5 of the Best Free Learning Tools in Chicago

2830879095_ba471d2bba_bThe city of Chicago is full of great (and free!) resources to get you and your family learning and having fun at the same time. Here are some local favorites from Chicago, IL tutor Samantha S...


Living in a major cosmopolitan city provides abundant cultural and learning opportunities. Knowing where and how to find these opportunities is key. Once you get clued in, going deeper into your interests won’t even cost a thing. Here are a few tricks to the Windy City to get you hooked up to free learning.

The Chicago Public Library

No brainer, right? Well, yeah, we all know that the good old fashioned library card holds the power of infinite books. But did you know about the other opportunities provided at CPL, primarily at the downtown location, Harold Washington Library? The third floor boasts the award-winning Maker Lab, home to 3D printers that you can learn how to use in a free workshop. There are genealogy databases to research family ancestry, free practice rooms for musicians, story times, and frequent author events with renowned writers from Chicago and beyond. Visit today as it is open seven days a week!

The Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center is a must-visit for out-of-towners and citizens alike. Home to the largest Tiffany stained-glass dome in the world, it is an aesthetic wonder as well as cultural gem.

Formerly the downtown Chicago Public Library as well as headquarters to the Civil War Union Army’s veterans’ office, the Cultural Center now hosts a variety of rotating art exhibits and an ongoing lunch-time music series. In addition, the center offers free 45-minute building tours.

Chicago SummerDance

Ever felt the desire to tango? Or polka? Then you’re in the right place. Chicago annually hosts SummerDance, an ongoing dance lesson with live music in Grant Park. Each Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the city brings in a different dance company to teach the basic steps of that dance. Then, the floor opens up for all dancers to try out their steps, complete with live music. (And if these public dance classes get you hooked, don’t forget to browse the Chicago dance teachers at TakeLessons to continue working year-round with a private teacher!)

Free Museums Day in Chicago

Chicago has some of the best museums on earth, and generously offers free museum days to all Chicago citizens. The Art Institute, perhaps second best to the Louvre and Uffizi, offers a free night every Thursday from 5-8pm. Other museums, such as the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, and the Chicago History Museum hold monthly free days (more info can be found online).

Free Concerts in Millenium Park

So your bank account is too broke to go to Lollapalooza and Pitchfork. Fear not. Chicago provides a free concert series in Millenium Park that may have those other festivals beat. From classical music to electronic world beats, the city of Chicago covers it all, at no expense to the concertgoers. Come with a picnic blanket and your snacks of choosing to fully enjoy.

Whether you want to delve deeper into art, history, or music, Chicago is the place to do it. Take the CTA downtown to really experience Chicago’s people, then jump into learning — at no cost!

SamanthaASamantha S. teaches writing in Chicago, IL. She has her masters in the art of teaching, and a license to teach elementary education. Learn more about Samantha here!



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3 Up-and-Coming Artists You Need to See at Lollapalooza

Upcoming Artist Who Are Playing At Lollapalooza 2014The Lollapalooza of 2014 is quite a bit different from its original ’90s incarnation. What was once a solidly grunge celebration of founder Perry Farrell’s “Alternative Nation” and national tour is now an annual 3-day destination event. This king of music festivals in Chicago features a dizzying array of genres, and while the focus and location of Lollapalooza have changed, the commitment to pairing the best new bands with top-selling acts remains the same. For your perusal, here are 3 up-and-coming artists you need to see this year at Lollapalooza.


A Scottish electronic band, Chvrches may be an easier sell in their home continent than ours (and, yes, they insist you spell their name with a V and not a U). But at a festival headlined by Eminem, Outkast, Kings of Leon, and Skrillex, they might be a welcome counterpoint to all that overtly male energy.

Their synthpop sound is easily recognizable, and it’s hard not to sing along with their chart-topping hits like “Lies” and “The Mother We Share,” two of their top tracks. It’s hard to say exactly what Chvrches will give us onstage when they play from 5:30-6:30pm Friday at the Lake Shore stage, but you should expect at least one surprise from a band that’s covered tunes from Game of Thrones, Rage Against The Machine, and fellow Lolla 2014 artist Lorde.

Lykke Li

For American audiences, Lykke Li has seemingly followed that famous dictum about children: her uniquely Swedish name has been seen in plenty of magazines and blogs, but few of us have actually heard her music. That’s too bad, because Lykke boasts a sound that grips sophisticates without alienating pop listeners. With cinematic compositions spread out over instruments ranging from trumpets and violins to synthesizers, her music is probably best introduced to your friends on a long car ride rather than on a Top 40 radio station.

Famous for emotional live renditions of her songs that seem at once stripped down and widescreen-epic, Lykke Li is a perfect fit for festivals in Chicago like Lollapalooza. Her set is an hour after Chvrches on the Lake Shore stage (Friday, 7:30-8:30pm). It also overlaps with Lorde’s 6:45-7:45pm Bud Light stage set, so if her music puts you to sleep, you can always leave early and start heading Lykke’s way.


Clearly continuing with a girl-power theme, next we come to Warpaint. Gender aside, Warpaint deserves a spot on your schedule because they push guitar-driven music in more interesting directions than any other band playing festivals in Chicago.

Ethereal, plaintive, hard-rocking, psychedelic, and borderline-prog – often in a single song – Warpaint is a fascinating band that will get you amped up Friday 3:30-4:30pm on the Lake Shore stage. If you still doubt that this is Warpaint’s year, consider that their new album completes the trifecta of prerequisites for a breakout: big name producer (Mike Ellis) and mixer (Nigel Godrich), the lead single appears in a famous brand’s ad, and, most importantly, it’s self-titled.

BONUS ROUND (Veteran Band Edition)!


With their current lineup stretching back to 1998, AFI’s members haven’t been up-and-comers for a long time; they’re practically elder statesmen in rock star years. AFI solidified their signature horror-punk sound with slower alt-rock grooves on 2000’s “The Art of Drowning” and broke through with the single “Girl’s Not Grey” from their next album in 2003. Older fans will find AFI has evolved nicely without losing their core sound, finally embracing the goth influences with which they merely flirted before.

The only problem? AFI’s 5:45-6:45pm set on the Palladia stage Friday is almost the exactly the same time as Chvrches’ performance. Choices, choices!


Pumped yet? Even though some are calling this year’s Lollapalooza a disappointing lineup compared to other festivals in Chicago like Pitchfork and Riot Fest, you should have a pretty good time on Friday with these recommendations.

Readers, what do you think? What are your picks for Saturday and Sunday? Let us know if the comments below! 


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5 Iconic Chicago Music Venues Worth Checking Out

SchubasWhen you think of the city of Chicago, there are certain things that, for the vast majority of people, quickly come to mind: Sears Tower, the Cubs, the Bears, and deep dish pizza, to name a few. Chicago is not as well known for its music venues, at least not in the way that other big cities, like Nashville, New York, and LA are known for theirs. But there are at least five Chicago music venues that make it a city worthy of being on that list! And many of the biggest names in music, both past and present, can claim Chicago as an important stop on the road to fame.


While the Dave Matthews Band, Tori Amos, and Norah Jones didn’t get their official starts in the windy city, they did make their Chicago debuts at Schubas. A small venue (it holds roughly 200 fans), Schubas is best known for its intimate atmosphere. Schubas, as well as the owners’ second venue Lincoln Hall, has even earned a coveted spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the best clubs in America.

The Double Door

The Double Door, situated in the Wicker Park area of Chicago, has been around since 1994. Many local and national bands have played on this stage to packed shows of around 550 fans. A few of the most well-known shows include a Lollapalooza after-party featuring Sonic Youth in 2006, a last minute cancellation fill-in show by hometown heroes Rise Against, and a super secret Rolling Stones concert back in 1997.

The Aragon

The Aragon Ballroom Chicago, constructed in 1926 for an unbelievable sum of two million dollars, has earned its reputation as one of the most famous dance halls in the United States. Some of the amazing talent that has graced the stage of the Aragon include crooner Frank Sinatra, big band-leaders Lawrence Welk and Glenn Miller, and the “King of Swing” himself, Benny Goodman. After brief incarnations as the Cheetah Club in the 1960s, the Aragon has been under the same ownership now since 1973. It remains one of the longest-standing Chicago music venues to grace this list.

