public “sings” in parks and at Navy Pier involving thousands of children and their immigrant parents.

Disco Event as Participatory Art Installation

The Anti-Disco “movement” reached a tipping point one summer night in July 1979. That sultry summer Comiskey Park hosted the infamous Disco Demolition Night.  Sox fans (or disco haters?) were given 98 cent tickets to the game in exchange for their unwanted disco records. They would be blown up in a crate at centerfield.  A riot ensued.

Anti-Fork Festival in Chicago

While it may be arguably the best music fest on the margins with commendable three years under its founder RottenMilk’s belt (it doesn’t even publish the address of its festival location, and yes, that is the founder’s legal name) it is definitely the best music festival website.  Ever.

South Side House Music Festival

The world’s largest house music festival also resides in the hometown of the genre’s birth.  Chosen Few’s House Music Picnichas called the South Side’s Jackson Park home every year since 1989.  So party like it’s, well, ‘89.  Or 2011.  Or both!

Pitch Pitchfork from Union Park!

Operating in the shadow and filth left behind by Fork revelers, the steadily growing North Coast Music Festival invades Union Park from 9/2-9/4 with some tunes geared a bit more toward electronic than rock.

If none of these festivals strike your fancy, see the secret history of Chicago music on Chicago’s only multimedia experiential bus tour: “Jazz, Blues, and Beyond” running Saturdays only for a few more weeks.


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There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

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Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


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Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

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