I've been to so many street fests this summer, I was toying with the idea of starting a separate Guide to Chicago Street Fests blog. But then I realized they'd all basically report the same features: overpriced beer, cover bands of varying quality and lots of pretty, white people.
Nevertheless, there are some subtle differences from fest to fest, mostly around the margins, worth commenting on. So here's my rundown.
June 2: Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest
I was still doing a show, so my festing was seriously constrained at this point. I had to miss CatFight at this one, but did stop by for one mostly unremarkable afternoon. The best thing about this fest were the craft vendors, from whom I picked up a few more of these:
By "these" I mean the wrist-thingy, not the beer. Though I had a few of those, too.
June 10: Ribfest
This festival was truly unique. As mentioned, most of these events are known for attracting a lot of pretty people. The rib eaters? Not so much. It was actually a little scary. And super tense, as rib shortages and long lines combined to get people really agitated. I didn't care about the ribs, really. I was just there for the beer. And I've got a real aversion to people licking and smacking their fingertips, so this was a tough one.
Also this weekend was one of the best fests: Midsommarfest up in Andersonville. And the Wells Street Art Festival. AND St. Mike's. All of which I did not get to attend. Again, due to show schedule. But seriously, lumping all these together in the same weekend is really poor planning. And Ribfest was a very sad consolation prize.
June 24: Gay Pride Parade
The mother (queen?) of all parades. Always a fun time, and right out my door. The precision rifle drill squad is definitely not to be missed. And here's a hint: the color on cheap mardi gras beads tend to run on a hot day, so avoid white.
June 30: Pizza Fest
Neither festive nor adequately stocked with pizza, this one a was a real failure. Unlike Ribfest, which had dozens, maybe scores of rib purveyors, this one had a mere four stalls selling pizza. The lines were a hundred feet long. So I spent my tickets (another serious problem -- a ticket system instead of cash) on beer. Multiple thumbs down.
July 4: Taste of Chicago
I swore I'd never go to Taste again. Just a horrible experience. Unless literally rubbing slick shoulders with fat, tank-topped suburbanites is your idea of fun. But I was dragged there, on just the worst, most crowded of days to go during this 10-day fest. At least the bike makes popping in and out of fests easier.
July 7: Wrigleyville SummerFest
One word: CatFight!. Finally! And the mid-afternoon heat kept the crowds away.
It's funny. This one was sponsored by a church, so they had to censor their lyrics (no "masturbation" in Green Day's Paradise) and antics.
July 14: Folk and Roots Fest
Of all the fests, this one probably has the most authentic music, with artists from all over the world playing everything from digardoos to zithers. This is a good one to smuggle your own beer into. And the crowd is nice and relaxed -- it's not the scene or meat market that some of these can be.
July 15 Rock Around the Block
One of the great things about this fest is the liquor stores along the block were selling giant beers out of tubs. So you avoid the overpriced fest beer. Also, one of the fests that goes until 10 on Sunday night. Also saw Hairbangers Ball for the first time!
July 20: Old St. Pat's
This venerable old fest advertises itself as the world's largest block party. Not sure if that's true, but it is undoubtedly huge. Easily a couple thousand people. The church boasts of dozens of marriages that resulted from people meeting at the fest, so the women especially tend to go all out -- high heels, skimpy dresses, those crazy zig-zag parts in the hair.
The great thing about the Catholics is the admission price comes with FIVE beer tickets. They fully expect everyone to drink at least five beers. Awesome. (I had six, as a member of our group found a few random tickets on the ground.)
Saw some band called Rusted Root, who I didn't recognize until the final song, when they played their hit.
July 21: Sheffield Garden Walk
One of the major fests in town, but it's gone seriously downhill since the local businesses reduced their support for it and it got moved from the streets into a big church parking lot, which just isn't the same. Still, I like the mix here of religion and commerce:
And this year, for a change, I actually got to tour a few of the nice neighborhood gardens. Few things are as fun as peaking in and poking around other peoples' homes.
July 28: Taste of Lincoln
Once again, ladies and gentlemen ... CatFight!!
I'm becoming a little self-conscious about snapping CatFight photos, so the quantity and quality is seriously diminishing.
July 29: Summer on Southport
Some street fests are really family-oriented. That's how this one was. But it was a pleasant enough way to spend a Sunday afternoon/evening. And I went to Dairy Queen for the first time in several decades, which was cool.
This, by the way, is one sign that you've chosen a less-than-cool street fest. The Surf Photo guy.
So that's the roundup for June and July. Next up: Retro on Roscoe. Let the Summer of Rob continue!