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10 Neighborhood Fests That Are Actually Worth Your Time

Don’t want to face the colossal crowds and steep ticket prices at marquee summer music festivals? These neighborhood faves boast killer talent—in some cases for as little as five bucks.

Clockwise from top left: Alicia Bognanno of Bully, which will play at West Fest; Clap Your Hands Say Yeah; The Wicker Park Fest–bound Mountain Goats; Lee “Scratch” Perry   Photos: (Bognanno) Barry Brecheisen/WireImage; (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah) Rachel/MusicPics/Rex Features; (Mountain Goats) Courtesy of Mountain Goats; (Perry) Sebastiano Rossi

It’s summer in Chicago, which means you can’t throw a stone without hitting a street festival. There are more than 400 this year. Most will have the same corn dogs and cover bands. But these 10, with help from local talent buyers, offer music worth hitting the pavement for. Your weekend plans for the rest of the summer, below.

Pilsen Food Truck Social

When:June 11 to 12
Hood:Pilsen (18th at Allport)
How much:$5 donation
Who goes:Street-foodies with a taste for dance tunes
Why Bother:Never mind that Chicago’s food truck royalty will be there. The second Pilsen Food Truck Social boasts Latino funk DJs Sonorama, mashup mavens The Hood Internet, cumbia/tropical bass collective CumbiaSazo!, and, on both days, the Chicago Mariachi Project. Bring your dancing shoes.

Remix Chicago

When:June 11 to 12
Hood:Logan Square (Milwaukee between California and Fullerton)
How much:$5 donation
Who goes:Homemade-treasure hunters
Why Bother:Stock up on homemade art—including rings made from typewriter keys, candles lodged in old bottles, and paintings on panes of glass—to the retro sounds of Cults and local pop-punk collective the Island of Misfit Toys.

Taste of Randolph Street

When:June 17 to 19
Hood:West Loop (900 W. Randolph)
How much:$10 donation
Who goes:West Loop’s food-obsessed regulars
Why Bother:Indie throwbacks Devotchka and Peter Bjorn & John take top billing at this restaurant fest, but Eryn Allen Kane is the must-see. Fresh off two stellar EPs and a slot on Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book, this show serves as an intimate sendoff for September’s national tour with King. The Motet and MS MR round out the lineup.

Green Music Festival

When:June 18 to 19
Hood:Wicker Park (Damen between North and Schiller)
How much:$5
Who goes:Eco-minded Blue Liners
Why Bother:If you haven’t yet seen alt-rock heavyweights Waxahatchee and Broncho—both of whom wowed at fests such as Pitchfork and Riot Fest in recent years— this is your chance to course correct. Plus, there’s a bike-powered stage.

World’s Largest Block Party

When:June 25
Hood:University Village (1145 S. Morgan)
How much:From $40
Who goes:College kids
Why Bother:By any metric, $40 is a bargain for synth-rock stars Passion Pit, who’ve headlined major fests like North Coast in recent years. Consider singer JD McPherson’s throwback rockabilly grooves as gravy.

Chosen Few DJs Music Festival

When:July 2 to 3
Hood:Jackson Park (6300 S. Lake Shore)
How much:From $25
Who goes:Old-school house heads, summer spread enthusiasts
Why Bother:This 45,000-person affair is by no means an intimate street fest—but it’s a must-see for fans of house music, the electronic genre born of Chicago’s 1980s club scene. Launched in 1990 by the Chosen Few DJs, the onetime family picnic has become a South Side institution boasting acts such as Cheryl Lynn, Roy Ayers, Monique Bingham, and DJ Spinna.

Square Roots Festival

When:July 8 to 10
Hood:Lincoln Square (Lincoln between Montrose and Wilson)
How much:$10 adults, $5 kids and seniors, $20 families (suggested donations)
Who goes:Families, global citizens
Why Bother:Produced by the Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago’s veritable folk fest this year features newgrass favorites Lydia Loveless and Sarah Jarosz (additional ticket required), folk hero Lera Lynn, and world music from Mexican folk to Ethiopian pop. Also catch Debo Band and the Villalobos Brothers.

West Fest

When:July 8 to 10
Hood:West Town (Chicago between Damen and Wood)
How much:$5 donation
Who goes:Indie kids looking to save a buck
Why Bother:Brush up on your music blogs before hitting this cutting-edge event featuring a who’s who of today’s buzz-worthy bands. Here’s a tip: Alicia Bognanno of Bully is the new Joan Jett. Also catch Cloud Nothings and Melkbelly.

Wicker Park Fest

When:July 23 to 24
Hood:Wicker Park (Milwaukee between North and Paulina)
How much:$10 donation
Who goes:Weekend partyers, the coffee shop crew
Why Bother:Typically an all-out rager, this year the midsummer party bills the bookish Mountain Goats as a headliner. But fear not: Coheadliners Rocket from the Crypt are sure to bring the noise. Also catch Antibalas and Pup.

Reggae Fest Chicago

When:August 13
Hood:University Village (Addams/Medill Park, 1301 W. 14th)
How much:From $45
Who goes:Reggae fans, natch
Why Bother:This brand-new event runs the gamut of Caribbean styles, including sets by legendary dub act Lee “Scratch” Perry, first-wave ska pioneers Hepcat, and rock-steady vets Toots and the Maytals.

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