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Celebrating the Year of Chicago Music

Jan 09, 2020 Arts, Culture & History

A blues singer wearing a classy metallic suit on stage belting out a song

After wonderful year-long celebrations of Chicago theater, public art, and creative youth, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events has designated 2020 as the "Year of Chicago Music."

Chicago is home to an incredibly diverse and influential music scene, with deep roots in gospel, jazz, blues, hip hop, and more, which means there is truly something for everyone to celebrate.

A full crowd dancing to live music
The Vic

June Festival

The banner event for the Year of Chicago Music is the brand new, 17-day music festival tentatively called the June Festival. This citywide fest will connect the annual Chicago House Music Festival, Chicago Gospel Music Festival, and Chicago Blues Festival into a multi-week celebration of Chicago music from the end of May through the beginning of June.

Since the festival will be observed citywide, be on the lookout for various ticketed and free events at multiple locations throughout the city's diverse neighborhoods.

A large audience sitting on the grass outside the Pritzker Pavillion
Chicago Jazz Festival

Special Programming

At the 40th annual Taste of Chicago, a free festival celebrating the diverse range of food in the city, Chicago music will be highlighted specifically in their programming. Stay tuned to the Taste of Chicago's website for music announcements and headliners as we get closer to the festival, which runs from July 8-12. 

This year the Millennium Park Summer Music Series is being co-programmed, for the first time ever, with local venues and record companies. Running from June through August, this free weekly event showcases both established and up-and-coming artists at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Check back soon for more details on the schedule.

A large crowd enjoying live music
Thalia Hall

Celebrate around Chicago

Of course, you don't need to wait for one of the festivals to celebrate Chicago's storied musical heritage. Neighborhoods all over the city have venues, smaller events, and museums dedicated to raising the profile of the city's prolific music scene. Here are a few of the places across the city that we recommend checking out.

Kingston Mines
This North Side staple has been programming two stages of live blues music for over 50 years, and is currently the longest running blues club in Chicago today.

Buddy Guy's Legends
Legendary guitarist Buddy Guy's nightclub has been representing the blues in the South Side for years. Buddy himself plays shows in January, but all year round you can find some of the best blues acts playing each night.

Andy's Jazz Club
Close to the Loop and the Magnificent Mile, Andy's Jazz Club has been a prime scene for jazz and a favorite of Chicago visitors. However, this place fills up fast so make sure to get there early.

Jazz Showcase
Since 1947 the Jazz Showcase in the South Loop has been a mainstay of the jazz scene in Chicago, and is currently one of the oldest jazz clubs today.

A band performing on stage at The Green Mill
The Green Mill

Green Mill Cocktail Lounge
In the far north Uptown neighborhood, the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge owns the distinction of being the longest continuously running jazz club in the country today. Since it opened as a speakeasy in 1907, this cultural icon is home to live jazz and big bands every night.

The Vic
While not specifically geared towards a music tradition, the Vic is a classic venue to catch artists and acts both large and small. Originally built in 1912, this former vaudeville house is also a great place to watch a film during their Brew & View events.

Thalia Hall
This former opera house in Pilsen, built in 1892, is one of the well-known musical venues in the city. Similarly to the Vic, while this venue does not feature a specific genre of music, you can find many famous and emerging musicians playing to sold-out crowds.

House of Blues
Although this is the Chicago outpost for a chain of music venues, the House of Blues found in the River North neighborhood still has a distinctly Chicago flair mixed with the venue's roots in the Mississippi Delta. Swing by on Sundays to join in on Gospel Brunch, a uniquely Chicago tradition.

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