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98 Concerts That Make Us Love Summer in the Midwest

Bree McKenna

The bands are coming, the bands are coming! From left: Waxahatchee, Fitz and the Tantrums, Lollapalooza, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Julie Ruin. Photos by Matt Lief Anderson (Waxahatchee), Will Rice (Lolla), Matt Lief Anderson (Tweedy) and Kristina Pedersen (Julie Ruin).

by Cassie Walker Burke and Bree McKenna

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The Midwest is the best place in America to see music in the summer. Period. We're home to two of the world's biggest festivals—Summerfest and Lollapalooza—that lure bands of all stripes. Our ticket prices aren't sky high, our throngs of partygoers tend toward the mellow and, disparage our cruel winters all you want, the breezy summer weather makes for an abundance of festivals and concerts under the stars. Granted, not every event on the list happens al fresco; some are special, one-of-kind happenings worth a road trip, others are Midwestern acts (Whitney, Har Mar Superstar) who deserve your serious consideration. 

The list below starts with Illinois and runs by state, with concerts listed chronologically. Like our list? Share it. Think we overlooked someone? Tell us on Facebook. And hey, if you end up in the crowd somewhere, tell 'em this cool new mag called Middleouest sent you. 

 

Illinois

1 / Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson
June 25
RiverEdge Park, Aurora
Two American songwriters, each without parallel, in one night.

2 / Blitzen Trapper at Logan Square Arts Festival
June 26
Logan Square, Chicago

3 / Lower Dens
June 30
Millennium Park, Chicago

4 / Wild Belle at Mamby on the Beach
July 2­-3
Oakwood Beach, Chicago
The local pop-reggae band shares a bill with Animal Collective, Lupe Fiasco and Kaytranada.

5 / Chris Cornell
July 3
Ravinia, Highland Park
 

 

6 / The Roots and Donnie Trumpet at Taste of Chicago
July 6
Petrillo Music Shell, Chicago

7 / Sheila E. at Taste of Chicago
July 10
Petrillo Music Shell, Chicago
The percussionist’s new album is inspired by Prince, naturally.

8 / Femi Kuti
July 11
Millennium Park, Chicago

9 / Rachel Barton Pine plays Bruch at the Grant Park Music Festival
July 13
Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Chicago
One of the Midwest’s best-known classical music stars.

10 / Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds at Pitchfork Music Festival
July 15-­17
Union Park, Chicago
Pet Sounds under the stars at one of the best of the big summer fests.

Pitchfork Music Festival is in Chicago's Union Park on July 15-17. Photo by Erez Avissar.

11 / Whitney
July 15
Empty Bottle, Chicago
Chicago band on the rise.

12 / Erykah Badu
July 15
FirstMerit Pavilion at Northerly Island, Chicago

13 / Emmylou Harris
July 18
Ravinia, Highland Park

14 / Philip Glass tribute at
Grant Park Music Festival
July 20
Jay Pritkzer Pavilion, Chicago
A multimedia tribute concert to the great composer, complete with projected images by National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting.

15 / Hall & Oates
July 22
Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, Tinley Park

 

16 / Kenny Rogers
July 24
Ravinia, Highland Park

17 / On an On
July 28
Empty Bottle, Chicago
The Minneapolis band spins its magic in a favorite Chicago setting.

18 / Oh Pep!
July 11
Schubas, Chicago

19 / Swans
July 15
Lincoln Hall, Chicago

20 / The 15-piece Amy Winehouse Orchestra plays Back to Black
July 19
Lincoln Hall, Chicago

Swans play Chicago's Lincoln Hall on July 15.

Swans play Chicago's Lincoln Hall on July 15.

21 / Wolf Alice (Lollapalooza aftershow)
July 29
Lincoln Hall, Chicago

22 / Jose Gonzalez and Tall Heights
Aug. 1
Millennium Park, Chicago

23 / Esme Patterson  
Aug. 3
Empty Bottle, Chicago
The Colorado-raised singer-songwriter knows how to turn a phrase.

