Chicago doesn’t receive enough credit for the sheer number of music festivals it hosts every year. We might not have the climate of Austin but we sure do make up for it between June and October. Over the course of 15 weeks, a grand total of 24 days are dedicated to some sort of large-scale outdoor music event – and that doesn’t include the city run World Music Festival or random summer block parties.
And it doesn’t need to end at city limits. If you’re feeling ambitious and passionate about music there are more than a dozen music festivals within a six-hour drive of the city.
Below you’ll find our comprehensive guide to Upper Midwest music festivals. From Chicago to Wisconsin to Detroit to Iowa, we’ve got it covered. We’ve broken the festivals down by distance and within each distance cluster they’re ordered by date. Did we miss an important festival? Let us know in the comments.
No Cars Go :: 24 Miles or Less
Spring Awakening Music Festival
Calvin Harris at Spring Awakening 2015 by SwimFinFan)
Addam-Medill Park, Chicago
Spring Awakening Music Festival kicks off Chicago’s summer music festival season and is the biggest electronic music festival in the Midwest. This year’s roster is packed with big name DJs like Marshmello, Diplo, Armin Van Buuren, and Datsik. Slightly breaking the mold is an appearance by South Africa’s Die Antwoord. In addition, the Internationally recognized acts SAMF has filled out the roster with regional acts like Chicago’s Krewella and Louis the Child and Wisconsin’s Crystal Knives.
Mamby on the Beach
June 24 & 25
Chicago’s only music festival where you can cool off in the waters of Lake Michigan. Mamby on the Beach has roots in House Music but has grown to have a greater focus on indie dance bands. This year MGMT takes the headlining slot on Saturday with Walk the Moon leading the pack on Sunday. Other performers include Flying Lotus, Miike Snow, Strfkr, and Cut Copy. MixMag’s tent will feature a Sunday night celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Relief Records with a set from the legendary Green Velvet. Prepare to flash.
Addam-Medill Park, Chicago
The Ruido Fest is becoming one of the biggest Latinx festivals in the country. Headliners for 2017 include Julieta Venegas, Molotov, and Intocable. The festival is a well-balanced mixture musical genres featuring garage pop, dance rhythms, techno-punk, and metal. Additional standout performers include Lucybell, Adan Jodorowsky, and Titán.
Pitchfork Music Festival
LCD Soundsystem, Solange, and A Tribe Called Quest are filling the headlining slides for P-Fork’s 3-day music festival. STandouts in the 2017 lineup include Danny Brown, Hiss Golden Messenger, Madlib, Arab Strap, The Avalanches, RIDE and American Football. Three-day tickets are still available as of this article’s published date.
Chicago Open Air
If you like your music a little bit heavier skip Pitchfork and head to Bridegview for Chicago Open Air’s metal fest. The festival features the usual acts you’d expect headlining a metal fest: Korn, Ozzy, and Kiss. However, the real story is in the deep bench. Open Air currently features a couple of acts that to date haven’t announced formal 2017 tours including Body Count and Meshuggah. Other standouts include Dillinger Escape Plan, Pig Destroyer, and Amon Amarth.
Worth mentioning: Open Air will host “Gourmet Man Food” from vendors like Aporkalypse Now, Chicago Dog House, Master of Patties, and Yum Dum.
If Lollapalooza happened to be a human, this would be the last year it would be covered under Perry Farrell’s health insurance. Last year, the festival celebrated 25 years and expanded to four days from three as a way to celebrate. It worked out so well they stuck with the model for 2017. Something like 5000 bands are performing and the tickets have already sold out. Wah-wah. However, life happens and sometimes people can’t go. Lollapalooza has partnered with Ticketmaster to set up a ticket exchange. There are currently more than 500 4-day passes listed for prices ranging from the reasonable “this is what I paid plus fees” price of $385 to the “why does Ticketmaster let people in the exchange markup tickets this much” price of $2445.
Hideout Block Party
West Wabansia Ave
Will we get a Hideout Block Party this year? We couldn’t cross our fingers any tighter. The last actual block party was in 2014. The venue skipped 2015 and returned in 2016 for a 20th Anniversary “Reunion” (even though it was technically still a block party). In 2006, the Hideout Block Party was used to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Chicago’s Touch and Go Records. This year Thrill Jockey turns 25. Just putting it out there.
North Coast Music Festival
North Coast is where you go when you want to capture the last good vibes of summer. This is the seventh year for the music festival which features a mixture of electro, jam, folk, and hip-hop. 2017 hasn’t been announced but early bird tickets are onsale.
Riot Fest closes out the festival season in Chicago. The three-day long fest has already sold out of Tier 1 General Admission tickets and the festival is still six months away. 2017 performers haven’t been announced but 2016 headliners included Flaming Lips, The Misfits, Death Cab For Cutie, SLeater-Kinney, Ween, and more. Riot Fest, with roots grounded in punk rock, is like Lollapalooza but with a healthy dose of piss and vinegar.