The Hideout

True to its name, the Hideout has been a haven for rebels since it legally opened its doors in 1934. Built in only two days, its first existence was as a well-kept secret for those who didn’t play by Prohibition’s rules. And it has remained steadfast in its dedication to those who find themselves on the fringes of society. Musicians who have appeared onstage here include Jack White and sister Meg of the White Stripes, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, then-unknown Neko Case, Wilco, and the Flaming Lips.

The Metro

The first performance on the Metro‘s stage in August of 1982 was by a small band from Georgia that no one had really heard of before – R.E.M.! In the Metro’s first year alone, it featured early shows from Depeche Mode and Billy Idol. And if the 1980s were good to the Metro, the alternative edge of the 1990s rocked it even harder. Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Jane’s Addiction all traveled from the West Coast to bring grunge to Chicago on the Metro’s stage. But perhaps the Metro’s biggest claim to fame is being the venue where some truly phenomenal Chicago natives got their starts – Liz Phair, Veruca Salt, and the Smashing Pumpkins. In more recent years, this mainstay of Chicago music venues has booked early performances by the Plain White T’s, Fall Out Boy, Kings of Leon, and many more.


Many musicians got their starts or played some of their first shows in Chicago music venues. And it’s safe to assume that many of the bands booking their first gigs there now will be the big names of the future! Remember: all of those dreams had to start somewhere. So to all of you aspiring musicians out there, stick with it, hone your craft, and perhaps it will be your music that fills these Chicago music venues in the future!


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For Those About to Rock: Live Band Karaoke in Chicago

Best Places To Karaoke Sing In ChicagoIf you really want to experience what it’s like to perform on stage, you have to go to a live band karaoke event! It’s nothing like that PA system stuff… you’ll get the thrill of live musicians who improvise and work with you to create a truly fabulous performance. Here are the best live band karaoke Chicago hot spots where you can strut your stuff:

  • PIECE Brewery and Pizzeria: Piece Brewery is known for serving up some of the best craft beer and pizza slices around. And on Saturday nights starting at 11 pm, the Karaoke Dokie band cranks up to let local singers get their groove on! Come early, because it’s one of the most popular venues around.

  • Roscoe’s: Every Monday night from 10 pm until 1 am, Roscoe’s offers drink specials and live band karaoke. This bar caters to the LGBT community, but everyone is welcome. Summon your inner diva or rock star and come on down!

  • Stanley’s Kitchen & Tap: Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap is best known for serving up Southern-style comfort food, but on Sunday nights at 10:30 pm, the band cranks it up a notch for karaoke. The crowd is inviting and loves hearing new singers, so don’t be shy!

  • Burke’s Patio & Tap:Not everyone can stay up until the wee hours of the morning to croon, so for those with a 9-to-5 schedule, check out Burke’s Patio & Tap, where live band karaoke starts at a conservative 8 pm each Thursday.

  • Clarke’s Bar & Grill: Next to Clarke’s 24 Hour Diner sits Clarke’s Bar & Grill, which hosts live band karaoke each Friday night beginning at 9:30 pm. And if you need some lubrication to loosen your nerves before going on stage, you’ll likely appreciate the low drink prices here.

  • Reggie’s Music Joint: Under 21 and still want to try live band karaoke in Chicago? Head on down to Reggie’s, where everyone 17 and over is welcome to serenade the crowd. Reggie’s is on South State Street, just a block away from Chinatown.

  • Red Line Tap: If the ordinary karaoke tunes, like Madonna, the Beatles, and Bon Jovi just aren’t doing it for you, check out Red Line Tap. Their live band karaoke is geared toward the head-banging crowd. This event isn’t always regularly scheduled, so check their website for the next event.

  • Rockwood Place: Most of the venues on this list are bars and restaurants, which just happen to dabble in live band karaoke. Rockwood Place, on the other hand, is all karaoke! The band usually gets cranked up around 10:30 pm, so be there and be ready to burst into song.

  • The Cubby Bear: Ah, what would a list on Chicago be without a reference to the beloved Cubs? The Cubby Bear is a sports bar (surprising, right?) and features live band karaoke every Wednesday night starting at 10 pm. Sorry, no discount for wearing your vintage Ryne Sandberg jersey.

