Best beats in summer heat

By Megan Ferringer

The end of the school year can only mean one glorious thing: it’s festival season again in the Midwest. Every year, hordes of music fans swarm from all corners of the country and cram into Chicago’s parks, all bearing the brutal heat and sweaty crowds to hear their favorite artists.  Once again, summer 2009 in Chicago is no exception, and the city will play host to both national acts and under-the-radar bands from all genres-blues, gospel, folk, indie, classic rock and African beats.

Rain, wind or scorching temperatures, crowds will flock in by the hundreds, undoubtedly making way for one sweaty time of great music, great beer and great people. Here are a few festivals in Chicago worth blowing some money on.

Belmont/Sheffield Music Festival

Sheffield and Belmont avenues

May 30-31

This popular street festival is now entering its 25th year of crowding the sidewalks and streets with beer, food, art and music. Get a taste of Chicago’s raucous coverband scene by checking out Trippin’ Billies (if you can bear a little Dave Matthews) on Saturday and Mike & Joe, Rock Candy and Sixteen Candles on Sunday. It’s Rick Springfield, Nirvana, Talking Heads and Bruce Springsteen all in one weekend for just a $5 donation.

Do-Division Street Fest

Division Street between Ashland Avenue and Leavitt Street

May 30-31

It’s a 10-block stretch covering Wicker Park’s best restaurants, shops and bars-all offering their own special deals of clothing sales, cheap beer and half-priced food. On Saturday, indie rockers Handsome Furs and DJ duo Flosstradamus take the stage. To close up the weekend, Menomena will make an appearance Sunday evening at 8:30 p.m.

Chicago Gospel Music Festival

Grant Park

June 6-7

It’s not exactly what you think of when it comes to summer music festivals, but it’s a relaxing alternative to the sweaty dancing and beer drinking of Lollapalooza or Pitchfork. With free admission, check out the Jay Pritzker Pavillion for an all out gospel choir, white robes and all. Notable performances include Donnie McClurkin Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and Kirk Franklin Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

Chicago Blues Festival

Grant Park

June 12-14

Just like what grunge music did for Seattle, the same goes for blues in Chicago, and for a true Chicago experience, a little bit of blues music is in order. Entering its 26th year, the annual Chicago Blues Festival will spread out on five stages on the corner of Jackson Boulevard and Columbus Drive, according to The event still remains the world’s largest free blues festival, providing music each day from noon until 9:30 p.m. with more than 70 national and local artists. Highlights this year include Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings on June 14 at 8:30 p.m. and Bettye LaVette June 13 at 8:20 p.m.

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Taste of Randolph Street

Randolph and Peoria streets

June 19-21

Visit the less-traveled and eccentric West Loop neighborhood for the 12th annual Taste of Randolph Street Festival. With a suggested $10 donation, visitors can grab a bite to eat from the local market vendors and catch performances by Dr. Dog on Friday at 8:30 p.m. and The Hold Steady at 8:15 p.m. on Sunday.

Pitchfork Music Festival

Union Park

July 17-19

Aside from all the pretentiousness that we all know and love/hate Pitchfork for, this year the festival is in its prime. If nothing else, a $35 ticket will get you into rare performances from the Flaming Lips, Grizzly Bear, The Black Lips, Vivian Girls and The Walkmen-and that’s just on Sunday. Other awesome and notable performances include Saturday’s lineup of Yeasayer, Beirut, Wavves and the Pains of Pure at Heart. Summer festivals don’t get any better than this, and at $60 a ticket for both Saturday and Sunday, Pitchfork offers a bit of relief from the many blockbuster festivals ripping their attendees of obscene amounts of money. So if you can put up with the mustaches and V-neck shirts, this is a great way to spend mid-July with 40 of indie music’s best bands on three stages.

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Chicago Jazz Festival

Grant Park

September 4-6

What’s better than cracking open a bottle of wine, throwing down a blanket and sitting outside in late summer? Add a bit of smooth jazz in there and it’s a perfect weekend. Admission is free, so there’s really no excuse to check out the Chicago’s rich jazz heritage with showcases of diverse talent of local, national and international musicians.

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