Chicago’s culture scene is unthawing from the pandemic, and this spring, artists and promoters are going all out to bring back audiences. All week long, we will be previewing the best and more interesting shows happening between now and June 1 in five categories, starting with music. (The rest of the week will bring our picks for dance, theater and opera, art and spring blooms.)
When it comes to music, we focused this list mostly on up-and-comers with new buzz and new projects. As such, the list is not exhaustive of all the great shows that are out there. This list includes venues and ticket prices, but note that shows can and do sell out.
Want to tell us about something you love that you don’t see here? Tell us on social media #WBEZspring.
Kipp Stone, Boathouse & greenSLLIME
When: March 24
Curated by Closed Sessions, which is one of the city’s premier independent music labels, this hip-hop showcase features Cleveland-born headliner Kipp Stone. But the other acts are great, too. Closed Sessions’ own superproducer BoatHouse will tag team with DJ, producer and rapper polymath greenSLLIME. The duo will premiere new music from their soon-to-be-released collaboration project. All hip-hop heads are called to the front for this one, as it’s sure to be a night chock full of filthy beats and bars.
Info: At Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave. Tickets are $15.
Horsegirl with Wilco
When: March 23, 24 and 26
Where: Riviera Theatre
Wilco needs no introduction. But since this is a list of up-and-comers, we’re training our sights on Horsegirl, a local rock trio that will be opening for Wilco several dates before heading out west to play a set at the season’s big music fest opener, Coachella. Horsegirl doesn’t have another Chicago date on the books until August, so the time to see them is now.
Info: At the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine Ave. Tickets start at $65.
Rise Against, ALIVE & WELL: THE METRO RESIDENCY
When: March 30
The legendary Chicago punk rock band made headlines when they announced their three-day stay at the Metro this spring in celebration of the historic venue’s 40th birthday. Three nights is sure to be enough for the band to go through all phases of its generation-defining catalog. With fast-paced guitar licks and heavy-hitting drums, the band should give headbangers a reason to wake up the next day with a sore neck. Even for those who aren’t close followers of the band, the awe of nostalgic splendor should make the evening worth it.
Info: At The Metro, 3730 N. Clark St. Tickets are $49 advance, $55 day of.
Zakir Hussain Masters of Percussion
When: April 7
Where: Chicago Symphony Center
India-born tabla player Zakir Hussain is a familiar talent on the world music stage, and he has collaborated with many of the greats, from the Beatles’ George Harrison to Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead. But one of Hussain’s many gifts is his ability to tap virtuoso percussionists of all ages, cultures and instruments to play as an ensemble in his traveling Masters of Percussion series. This is a night like no other to see Hussain and a field of emerging percussion talent on the world music stage.
Info: At Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. Tickets from $29.
Constellation Turns 10!
When: April 7 and 8
Chicago’s home for avant-garde jazz and experimental ensembles turns 10 years old this April, and the venue is having a two-day music fest to celebrate. Constellation’s birthday is headlined by accomplished jazz trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and experimental composer Arto Lindsay. It will also include local talent from Sam Prekop and Natural Information Society, the latter of which is playing on the heels of a new album release.
Info: At Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave. Tickets are $50.
Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour
When: April 14
Where: Chicago Symphony Center
The past, present and future of jazz music will all be on display when the Monterey Jazz Festival makes a stop in Chicago this April. Chicago audiences are likely familiar with local Grammy-winning veteran vocalist Kurt Elling, who fronts the ensemble. But the event spotlights a number of rising stars, including vocalist Veronica Swift and saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin, who recently released an acclaimed fourth album Phoenix. The band also features pianist Christian Sands, who directs the performance, and Sands’ longtime musical partners Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Clarence Penn on the drums.
Info: At the Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. Tickets start at $45.
Marcus Roberts Trio
When: April 15
Where: Nichols Concert Hall
Presented by the Music Institute of Chicago, the Marcus Roberts Trio brings jazz back to the Nichols Concert Hall. Led by namesake pianist, the band will be joined by drummer Jason Marsalis and Martin Jaffe playing on the bass. The band’s on-point chemistry and brilliant technical ability will be on full display with pieces unilaterally highlighting each of their skillsets. Performing original songs and covers of the classics, it’s a night in full celebration of one of the most influential music genres of all-time.