Finally, want to take your karaoke skills to the next level? Visit TakeLessons to find a voice instructor who can help you rock it out at the local bars or on the professional music scene. Even if you just really love belting it out at the local live karaoke bars, you’ll be glad you invested the time to improve your voice and your confidence!


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How to Find the Best Chicago Bands for Hire

How To Find Bands For Hire In The Chicago AreaChicago has one of the richest music scenes in the world. Jazz may have been born in the Big Easy, but it learned how to walk and talk in the Windy City! You may not be able to hire one of Chicago’s legends for your next event, but you have a bountiful selection of up-and-coming Chicago bands and musicians for hire to choose from.

Pick the Type of Music That Fits Your Audience

Before starting your band hunt, put some thought into the type of music that best suits your audience. If it’s a dance, what age group are you catering to? Hosting a party? Find out what types of music the guests enjoy. Of course, when it comes to weddings, the bride and groom’s taste is all that matters. In Chicago, the primary musical genre selections are:

  • Jazz
  • Blues
  • House Music
  • Soul
  • Rock
  • Hip Hop
  • Gospel

Knowing what genre will best fit your crowd will help you narrow your search for the best bands.

Search the Local Classified Ads

The local classifieds can help you find Chicago bands for hire in two ways: you can search the already-posted ads, or you can place your own ad and let the bands come to you. Classified ads in the Chicago Tribune are often filled with local acts looking for gigs, and placing your own ad is more affordable than paying cover charges at all the local clubs to hunt for a band.

Many local acts also place ads on Craigslist, within the “musicians” section. You can also check the Chicago eBay classifieds under the listing for services,  or search the listings in Oodle Chicago marketplace. If you decide to place an ad, put it in the “For Hire” section for the best results.

Use Chicago Bands for Hire Websites

In addition to the classified ads, a number of websites are set up specifically to help people find the right band for their event. Chicago Entertainment Agency, for example, is designed so you can search for a Chicago band by the type of event you’re having. Other popular websites include GigMasters Chicago jazz band listings and GigMasters Chicago blues band listings, which are ideal for finding bands to play at wedding receptions, family reunions, and parties for older crowds.

To search for a band by genre instead of the type of event, try Gigs4All. Gig Salad is another great resource similar to GigMasters, and you can search their site for specific genres, like folk music and Mariachi. If you’re specifically looking for a band to play a wedding, WeddingWire features orchestras, party music bands, cover bands, DJs, and more.

Hang Out at the Chicago Music Venues

In truth, there’s no better way to select from the available Chicago bands for hire than to see them play in person! Fortunately, Chicago has a thriving live music scene where you can see the area’s best bands and book them before they become too popular to afford.

The Elbo Room, for examples, hosts a variety of different bands and genres.

No matter which method you use to find Chicago bands, be sure to make time to hear them perform before making your decision. You can narrow down your search by looking for local reviews on the band before scheduling an audition, or simply head to one of their upcoming gigs to check out their style. With an awesome band on stage, your event will be the talk of the town!


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Acting for Kids: How to Find Chicago Theater Opportunities & Auditions

Opportunities In Chicago For Child ActorsDoes your kid have what it takes to storm the Windy City? If you live in Chicago, you’ll find inspiration abounds as theater and the performing arts are such a big part of the culture. This means that your child has lots of opportunities to become a star within the Chicago theater scene!

Know the Big Opportunities

There are a number of production agencies in Chicago, including Alphabet Soup Productions. These performances are not exclusively cast with children, but they do audition for child actors from time to time.

You can also find listings for current casting calls by a number of production agencies at Backstage. With a membership, Actors Access offers opportunities for actors of all ages. Disney casting calls are also a regular occurrence.

And remember: when you take your child to a casting call, find out what time the performances are, as well as how long the show is expected to run. You’ll need to be prepared to hire a tutor or make other educational arrangements if your child will miss school to participate in a production.

Don’t Overlook the Small Opportunities

Whether your child has some acting experience or is just breaking into the game, don’t miss out on smaller opportunities that don’t come with hours and hours of waiting and tons of competition. In addition to the larger Chicago theater venues, local churches, youth organizations, clubs, and schools are great places to get some experience and start building an acting resume.

Check local church bulletins (some are posted online) and reach out to community organizations that put on productions. Use social media to research, and ask other parents in your community if they know of any opportunities. School drama teachers and private acting coaches will also likely have some connections.

Often this kind of networking is more valuable than hiring a talent agent, since many jobs are filled by word of mouth before they are even announced to the public. If your child is old enough, you might want to consider setting up a website or social media account to showcase their experience (filter all communication through you, of course, for safety reasons). Don’t forget to follow the social media pages for local Chicago theater groups and organizations, as well.

Boost Your Child’s Resume With Commercials and Modeling Jobs

Local, regional, and national television commercials, as well as modeling jobs, are a great way to get your child used to being on camera, working with a director, and keeping a strict schedule so that they are prepared for the larger, long-term acting positions they will eventually land. Casting calls for these are typically announced alongside positions for movie and television actors.

Prepare Your Child for Auditions

Of course, all of these auditions and opportunities will be all for naught if you’re not adequately prepared! The most successful child actors are the ones who train and prepare constantly, not just when they have an audition coming up. You can find excellent acting instructors at TakeLessons who can keep your child learning and growing as an actor, so that it’s not crunch time every time your child is up for an audition.

Above all, don’t get stressed about it, and don’t let your child fret too much either. The right opportunities for your child are out there, and with time and preparation, you’ll be able to find them at a Chicago theater near you. Good luck!


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5 Chicago Art Museums to Introduce Your Kids to the Arts

Kid Friendly Art Musums In Chicago Getting your child involved with artistic pursuits at an early age has a number of benefits. Not only can art be fun for your child, but creative outlets have been linked to many developmental skills. Artistic children typically show improved fine motor skills, as well as enhanced visual learning and language ability. The best way to introduce your kids to the arts is to engage them early on with fun-filled activities – and lucky for you, there are tons of Chicago art museums to start with!

Where to Look

The Windy City has a very strong artistic and cultural community, so there are a lot of resources available to help you plan your adventures! Here are some Chicago art museums that feature kid-friendly art exhibits:

  1. The Art Institute Of Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago has a fantastic reputation for being kid-friendly. It offers drop-in art sessions every weekend, all throughout the year, with activities for children of all ages. Whatever the kids create they can take home with them. The Institute also offers workshops that give kids their first experience of visiting a museum, including learning about why art is important. Children under the age of 14 receive free admission, making visits for the family very affordable.

  2. Smart Museum Of Art: Another highly respected, kid-friendly art museum is the Smart Museum of Art. Like the Art Institute of Chicago, it offers a number of free family events centered around art for young children. Young art critics can pick up kid-friendly gallery guides to explain the current exhibits as you explore the museum.

  3. Beverly Arts Center: The Beverly Arts Center is very active in promoting all forms of art, including drama, ceramics, and painting. It has a number of free galleries open to the public that showcase rotating exhibits, but what makes it an excellent resource for children is the educational programs. It offers camp programs for children of all ages, covering subjects ranging from digital art and film to music and theater.

  4. Kohl Children’s Museum: What better way to get your kids excited about art than by having their own artwork featured in a museum? At the Kohl Children’s Museum, you’ll find educational exhibits in a variety of subject areas, and the permanent “Adventures In Art” exhibit invites kids to create their own art for display.

  5. DuPage Children’s Museum: The exhibits at DuPage cover more than just art, but it does have a very interesting permanent exhibit that helps tie the importance of art into other subject areas. The “Interact with Art” gallery pairs interactive exhibits with artwork to explain how and why artists make creative decisions. Each piece of art is labeled with thought-provoking questions and activities that challenge kids to find shapes, colors, and special objects within the artwork to become better acquainted with the piece.

Want more? Try scouring the children’s sections of local newspapers and magazines to see if there are seasonal or temporary exhibits coming to the Chicago area. With so many Chicago art museums to explore, your kids will have plenty of opportunities to get in touch with their artistic side!


