From left: Mike Reed, Lisa Kaplan, Nathaniel Braddock, Sean Moeller
From left: Reed, Kaplan, Braddock, Moeller


In summer, festival season reaches a fever pitch. To help us navigate the scene, we drafted four insiders—working musicians who see more than their fair share of shows—and asked them to handicap the summer music calendar. Here, their recommendations


This composer, drummer, and music presenter will help organize dozens of concerts this year, including the Pitchfork Music Festival.
CATCH HIM: One of Reed’s jazz ensembles, People, Places & Things, plays at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago Ave.; on Aug. 4th and the Hideout on Aug. 5th.
* The World Music Festival (Sept. 19-25, “It’s all over the city and presents a different take on pop and traditional music. I’m also looking forward to seeing the Flaming Lips at Pitchfork” (July 17-19,
** The Hideout Block Party (no date at presstime; “It’s pretty down-home—the same vibe as the venue during the year.”


She’s the pianist for Eighth Blackbird, a contemporary classical sextet in residence at the University of Chicago and the University of Richmond.
CATCH HER: Eighth Blackbird plays the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival June 16-17 and 19-21 at various cities in Michigan.
*Andrew Bird at Lollapalooza (Aug. 7-9, Grant Park, “I think he’s very creative and talented.” Also: her friend Jonathan Biss, a classical pianist, at Ravinia (Aug. 6, “He’s an amazing classical interpreter and is doing pieces by Haydn and Kurtag.”
** The classical music series at Grant Park (through mid-August, “It is more diverse and interesting than Ravinia. They’re having the premiere of Plans by Michael Torke (June 19-20) and works by a lot of U.S. composers.”


He’s the guitar player for the Chicago-based Afro-pop band Occidental Brothers Dance Band International.
CATCH HIM: Occidental Brothers Dance Band International plays the Taste of River North (Kingsbury Street, between Ontario and Erie streets) on July 18th.
* Two neighborhood festivals: the Clark Street Festival (July 26, Clark Street from Morse Avenue to Estes Avenue, in Rogers Park and the Folk & Roots Festival organized by the Old Town School of Folk Music (July 11-12, Welles Park, “It’s a crossroads of traditional American music and world music that brings in top-notch musicians and focuses on putting music making in everyone’s hand, which is the vibe of the school.”
** The African Festival of the Arts  (Sept. 4-7, in Washington Park. “You can see highflying African guitar groups, hip-hop, even old-school soul.”


He’s the founder of, a website that posts free sets recorded by touring indie bands in a studio in Rock Island.
* The Avett Brothers (June 28, House of Blues, “They’re one of my favorites now. I’ve never actually seen them ‘live’ live, but we did a session with them at Big Orange Studios (in Austin, Texas) that was pretty spectacular. They’re fiery and so dynamic for just a couple guys without a dedicated drummer. Seeing Billy Joel and Elton John at Wrigley would be cool (July 21, Wrigley Field,, but I’m not sure how a show at Wrigley would work. And Booker T. playing the Taste of Chicago (July 4, Petrillo Music Shell, should be great. I saw him sitting in with the Roots on Late Night for a few nights and that was pretty cool.”
** The Hideout Block Party


Photograph: Joe C. Moreno