Inaugural Sacred Rose music festival gathered musicians and music lovers from near and far

By Olivia Cohen and Abra Richardson

Bodies covered in tie-dye and glittered in sweat danced with unwavering enthrallment for the various bands that took the stages at the inaugural Sacred Rose festival.

The festival hosted bands and artists of different genres spanning from the Grateful Dead’s classic rock, to synthesizer-based “synth rock,” to bluegrass in the fields behind SeatGeek Stadium in south suburban Bridgeview from Aug. 26-28.

It was a weekend filled with surprise guests joining different sets, an array of artists and food vendors and a thunderstorm on the last day.


The first day of the festival was sunny and exciting as it started and ended with Grateful Dead classics from Midnight North and Phil Lesh & Friends, both of which included band members Grahame Lesh — son of Phil Lesh — and Elliott Peck.

Midnight North formed a decade ago and said their bond has only grown since.

“Each extra shared experience, each show, each long van ride, etcetera, etcetera, all adds to our shared experience and the depth of things that we can pull from intel telling the stories that we tell when we write these songs. And, you know, that’s just lyrically,” said Grahame Lesh, guitarist for Midnight North.

The day was not just catered to Grateful Dead fans, though, as festivalgoers spent their afternoon enjoying sets from City and Colour, White Denim, The Dip and Sierra Hull.

“I always love getting the chance to do some things outside of the songs I’ve written,” Hull said. “It’s fun to break up the cycle of playing your own music. You get to kind of reimagine what some of the music that you love from other people can be.”

Hull performed songs mostly from her catalog, but she also performed a few covers, including “You Wanna Give Me A Lift” by Loretta Lynn which she performed with Margo Price, who surprised audiences by showing up in multiple sets throughout the weekend.

As the afternoon turned into evening, Yves Tumor, The Punch Brothers and Lettuce took over the three main stages respectively.

Lettuce drummer Adam Deitch spoke before his performance about what it takes to make sure they have a great show every time they take on different festivals.

“A lot of it is up to the spirits or however you want to [experience] your spirituality, and hopefully that it can take you somewhere beyond where you expect it,” Deitch said. “Everyone concentrates on the setlist to make sure it’s a good roadmap to reach that level, where it’s halfway through this set and it’s going to explode.”

Deitch expressed what he wanted to convey when the band hit the stage on a warm, sunny Friday evening.

“I just hope that we have a transcendent show,” Deitch said. “There [are] shows that are good, shows that are great and there are shows that are transcendent, where it’s like, next level.”

Lettuce fans surrounded the stage, dancing and even bringing lettuce to throw at them as if they were dollar bills.

Fans had the choice to wait at the same stage Lettuce performed at for St. Paul & The Broken Bones or watch the rest of The Punch Brothers’ set. Fans of Animal Collective were shocked to hear that the band canceled their set an hour before they were supposed to perform.

According to a statement released by Sacred Rose, Animal Collective’s singer Avey Tale lost his voice and could not sing.

Phil Lesh & Friends took on two hour-long sets featuring Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline of Chicago-based Wilco, along with Margo Price, creating “Philco,” where they played songs from The Grateful Dead, a Wilco original song and some other covers.

Fans who chose to see The War on Drugs also got a chance to slide into the Phil Lesh & Friends set to end the first night of Sacred Rose.


Sacred Rose resumed on Saturday with performances headlined by Sound Tribe Sector 9, commonly known as STS9, an Atlanta-based jam band.

In an interview with the Chronicle a few days after Sacred Rose, Hunter Brown, the guitarist for STS9, said Chicago feels like a second home to the band.

“We love Chicago so much and have been playing there for as long as we’ve been playing,” Brown said. “That’s really one of our favorite places to go into play, and some of our favorite people in the world are in Chicago.”

Aside from being back in the Chicagoland area, STS9’s percussionist Jeffree Lerner said touring and performing at festivals is what the band “lives for,” even though the majority of the time they spend touring is on the road, rather than under stage lights.

“We love to be able to share our art, and that’s what we live for,” Lerner said. “And for those moments, we kind of joke around with it for the three days of travel and the time in between; we never take that time lightly and [are] very prepared for those moments.”

Similarly to other bands at Sacred Rose, Jesse Miller, the bassist from the electronic jam band Lotus, said his band is in the midst of the festival season and has six more weeks of touring ahead of them.

“After Sacred Rose, we have our own festival, Summer Dance in Northeast Ohio. And then various shows in Colorado, a festival in South Carolina, then an event in New Hampshire. So we’re all over the place,” Miller said.

Syzygal, lespecial and Luke Martini got the day started with their unique and individual sets, whereas later in the day, artists including Cory Wong, Moon Taxi, Andy Frasco & The U.N. showed their skills amid the hot and sunny afternoon into the evening.


Karina Rykman, Holly Bowlings and Nicole Atkins welcomed the crowd into the festival grounds as they took over each stage respectively. Maggie Rose went on right after them and performed a high-energy set.

Rose said she has been in music since she was a 16-year-old and continues to evolve her sound.

“I feel really content with the place that I’ve evolved to. I also feel that it’s my responsibility to keep evolving and searching, and I think every album has been a progression,” Rose said.

The Woods Brothers’ guitarist and vocalist Oliver Wood was one of the excited fans in the crowd during Rose’s set.

Wood spoke about his excitement before he took the stage after unexpected delays due to a threat of lightning near the festival grounds.

“It’s pretty great to be able to perform with my brother anywhere — it’s great — but to play a new festival that’s got all this talent,” Wood said. “I know a lot of the other bands and a lot of them are friends, so as a musician, it feels like a good community. We’re happy to be in this crowd, and there’s a good vibe here.”

Blu DeTiger and Kitchen Dwellers took to the stage after Rose, but production stopped again due to heavy winds damaging one of the stages and threats of lightning near the festival grounds around 7:30 p.m.

Festivalgoers were told to seek shelter in their cars or in SeatGeek Stadium until further notice.

Once Sacred Rose coordinators got the green light, festivalgoers were let back into the grounds for a few short sets from The Infamous Stringdusters, The Wood Brothers and Hiatus Kaiyote, but ultimately, Sacred Rose had to shut down around sunset before the headliners.

Kamasi Washington, Greensky Bluegrass, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead and Khurangbin were unable to perform.


After the festival, many festivalgoers found pending charges for thousands of dollars from purchasing beverages over the weekend. Sacred Rose coordinators posted on social media on Tuesday morning and addressed the situation.

“We have escalated this with the venue to correct promptly, and they have assured us that any accidental overcharge would be refunded in full with no further action required,” according to the official Sacred Rose statement. “We’ll have more to say soon on other matters, but wanted to make sure everyone knew this will be fully resolved.”

Sacred Rose announced the festival coordinators will offer refunds for the Sunday attendees. Through Sept. 12, people can apply for a full refund if they bought a Sunday pass or get a proportionate one-third back if they bought a weekend pass.