September 23 & 24
Common’s AAHH! Fest will retur to Union Park this year. Tickets are on sale with a line-up announcement expected soon.
Roadrunner :: 25 to 99 Miles
June 28-July 2 & July 4-July 9
Has Summerfest really been around for 50 years? Milwaukee’s annual multi-day long festival is slowly releasing performers. Headliners announced as of this write up include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, P!nk, The Chainsmokers, and Zac Brown Band.
Charm of the Highway Strip :: 100 – 199 miles
Summer Camp Music Festival
A festival so chill it takes place in a town called Chillicothe. This year features three days of moe. and Umphrey’s McGee, and two sets of The Trey Anastasio Band. Les Claypool is also pulling double duty with a set as part of Primus and a second performance in The Claypool Lennon Delirium. Other acts include Zed’s Dead, Gov’t Mule, Run The Jewels, Yonder Mountain, and more than 60 additional acts.
Pygmalion is a great excuse for a road trip to visit beautiful Champaign-Urbana, Ill. This weeklong festival typically takes place in mid-September with the greatest concentration of shows happening the second weekend. Last year music fans could catch Future Islands, Joan of Arc, Tigerbeat, Wolf Parade (and a Wolf Parade DJ set), Alvvays, Car Seat Headrest, and dozens of others.
Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About :: 200 – 299 miles
There are plenty of EDM festivals, including Michigan’s Electric Forest, but Movement does it straight up old school style. Headliners for 2017 include Richie Hawtin’s visual-experience CLOSE, Deadmau5 performing as his alter-ego Testpilot, and Carl Cox.More than 100 DJs will perform over the three day festival.
Mo Pop Festival
July 29 & 30
Mo Pop Festival manages to infuse a music festival with the spirit of an old-fashioned boardwalk. There’s plenty of talent, including Alt-J, Run the Jewels, Solange, and Phantogram, but Mo Pop stands out for the activities. They’ll have a crafting area, a dart gun battlefield, yoga in the sand, an arcade, a Biergarten, and artist autograph signings. It’s also one of the most affordable festivals on this list making the drive worth it. Currently, you can get a 4-pack of 2-day tickets for $299 – roughly $75 per person. —
May 13 & 14
Huh, Bush is still touring. Who knew? Northern Invasion is a nostalgic trip back to the alt-rock of mid-90s featuring acts like Godsmack, Soundgarden, Kid Rock, and Offspring. But it isn’t all 90s all the time. The lineup also includes heavy rock buzz bands like Gojira, Amon Amarth, and Pierce the Veil.
June 16 & 17
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
The brainchild of Justin Vernon, Eaux Claires is the music festival concept stripped down and made unassuming. The presentation of the festival is about creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences where the barrier between artist and fest attendee is diminished. This objective is defined in the way the festival lineup is presented. All artists are listed in equal size and alphabetical. The legendary Paul Simon will perform but his listing carries the same gravity as the lesser known Collections of Colonies of Bees. It’s a truly unique experience that justifies the 300 mile drive.
June 22 – 25 & June 29 – July 2
Electric Forest has made major adjustments for 2017 in an attempt to create a more intimate and immersive experience. They’ve broken the festival into two weekends, each of which will have lower capacities than previous years. A handful of bands, like String Cheese Incident and Bassnectar, will perform both weekends, but many, like My Morning Jacket and Thievery Corporation, will only make one weekend appearance.
July 7 & 8
Des Moines, Iowa
80/35 celebrates eight years in 2017. Much like Champaign-Urbana’s Pygmalion it’s amazing music in a unsuspecting city. They’ll announce the lineup on April 4 but in the meantime, they’ve released the below video with hints to who’ll be in attendance.
August 4 & 5
St. Charles, Iowa
If 80/35 is your first excuse to take a weekend vacation in Iowa, Hinterland is your second. This year the music festival, which usually sees around 14,000 attendees, features Alt-J, Ryan Adams, Head and the Heart, Foxygen and more.
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) :: 500 Miles or More
Bonnaroo Music Festival
If music festivals are the fifth chamber of your heart there’s nothing crazy about making the 530 mile drive from Chicago to Bonnaroo. The festival gets bigger every year in the number of artists but also its demographic net. This year, perhaps seeing the continued rise and popularity of EDM events like Electric Daisy Carnival, they’ve expanded the dance music opportunities with artists like Marshmello and Yellow Claw. There’s definitely a bigger swing toward pop appeal with closing night performers like The Weeknd and Lorde. Other headliners are U2 and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Some highlights including Michael Kiwaunka (who, let’s admit, had one of the best and most overlooked albums of 2016), Car Seat Headrest, Flume, Portugal, The Man, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise.