Good food and good (free) music. What more can you ask for?
Taste of Chicago is the event of the year; that’s common knowledge. It’s the number one food festival in Chicago, but what people don’t realize is that it is also one of the most unique music festivals of the year.
Artists from Billy Idol to Donnie Trumpet, Elle King, and The Decembrists all made appearances. Taste of Chicago was the perfect follow up to the 4th of July weekend.
Night 1: Donnie Trumpet and The Roots
Donnie Trumpet, the hip hop trumpeter, has been making a splash recently with his backup The Social Experiment. As the touring band for Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment have been playing their music across the country. The group is made up of extremely talented Chicago locals.
By himself, Donnie Trumpet is a fireball, jumping around the stage, getting hyped, and interacting with the crowd. But then you add The Social Experiment, with so many talented young musicians on stage, the energy is wild, watching their set is like watching a party happen in front of you. Don’t worry though, you won’t be left out. The band interacts with the crowd, ensuring that they’re having a great time (which of course they already are, just listen to their music).
Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment’s set at Taste of Chicago was extra special because they had some insane and unexpected appearances. During the show, Donnie and his band were joined by local rapper, Mike Golden for several songs. Followed by Joey Purp, D.R.A.M., and finally, Chance the Rapper.
The set was filled with Chicago pride, and the band made sure of it. Donnie expressed his love for Chicago repeatedly, and the crowd sent that love back to him. There was no doubt that Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment were going to kill it at Taste, but they blew our minds – and not just because of Chance.
No one in the crowd thought it was even possible for the night to get more lit, but The Roots taught us that it was. The band is well known for being the house band for The Tonight Show Staring Jimmy Fallon, but watching them perform on the show can’t mimic what it’s like to see The Roots in person.
The band is a perfect mix between funk, soul, and hip-hop, that can only be experienced through a live show. The band took the stage and the crowd lost their minds. The guys are fanatical, watching them on stage is other-worldly. There are no words to describe how they move around the stage, and I’ll never understand how Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” can gallop and dance around while playing (let alone holding) a Tuba! The Roots brought the term live show to a whole new level.
Night one of Taste of Chicago brought the old school hip hop feel back to Chi-town. Donnie Trumpet, Mike Golden, Joey Purp, D.R.A.M., Chance, and The Roots in one night – we’re not sure how we survived it. We didn’t even know what we were missing, and if you weren’t there, you obviously didn’t either.
Night 2: Transviolet, Elle King, and KONGOS
On the lineup for night two of Taste was four brothers in an alternative rock band, two pop princesses, and one rainstorm.
Transviolet kicked off the show with their alternative pop music. Shortly after the set started, frontwoman, Sarah McTaggart, gave a speech about Black Lives Matter and had the crowd take a moment of silence. The band is dedicated to challenging the status quo and overcoming differences, so it isn’t surprising that they spoke up in support of the movement. After the moment of silence, Transviolet closed their remarkable set with their song, “Girls Your Age.”
Just as Elle King took the stage, the storm rolled through. In the blink of an eye, the crowd was hidden by a sea of umbrellas. However, the rain didn’t take the show down. King asked the crowd, “Should we let the rain ruin this show?” The crowd reluctantly responded “no.” Although everyone was originally doubting that the show could go on, Elle King kept the crowd hyped. Between telling stories about growing up in Ohio, and singing her hit “Ex’s & Oh’s,” King gave the crowd at Taste of Chicago, an amazing show. By the time she was done, she gave everyone the courage to brave the rain. The crowd didn’t want to miss another killer performance like King’s, and they were right not to.
Shortly after King finished her set, the Kongos brothers came out to rock with Chicago. They played songs from their newest album, but also treated the crowd to their older music, like their extremely well-known song, “Come With Me Now.” The music of KONGOS is the kind you want to have a dance party to – the type of music that you would want to dance in the rain to. And that’s just what the crowd did.
Despite what seemed to be a serious setback, the second night of Taste of Chicago was a huge success. The rain couldn’t rain on Taste’s parade. The crowd made the best of the night and ended up dancing in the rain to great music.
Night 3: Shakey Graves and The Decemberists
Taste of Chicago’s night three was a night filled with folk-inspired music. With an opening performance from Shakey Graves, and a headlining show by The Decemberists.
Texas native, Shakey Graves, brought his Austin Americana style music to Chicago. The crowd couldn’t get enough of his southern charm and animated expressions. No matter what his emotion while singing, he expressed it fully, from crying on stage to busting up laughing.