24 / Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds
Aug. 4
Schubas, Chicago

25 / Dolly Parton
Aug. 7
Ravinia, Highland Park

 

26 / Mbongwana Star + Dos Santos Antibeat Orchestra
Aug. 11
Millennium Park, Chicago

27 / Yo-Yo Ma
Aug. 18
Ravinia, Highland Park

28 / The Go-Go’s with Best Coast 
Aug. 19
Ravinia, Highland Park

 
 
 
 

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra pays tribute to David Bowie on June 24-25. Photo: Creative Commons 

Indiana

29 / Tribute to David Bowie at Marsh Symphony on the Prairie featuring the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
June 24-25
Conner Prairie Amphitheatre, Noblesville

30 / Tribute to Cream featuring Kofi Baker
Aug. 5
Slippery Noodle Inn, Indianapolis
Ginger Baker's son in dad's band in Indiana's oldest bar

31 / Melvins
Aug. 19
The Vogue, Indianapolis

 

32 / Chris Stapleton
Aug. 26
Klipsch Music Center, Nobleville

33 / Tri-State Bluegrass Festival
Sept. 1-4
Noble County 4-H Fairgrounds, Kendallville
This may be the best deal of the summer: $30 for a 4-day camping festival that features dozens of touring bluegrass acts. If you like bluegrass, that is.

34 / The Flaming Lips at Middle Waves Festival
Sept. 16-17
Headwaters Park, Fort Wayne
The progressive two-day festival also features Best Coast and locals Metavari.

 

Tallest Man on Earth plays Codfish Hollow in Maquoketa on July 17. Photo by Cameron Wittig.

Iowa

35 / Peter Bjorn and John
June 22
Englert Theatre, Iowa City

36 / Loretta Lynn
June 25
Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, University of Northern Iowa

37 / Tallest Man on Earth 
July 17
Codfish Hollow, Maquoketa

38 / Bear Hands and Atlas Genius
July 20
Wooly's, Des Moines

 

39 / Shakey Graves
July 22
Wooly's, Des Moines

40 / Carrie Underwood at the Great Jones County Fair
Jul 22
County Fairgrounds, Dubuque

41 / Wavves
July 30
Wooly's, Des Moines

 

Clear Soul Forces play Majestic Cafe in Detroit on June 21. 

Michigan

42 / Clear Soul Forces
June 21
Majestic Café, Detroit

43 / Violent Femmes
July 10
Saint Andrew’s, Detroit

44 / Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Ryan Adams
July 12
Meadow Brook Amphitheater, Rochester Hills

45 / The Decemberists
July 12
Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor

46 / Hurray for the Riff Raff
July 12
The Ark, Ann Arbor
New Orleans eclecticism at its finest.

 

47 / Brandi Carlile and Old Crow Medicine Show
July 15
Interlochen Arts Festival/Kresge Auditorium, Interlochen
Because The Firewatcher’s Daughter is one of our favorite albums of 2015.

48 / Garbage
July 16
The Fillmore, Detroit

49 / Daughter with Julien Baker
July 26
Majestic Theatre, Detroit

50 / Lucius
July 28
Saint Andrew’s Hall, Detroit

51 / Ghostface Killah & Raekwon RAGU Tour
July 31
Saint Andrew’s Hall, Detroit

 

Har Mar Superstar plays the Minneapolis Zoo on Aug. 20.

Minnesota

52 / Ellis Marsalis at the Twin Cities Jazz Fest
June 24
Mears Park, Minneapolis

53 / Violinist Joshua Bell at Minnesota Beethoven Festival
July 5
Harriet Johnson Auditorium, Somsen Hall Winona State University, Winona
He’s been a classical music star since he was 18 and has 40 albums to his name.

54 / Death Cab for Cutie and Gary Clark Jr. at Basilica Block Party
July 8
Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

55 / Case/lang/veirs
Aug. 10
Minneapolis Zoo
Neko Case, KD Lang and Laura Veirs—three independent female musicians team up for a tour.

 

56 / Har Mar Superstar
Aug. 20
Minneapolis Zoo
The soulful Minnesotan plays a hometown show—at the zoo.

57 / Kurt Vile + the Violators 
Aug. 20
Historic Hall's Island, Minneapolis. Wilco headlines.

58 / Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Sept. 6
State Theatre, Minneapolis

59 / Sigur Ros
Sep 29
Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis
 

 

Flight of the Conchords land in Kansas City on July 7.