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Music in the Windy City: Four Bands from Chicago Who Made Their Mark

Famous Bands From ChicagoChicago is famous for many things — deep dish pizza, Oprah, the Sears Tower — but it has also produced some well-known bands and musicians. Like most big cities, Chicago is full of artist resources and culture, which makes it a great environment for musical inspiration. So who started here, and how did they get to where they are now?  If you or your child is a budding musician in the Chicago area, read on. You might just find some inspiration of your own!

While some of these artists were born in Chicago, others lived there for a good portion of time. All of the bands you’ll read about below got their start there. There is one thing they all have in common though — all of these musicians played the Chicago music scene, and were supported by a city who loves its music. From the explosion of the Chicago blues to the rock of today, and everything in between, it’s tough to find a city quite like this one.

Fall Out Boy

The band Fall Out Boy was both formed in Chicago in 2001 by Joe Trohman and Pete Wentz. The band has roots in the Chicago punk scene, where Wentz made a name playing in the ’90s with various bands. In the beginning, the band searched for stability, trying out a few different members before settling on Patrick Stump and Andy Hurley. They dealt with the usual aches and pains of starting a band as they toured and wrote songs, but Fall Out Boy found success fairly quickly compared to the music industry norm. Their debut album, Take This to Your Grave, got good reviews and earned them gigs at SXSW and the Warped Tour.


Sometimes you luck out and get great neighbors. That was what happened when twin brothers John and Chuck Panozzo met neighbor Dennis DeYoung. They established a large Chicago fan base for a while, and then finally hit mainstream fame in 1977. It could have been their 7th album’s lucky release date —7/7/77 —or it could be that the world was ready for their long-practiced sound. Their story is typical, including some hard times, tension, breakups, and reunions — but the fanbase certainly still exists now, and they’ll forever be known as one of the most important bands from Chicago.

Smashing Pumpkins

Like Fall Out Boy, several of the band members of Smashing Pumpkins are originally from Chicago.  The Smashing Pumpkins, however, laid the foundation for many of the bands that are popular today, as part of the powerful roots of alternative music. Billy Corgan and James Iha started as a duo, playing bars in Chicago, then connected with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, who had a jazz background and gave them an even more unique sound. After releasing singles with a local Chicago label, they eventually achieved commercial success in the early ’90s. Although their rocky road as a band led to a permanent breakup of the original members, the Smashing Pumpkins recently announced that two new records are on the horizon.


How could you talk about bands from Chicago without mentioning the band Chicago?  These talented musicians have achieved incredible success and unprecedented longevity.  They are the kind of band that even if you think you don’t know them, you’ll recognize several of their songs. Chicago has mastered the ballad, dominated the rock genre, and turned being rockstars into a lifelong career! The heart of Chicago — four DePaul University students — still play today: Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, and Walter Parazaider. These music students made the most of their abilities and formed something that will always be an irreplaceable part of the city of Chicago.

These are just a few names worth noting, but there are so many more musicians, artists, and bands from Chicago that have made an impact on the music scene. Other honorable mentions include Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Nat King Cole, Benny Goodman, Herbie Hancock, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, and Wilco.  And there are still many, many more!

Every musician got their start somewhere. It might have been the music lessons their parents signed them up for, combined with an album that captivated and inspired them.  They could have sung in the church choir and realized their voice was a gift they wanted to share. Maybe they marched in their high school band, and then decided to form a rock band to show the world that they had other types of music on their mind.  No matter how they got started, Chicago is undoubtedly a great place to do it!


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Surviving Lollapalooza: The Chicago Concert You Won’t Want to Miss

Tips On Chicago's Lollapalooza ConcertFrom its genesis as the touring ’90s grunge brainchild of eccentric singer Perry Farrell to its current status as a once-a-year Chicago concert destination, Lollapalooza has remained a live music mainstay. A massive, all-day festival can be an endurance test for attendees – you’ll need to schedule your time wisely and take care of your body to survive the experience. But before we teach you how to do all that, let’s begin with a little history.

Know Your History

Lollapalooza began as a farewell tour for Jane’s Addiction in 1991. Singer Perry Farrell’s uniquely non-macho personality was injected into every aspect of the festival. From the euphonious name, itself signifying “an extraordinary or unusual event,” to the participatory nature of what Farrell called the “Alternative Nation,” Lollapalooza was a living, breathing example of 1990s counterculture. Handpicked bands from disparate genres were meant to surprise fans and expand their musical palates. Where else could you see Siouxsie and the Banshees, Ice-T, and Nine Inch Nails all on one day?