His music sounds like the anthem that plays in a Bud Light commercial – its seems truly American, making it the perfect match for Taste of Chicago. Summer time, the smell of barbecue throughout the air, a beer in everyone’s hand, and live folk-rock music playing, can you get more American than that?
The set felt classic like it was part of a movie, like every member of the crowd was thinking “this is where I’m supposed to be.” This feeling was even further enhanced when headliners The Decemberists began to play, and their crowd pleasing performance had all of Grant Park on their feet.
With a more traditional folk vibe, The Decemberists brought hundreds of people together in synchronized clapping. The band played directly to each person in the crowd. Despite how huge Grant Park is, and how full the lawn was, The Decemebrists music felt like home.
It may have been their hand painted amps, or how inviting Colin Meloy’s voice is, but listening to The Decemebrist’s set at Taste of Chicago just felt right. The same can be said for the third night of Taste as a whole.
Night 4: Sons of the Silent Age and Billy Idol
Billy Idol and a David Bowie cover band? Talk about a rock throwback! Night four of Taste Chicago brought us back to the 80’s.
Opening band, Sons of the Silent Age, started the night off right. You don’t typically associate the words “cover band” with great music, but Sons of the Silent Age will get you to rethink that! The Bowie cover band, hit the stage full force, rocking out to the best of David Bowie.
The vocals of Chris Connelly, Sons of the Silent Age frontman, impeccably mimic Bowie’s. His mannerisms are similar to Bowie’s as well. His energy is high, and his expressions are exaggerated. There is no doubt that seeing the band play is the closest second we are going to get to Bowie himself.
Sons of the Silent Age had every single member of the crowd standing up and dancing, each screamed out the lyrics to the well-known hits. The set was a perfect lead-up to Billy Idol.
Idol took the stage, and it was immediately clear that he hasn’t lost any of his energy. He is still as lively as he was thirty years ago. Idol played all of his best-known songs, and the crowd was obsessed. Fans of all ages sang along with Idol. There’s nothing better than hearing hundreds of people yell the lyrics to “Dancing with Myself.”
Seeing the legendary Billy Idol, at the age of 59, still tearing it up on stage, was something so surreal. Between his performance and the earlier jams of David Bowie, the crowd might as well have jumped into a time machine and went back to 1982.
While we can’t go back and relive the year that “White Wedding” and “Let’s Dance” were released, we’re more than happy that we got to see this stellar night of rock at Taste of Chicago. Like we said, it’s a close second, but if any of you figure out time travel, please let us know! 1982 here we come.
Night 5: Sheila E. and The Isley Brothers
Taste of Chicago came to a wrap on Sunday night, but only after wild performances from some iconic artists.
After recently coming back into the public eye after her Prince tribute at The BET Awards, Sheila E. decided to bless Taste of Chicago with her pop-funk music. The well-versed percussionist played her greatest hits for Chicago, including “The Glamorous Life,” “A Love Bazaar,” and her tribute to Prince.
Sheila’s music is infectious, she filled the entire park with drum and percussion beats. Resisting the urge to dance along to her beats was nearly impossible, and if her music wasn’t enough to get you dancing, her cha-cha-ing definitely was. The show was sold out, and the lawn was packed, but there was not a single member of the audience left sitting by her second song. By her last song, the audience had danced off all of the calories they had eaten at the festival all week.
Sheila E. later returned onstage to play a song with Ronald and Ernie Isley. Also joining the Isley Brothers on stage were several members of the cast of Empire, who came to watch the brothers’ show. Their set consisted of the absolute best of their songs, including “Summer Breeze,” “Twist And Shout,” and “That Lady.”
The performances of Taste of Chicago’s final night, took us on a totally retro journey through the 60’s, the 70’s, and the 80’s, highlighting the most classic music of each decade (where’s that time machine again?). We loved the rhythmic travels we took with The Isley Brothers and Sheila E., and you could tell they equally loved performing at Taste of Chicago.
Taste of Chicago is known as Chicago’s best food festival, but it’s also one of Chicago’s best music festivals. The artists are genuine, the lineup is diverse, and the show is free! Taste of Chicago may not be a full four day, jam packed festival, like Lollapalooza, but it is definitely one of Chicago’s finest. Don’t miss out on next year’s Taste of Chicago festival.