Missouri

60 / Live and Let Die: A Symphonic Tribute to Paul McCartney by the St. Louis Symphony
June 24
Powell Hall, St. Louis

61 / Flight of the Conchords Tour
July 7
Starlight Theatre, Kansas City

62 / Alunageorge
July 19
Ready Room, St. Louis
This British act is inspired by PJ Harvey.

 

63 / Dolly Parton
July 30
Scottrade Center, St. Louis

64 / Joan Jett, Heart and Cheap Trick
Aug. 15
Starlight Theatre, Kansas City
Because Heart.

65 / Lucinda Williams
Aug. 21
Crossroads KC at Grinders, Kansas City
There’s that voice, then there’s her touring guitarist, Stuart Mathis, a talent in his own right.

 

Grimes appears at Maha Music Festival in Omaha on August 20. 

Nebraska

66 / Bernanza Music Festival
June 30-July 2
Sokol Park, Omaha
These festival organizers are clearly still feeling the "Bern," with a lineup heavy on local bans and bonfires every night.

67 / Black Lips
July 11
The Waiting Room Lounge, Omaha

68 / Woods
July 18
Slowdown, Omaha

 

69 / King Yellowman at the Omaha Solstice Reggae and World Music Festival
July 23
Lewis & Clark Landing, Omaha

70 / Grimes at the Maha Music Festival
Aug. 20
Stinson Park, Omaha

 

Waxahatchee at Pitchfork Music Festival in 2015. She plays Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland on June 21. Photo by Matt Lief Anderson.

Ohio

71 / Waxahatchee
Jun 21
Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland

72 / Guided by Voices
June 23
Oddbody's, Dayton

73 / Passion Pit
June 24
Bogarts, Cincinnati

74 / We Were Promised Jetpacks
June 25
Grog Shop, Cleveland

75 / Bob Dylan
June 28
Fraze Pavilion, Kettering

 

76 / Ray LaMontagne
June 30
Jacobs Pavilion, Cleveland

77 / Guns N' Roses
July 6
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

78 / The Avett Brothers
July 9
Toledo Zoo Amphitheater

79 / Paul McCartney
July 10
U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati

80 / Maxwell
July 11
Palace Theatre, Columbus

The Avett Brothers are playing July 9 at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheater.

 

81 / The Julie Ruin with Speedy Ortiz
July 16
Mahall's, Lakewood

82 / Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings
July 23
The Rose Music Center at The Heights, Dayton

83 / Jane's Addiction with Living Colour
July 23
Jacobs Pavilion, Cleveland

84 / Miranda Lambert with Kip Moore
July 28
Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls

85 / Justin Townes Earle
July 29
Musica, Akron

 

86 / Diana Ross
July 31
Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, Northfield

87 / Snoop Dogg with Wiz Khalifa and Kevin Gates
Aug. 14
Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls

88 / Explosions In The Sky
Sept. 13
Newport Music Hall, Columbus

89 / Nada Surf
Sept. 22
A&R Music Bar, Columbus

 

Car Seat Headrest play Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee on July 17.

Wisconsin

90 / Fitz and the Tantrums at Summerfest
June 26  
Harley Davidson Roadhouse, Milwaukee
Everyone from Willie Nelson to Pitbull show up at Summerfest, which runs through July 10.

91 / Bully
July 7
Meyer Theatre, Green Bay

92 / Chris Thile and Bela Fleck
July 13
Door County Auditorium, Fish Creek

93 / The Madison Early Music Festival
Finale performance July 16
University of Wisconsin-Madison
The multi-day fest gets into the spirit of the international Shakespeare 400 celebration.

 

 

94 / Car Seat Headrest
July 17
Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee

95 / Wye Oak 
Aug. 2
Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee

96 / Grace Potter 
Aug. 5
The Pabst Theater, Milwaukee

97 / Sturgill Simpson
Aug. 9
Meyer Theatre, Green Bay

98 / Summerset Festival with Grimes and Chance the Rapper
Aug. 12-14
Somerset, WI
Camping!

 

Fitz and the Tantrums perform at Summerfest in Milwaukee on June 26.

It's not summer without a playlist. Hope you enjoy our first such endeavor. Tell us how you like it on our Facebook page. 

 
 

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