More than just a celebration of music, the early days of Lollapalooza brought alternative “freakshows” like the Jim Rose Circus to the masses, alongside political and environmental nonprofit groups. Alternative art and early virtual reality games (more Virtual Boy than Oculus Rift) made the festival a full sensory experience.

The late ’90s unfortunately saw a decline in all aspects of Lollapalooza, from attendance to adherence to peaceful vibes, particularly with the inclusion of the mainstream and macho Metallica in 1996. Farrell himself quit the tour and Lollapalooza was canceled in 1998.

After attempting to resurrect the touring festival along with his newly reborn Jane’s Addiction in 2003, Farrell retooled Lollapalooza as a “destination festival” like Coachella, settling on Grant Park in Chicago for its location. It was so successful for fans, promoters, and the Windy City itself, a deal was signed to keep Lollapalooza a Chicago concert staple through 2018.

While Lollapalooza has changed quite a bit from its “Alternative Nation” heyday, its commitment to showcasing new bands alongside old favorites remains. That brings us to our first tip for surviving Lollapalooza…

Skip Your Favorite Band

What?! While it may be controversial and counterintuitive, there is a case for skipping your favorite band at a music festival as large as Lollapalooza. It is physically impossible to see every band at the biggest Chicago concert, baring cloning technology. There are simply too many bands playing simultaneously on multiple stages, too many non-music attractions, as well as necessary breaks to rest your body, fill your belly, and empty your bladder.

Your natural reflex may be to prioritize your favorite bands on the bill — performers you’ve seen before and know for a fact will put on a good show. With so much musical talent at the festival, no one wants to waste even half an hour on a sub-par show. That said, you’ve already seen those favorite acts before. If you saw them recently, you’re unlikely to hear any new material or fresh takes on classic tracks. Every band, even a headliner, is likely to play a shorter set at a festival than they would on their own tour. That’s why it might be wise to focus on newer, smaller groups, and catch your favorites on tour later when they can play a full set in excess of 90 minutes, instead of a condensed blast as short as 20 minutes.

Find a New Favorite

If you do want to take advantage of the musical variety offered by a Lollapalooza-sized Chicago concert, here are a couple of strategies to help you discover new artists. The first is purely pragmatic: show up early and leave late. Not only is it impractical to move between main and side stages for each band, you miss the opportunity to see artists in context. Stick around for a set before and after the one you came for. Festival organizers may place bands in a specific order, where one set flows well into the next, or artists my be inspired to turn in a command performance when they follow a group who just killed it and has handed them an enthusiastic crowd. Best of all, you minimize walking between stages and don’t have to give up a good spot.

The second strategy is even easier: just ask your favorite band who they’re most excited to see. If they don’t mention anyone interesting at the festival in an interview, ask them yourself on their preferred social media site. Don’t forget that every musician was a fan before they were a star.

Take Care of Your Body

A day full of live music, surrounded by thousands of enthusiastic fans, is a dream come true – but it’s also a full day on your feet, outside in Chicago weather that can easily send you to the hospital with a heat stroke. Staying hydrated, applying sunscreen, wearing a brimmed hat, and retreating to shaded or air-conditioned areas might not seem particularly “rock and roll,” but you and your friends won’t be able to appreciate a great band if you’re about to pass out and they’re having to take care of you.

Get In and Get Out

Keep your timing in mind: in past years, gates have opened at 11 am and the music ends each evening at 10pm. There are two entrances to Lollapalooza at Grant Park in downtown Chicago: the Main Entrance at Michigan & Congress, and the North Entrance at Columbus & Monroe. The Box Office is located just north of the Main Entrance at S. Michigan Ave & E. Van Buren St.

Visitors and locals alike can plan a route on any of Chicago’s public transportation systems using the RTA site. If you plan to ride your bike, following the original eco-friendly spirit of Lollapalooza, you’ll find racks north and south of Balbo Avenue – just don’t forget to bring your own lock! Four underground 24-hour secure parking lots are located directly beneath Grant Park, in addition to Soldier Field’s North Garage.