Info: At Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston. Tickets start at $25.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Fabien Gabel and Daniil Trifonov
When: April 20 through 23
Where: Chicago Symphony Center
French conductor Fabien Gabel is known around the world but it has taken until 2023 to make his Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut. He brings with him Russian pianist and composer Daniil Trifonov, who will make a separate appearance in Chicago a month prior, on March 29, at the CSO. For this series of performances, expect renditions of Liadov’s Kikimora, Stravinsky’s Petrushka, and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3.
Info: At the Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. Tickets start at $55.
When: April 28
Where: Allstate Arena
The legendary Mexican Banda from Sinaloa has one of the most devoted followings in Latin America, and they’ll be performing for two days at Rosemont’s Allstate Arena. Those intending to go should be sure to bring their best pair of cowboy boots. A fan favorite especially among Chicago’s Mexican community, Banda MS’s concerts are always massive fiestas with their easy-to-dance-to tunes and dynamic ensembles.
Info: At Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim Road, Rosemont. Tickets start at $69.
Third Coast Percussion
When: May 2
Where: Harris Theater
This May, Third Coast Percussion will premiere a brand new production entitled Metamorphosis that focuses on the duality of human nature. Accompanied by choreography from Movement Art Is, the performance uses music and street dance to express the multitudes of human emotions.
Info: At The Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St. Tickets start at $18.
When: May 2
Where: Thalia Hall
The UK-based jazz pianist and producer treated fans to a surprise earlier this year by dropping two singles in advance of a new album, Variables, due out April 21. Alfa Mist effortlessly weaves a variety of different genre influences into his frenetic jazz pieces. His previous 2021 effort Brick Backs earned him critical acclaim and an overseas tour, including his first Chicago performance at Sleeping Village last year. With new music and a larger venue, Alfa Mist is on his way up. Now is a good time to catch him.
Info: At Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St. Tickets are $25.
When: May 10
Where: Patio Theater
The Detroit star continues his ascent to the top of hip-hop mountaintop after the success of his 2022 album MOB, and his show at the Patio Theater is sure to be one to remember. Thanks to Chicago’s close proximity to Detroit, Babyface Ray had assembled a stronghold of fans here even before his name became mentioned among the best rappers in the country. Could hometown hero and collaborator Lil Durk make a surprise appearance? Anything is possible.
Info: May 10 at The Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Rd. Tickets are $30.
When: May 24
Where: Avondale Music Hall
Maryland’s punk-rap princess is back in Chicago for the first time since her memorable Soundclash performance in 2021 – and anyone familiar with her shows knows it’ll be another rager. Despite being criminally underrated, her 2022 album Las Ruinas is another solid addition to the rapper’s stellar catalog, and one that experiments with more electronic music than her previous work. The Avondale Music Hall is becoming a hot spot for young hip-hop fans seeking to mosh to their favorite rappers, and Rico Nasty is another on-brand performer to be added to their marquee with her trap-and-rock infused musicality.
Info: At Avondale Music Hall, 3336 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets are $30.
When: May 27 and 28
Where: Grant Park
Introduced last year, Chicago’s inaugural reggaeton-centered music festival was broadly considered a success. So promoters are bringing it back this year with headliners Wisin Y Yandel and Feid on Saturday and Grupo Firme and Nicky Jam closing on Sunday. Other draws of the two-day fest: The legendary reggaetonera Ivy Queen is sure to draw a large crowd, along with contemporary stars Becky G, Arcangel, Eladio Carrion, and Myke Towers. Chicago is also well-represented among the supporting DJs with homegrown talent DJ Chava, DJ Miriam and the Sorry Papi Dance Party team. This is considered the kickoff to the summer fest season.
Info: At Grant Park, with entrance at Columbus Drive and Balbo Drive near Buckingham Fountain. Two-day general admission passes start at $299.
Alejandro Hernandez is a Chicago-based freelance writer.
Cassie Walker Burke contributed to this report.