MUNA (Photo by Jacqueline Di Milia.)

Is there a better way to spend a warm summer night than by catching some great live music? We think not. One of these hot tickets (plus a cold beer!) equals the perfect recipe for summer fun.

Brand New and Modest Mouse

FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, July 2

New York rockers Brand New have made recent headlines for announcing an upcoming album — and their impending breakup, which, according to their new merchandise, will occur in 2018. They tend to be (very) loud but bring great energy, so see them while you still can.

KT Tunstall

Beat Kitchen, July 7  

This alternative singer/songwriter and guitar songstress is sharing her talents in Beat Kitchen’s small and intimate setting. The neighborhood bar makes for a fun date night in a laid-back environment.

The Decemberists with Shakey Graves 

Petrillo Music Shell, July 8

An indie-folk band hailing from Portland, The Decemberists delivers beautiful and rich harmonies, supported by lushly layered instrumentals. Shakey Graves is a captivating one-man band bringing blues-rock to the next level with looping and intricate guitar-picking. This is XRT’s annual Taste of Chicago concert.


United Center, July 10-13

This is one artist who needs no introduction (and readers need little convincing as to why she’s a must-see). This soulful pop powerhouse will show off her vocal chops and have the audience singing along to her most beloved and emotive songs.

Trevor Hall

Park West, July 14

Trevor Hall’s eclectic fusion of reggae and acoustic rock carries a magnetic quality that easily casts a mellow mood over an audience. His raspy voice and light instrumental background music result in a performance that is ideal for a low-key night out.


The Empty Bottle, July 15

This emerging Chicago-based indie-rock duo consists of Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich, two artists who experienced success with their former bands — Kakacek with Smith Westerns and Ehrlich with Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Now, Whitney is fresh off a well-received debut album, “Light Upon the Lake.” The record is full of indie-rock and pop songs that deliver a vintage vibe.

Over the Rhine

SPACE, July 15-16

Over the Rhine is a folk duo with undeniable chemistry, considering the pair is husband and wife Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist. Bergquist’s airy vocals solemnly sail over a combination of playful piano and guitar.

The Tallest Man on Earth    

Vic Theatre, July 15    

The Tallest Man on Earth is the moniker of Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson. He has become known for his poignant lyrics, distinctive vocals and intriguing melodies.

The Suitcase Junket with Johnny & Molly of Communist Daughter (*Valslist favorites)

SPACE, July 20

The Suitcase Junket is appropriately named — the artist performs using a bass drum built into a suitcase. His instrumentals are mostly refurbished and turned into visual art, which in turn produces sonic art. The singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has a 60s folk energy, best seen in a smaller venue such as SPACE.

PigPen Theater Co.  

SPACE, July 21  

This “band of story tellers” is an eclectic group of actors, musicians and filmmakers who blend their talents together into a cohesive, imaginative experience that is great for a family night out.

BØRNS with MUNA   

Metro, July 2122      

BØRNS is an electro-pop artist who rose to fame with his hit “Electric Love.” Opening act MUNA, which is quickly gaining attention and praise, is a trio that includes New Trier alumna Katie Gavin.

Emily King

Thalia Hall, July 23

This Grammy-nominated R&B/soul singer has a busy month — she is not only opening for Alabama Shakes but doing a solo show as well. King’s delicate yet raspy voice effortlessly escalates into her falsetto, and her songs offer a range of tempos. If you are unable to snag tickets to the Alabama Shakes shows on July 19-20, be sure to catch King solo before she leaves town.

July Playlist

Fire up the grill and turn up the volume — this playlist is the perfect soundtrack for your summer soiree. From a Fourth of July barbecue to a day at the beach or on a boat, this rock-heavy playlist will rev you up even as the sun goes down.


Lyndsey Havens is a music writer covering Valslist for Make It Better. She is also a staff writer for WXRT and Consequence of Sound and her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

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