Enjoy Yourself

Now we come to the most important advice in the entire article for surviving Lollapalooza or any large music festival (aside from the sunscreen): put your phone in your pocket and let it stay there. Check in with your friends, take one or two pictures for Instagram, and then forget about it. It’s a lot easier to be in the moment and connect with the musicians and your fellow fans if you spend more time looking at them rather than at your phone. Don’t worry, someone else will be around to take shaky video with distorted audio and upload it to YouTube for future generations. Chances are, you’ll be able to find actual professional recordings and streams of the Chicago concert on Lollapalooza.com/webcast and the official YouTube channel during and after the performances. So feel free to slack off for one day and enjoy the show with your own eyes.


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The Chicago Music Scene: Your Guide to Gigging in the Windy City

Top Guide To Chicago's Music SceneGigging in the Chicago music scene is a milestone in any music career. It’s the third biggest city in America, and the most important music industry city in the Midwest. Getting exposure in the “Windy City” can be a stepping stone to national airplay, and many legendary artists have come from Chicago. The city has grown to be a force in the evolution of indie music, particularly with the Pitchfork Festival. The following information can be used as your guide to finding venues to play in Chicago.

Learn Local Legends

Understanding the exciting history of the Chicago music scene is a good way to strike up conversations with club owners. For example, you might want to find out about the history of a venue to see if your sound fits.

Some of the top names to come from the greater Chicago area over the past several decades have been Chicago, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Smashing Pumpkins, Cheap Trick, Styx, R. Kelly, Kanye West, and Ministry. The city also has deep roots with blues artists such as Willie Dixon, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf.

Venues That Support Live Bands

Part of your research should also involve finding out about the nuances of various Chicago venues. The nicest venues, such as the Aragon Ballroom and Park West, are geared toward more established acts, while smaller venues and bars for up-and-coming bands include The Hideout and Schubas. Many big names came through these small clubs on their way to national attention, so they are a great place to start. Make a list of all the venues in Chicago and concentrate on pursuing the venues that best match your music. Visit them often, network with the people you meet, and ask for the names of the booking agents at each club.

Checklist for Gigging in Chicago

  • Make a demo recording of your live act

  • Create a press kit for club owners

  • Distribute press kits and demos with cover letters to club personnel

  • Follow-up with club contacts

  • Negotiate a deal

 The keys to this checklists are the demo and the press kit. Make sure both are as professional as possible. In other words, make sure the demo sounds good enough to capture your best live performance ability. Studio recordings are even better, but let’s assume you are working your way up to quality recordings by doing gigs first. The demo can be low-fi as long as it sounds listenable and has energy!

Getting Local Attention

One of the best ways to help build a fan base is to get local media coverage. If you can get reviewed in any of the local publications it will help your cause dramatically. The Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald, for example, reach a wide audience in Chicago. You can also try to get reviews in college-run publications, such as The Chicago Maroon. There are also several websites that track the local scene, such as ChicagoMusic.org, ChicagoMusicGuide.com, and WindyCityRock.net.

These local media outlets, as well as public radio stations, can be catalysts for the most important type of promotion of all: word of mouth. Reviews from print or digital publication can also become part of your press kit to show that your act is making the news.

Easiest Ways to Get Live Exposure

  • Play at open mic shows

  • Offer to play benefit shows, which can get media coverage

  • Rent out your own venue and promote it yourself

  • Become friends with venue owners

  • Piggyback gigs from friends

Getting Paid vs Free Shows

Everyone likes getting paid, especially while playing music and having fun! But bands usually have to pay their dues for a while by doing free shows before they earn money, even in the Chicago music scene. Concert promoters at big venues usually pay artists upfront, whereas small venue deals are done in a variety of ways. Bands that prove they can hold a crowd’s attention or attract a sizable draw may get paid upfront, or may be given a percentage of the door or bar sales.

Unknown, up-and-coming artists simply are not in demand, which is why they often don’t get paid, especially at small venues. But playing for free at small venues is how most musicians start out, and it’s a great opportunity to refine your talent and learn about crowd response and interaction. If your act creates demand in the Chicago music scene then you will likely get paid well. Good luck with your gigging!


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 Photo by Tony