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Taste Of Chicago 2013 Preview

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The middle of July is quickly approaching, and the rising temperatures tell me that Taste Of Chicago is almost upon us. The city’s finest restaurants will supply the food, and a few of Chicago’s finest bands will be putting on free shows sponsored by Bud Light. So save up your nickels and dimes for the fun to start on Friday July 12th.

Some folks have already bought all the tickets to the big headliner shows that kick off on Wednesday night with a set from pop superstars fun. If the line to get into their show at Summerfest is any indication, the $25 tickets were a steal to catch a band currently at the height of their popularity. The show will be opened by Delta Spirit-seems like an odd choice to me, but I’m not in charge.

Things heat up on Thursday night when Robin Thicke brings the hottest track in the country to the Petrillo Music Shell. I’m guessing T.I. and Pharrell won’t be joining him on stage, but the crowd will surely be able to fill in the gaps. “Blurred Lines” is the song of the summer, and I’m sure the seating area will be packed and security will be on high alert for people trying to sneak in to catch a glimpse of Mr. Thicke’s golden microphone.

Friday presents an interesting possibility-Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters. From what I hear they do Zeppelin songs, as well as traditional blues numbers. I’d be more excited if it were Plant and Allison Krauss, but what can you do? Of course it’s sold out anyway, so you’ll be listening from a ways back.

Saturday at Petrillo is a free show featuring two bands I’ve never heard of. Sounds good if you like your music free, but the Bud Light stage will have much more to offer on this day (maybe why they programmed such a lackluster show on a weekend).

Sunday brings “Everybody Talks” band Neon Trees to Chicago. I’m pretty sure “Animal” is the only other song I know by Neon Trees, and it’s probably for a good reason. This one is the only show with tickets still available, and that doesn’t surprise me at all. The Mowgli’s open the show, though, and they’re at Lollapalooza this year too. Might be cool just to see them before they blow up post-Lolla.

If you read this far down, that means you’re interested in the free stuff. Good. They did a great job of picking some strong Chicago bands to rep the city at this festival, so if you like good music you can just grab some ribs and plant yourself in front of the Bud Light stage.

Shows technically begin Wednesday, but the first two days aren’t really worth it. Great Divide is playing, but how many trips are you really wanting to take to Grant Park this week? Starting Friday the free shows will keep it rocking all weekend, getting it going with a bluesy 1-2 punch that will be unrivaled elsewhere in the city. Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials play at 5:20. Make sure you get there by 6:30 because one of my favorite bands Chicago or otherwise closes out the night. The Congregation are coming off a great 2012 where they opened for bands like Wilco, Flaming Lips, and Garbage. They also put out a fantastic full-length called Right Now Everything that features some of the best blues and soul you’ll hear anywhere.

Saturday is “indie rock” day, and I’m happy to say that some of our good friends are playing. Vintage Blue plays an early afternoon set, starting at 1:20. Paper Thick Walls go on at 4. Then at 5:20 Canasta take over. Bring your dancing shoes and be ready to party, because all these bands bring both the noise and the funk.

“Anything goes” on Sunday. Not really anything, though. There are two great country acts playing, and sandwiched between is a great indie rock/pop band called Hemmingbirds. Michele McGuire will be on at 4. She recently won RedEye’s Rock n Vote contest, and that’s where my vote would have gone as well. Her debut album Mid-Western is a nice mix of traditional country and pop. Hemmingbirds are next, and they have a pretty wild sound that features front man Yoo Soo Kim on vocals and viola. They’re definitely a different kind of band from the ones surrounding them, but I think any fan of music can appreciate and enjoy what they do. Finally, country darling Kelly Hogan closes out the fest at 6:40. She blends the country with jazz and indie rock, so in here case it really is “anything goes.” I’ve always heard great things about her live shows, so this is not to be missed (and it’s free, so no excuses).

And that’s it. Personally, I think the free shows are far more interesting than the ones you have to pay $25 to see. Temperatures aren’t supposed to be too bad this week, so we lucked out big time. It is supposed to rain off and on, so pack an umbrella or a pancho-whatever you’re preferred method of staying dry. Also bring a lot of cash and spend it like you don’t need to pay rent next month (we have a lot of bridges to fix).

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