If there’s any locally beloved beacon to signal summer’s official arrival in Chicago, Ravinia would be it. Credit the open-air encouragement of wine and cheese, “Midsummer Night’s Dream”-esque environs, or the fact that it’s the longest running outdoor music festival in the country — these suburban concert grounds give music fests nationwide a run for their money. And while the venue’s three-month season is shorter than we’d like, it has no issues in drawing more than 600,000 of us listeners to performances that span every genre, from jazz and classical, to rock and hip-hop — and 2017 is no less show stopping. From a Chicago blues icon to a rock and roll legend (with style just as lauded), to a local musician who knows how to wield some serious whistling power, here are five A-list acts on stage soon that you won’t want to miss.
Buddy Guy and Booker T. Jones, July 6
There’s no mistaking the sound — or the style — of blues and guitar master Buddy Guy. The Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is back at the Ravinia stage this summer, and this time he’ll be joined by another blues veteran: American multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and record producer Booker T. Jones. Expect an evening of high-energy vocals, happily familiar chords, and, of course, plenty of soul.
Sheryl Crow, July 7
Capable of producing music that’s at once gritty, searing, and downright catchy, it’s no wonder we can’t get enough of Sheryl Crow. Luckily for us, we get to experience all of it this summer when she’ll be debuting works from “Be Myself,” her recently released 10th studio album that’s full of pop, twang and the magnetically relatable vocals the singer-songwriter is known for. Be sure to grab the extra blankets and wine bottle pre-departure — you’ll want to stay a while for this one.
OneRepublic and Fitz and the Tantrums, July 14 and 15
OneRepublic is no stranger to hit singles. In 2006 it was “Apologize,” a number one on MySpace charts, and their 2013 “Native” release featured two tracks teeming with potential: “If I Lose Myself,” which charted within the top 10 in several countries, and “Counting Stars,” the band’s best received single in years. When you do see them here, arrive early — you’ll want to be sure to catch Fitz and the Tantrums, the LA-based indie-soul band that has quickly climbed the concert circuit thanks to their infectious energy and nostalgia-boosting sound (one listen to “HandClap” says it all).
Andrew Bird, July 23
As soon as you try to put Andrew Bird in a box, he’s quick to escape it. That’s because the Chicago native has tackled more musical categories than could be imagined in his mere 43 years, from jazz and rock, to folk and Gypsy — and has mastered a number of the instruments needed to support each, to boot (we’re looking at you, glockenspiel). Only further proving his live performance prowess is “Are You Serious,” his latest album that NPR dubs “thoughtful and approachable, with lines that stick with you for days.”
Stevie Nicks, Sept. 9 and 10
Known as the Queen of Rock and Roll, Stevie Nicks has it all: multiple Grammy wins, an inimitable style, and a voice so distinct and — dare we say magical — we’re lucky if we get an encounter with one once in a lifetime. There’s perhaps no better way to usher in the onset of fall than with all of it this September, when she’ll be performing two nights at the fest that are bound to be full of her husky vocals and that vulnerable charm we know and love.
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Nicole Schnitzler is a freelance writer who covers food, drink, travel and lifestyle. When she is not planning her next adventure, she can be found commuting between bakeries, yoga classes, live music shows, and libraries in her hometown of Chicago. She is most comfortable with a pen in one hand and a fork in the other. Follow her on Twitter (@Write_To_Eat) or on Instagram (@WriteToEat).