Preview: Wicker Park Fest


In a city that is nearly saturated with street festivals–not a bad problem to have–July’s Wicker Park Fest is set to be one to prioritize.  The two-day festival will take place on the 23rd and 24th, this weekend, with 35 bands on Milwaukee Avenue between North Avenue and Paulina Street.  We took a look at the lineup for you to help you prep.


This is no doubt the day that will be the most highly attended due to the 8pm performance by The Mountain Goats, even if the rain forecasts come true. While that is no doubt set to be one of the most fun free performances of the summer with frontman John Darnielle’s honesty and raw energy, there is much more to be excited about throughout the opening day.
Matt Brooks


For one, the “opposing” headliner of The Mountain Goats, performing on the North Stage is the 12-piece, afrobeat funk Antibalas.  This eclectic collection of musicians from Brooklyn can hold their own and, if you don’t happen to be a Mountain Goats fan, you could probably get pretty close without getting there too early and missing other artists!  For a taste of their style, take a listen to “SONG“ or check out their tribute to David Bowie!
-Matt Brooks

Beyond the headliners, we highly recommend the following artists.

Jimmy Whispers

Every self-respecting Chicago music fan needs to go see Jimmy Whispers’ set. He has proven time and time again that his shows are spontaneous acts of utter weirdness and ludicrous joy. Whether he’s doing sick basketball tricks in other people’s sets or wrapping his mic cord around his neck mid song, Whispers just exudes a good time. His songs are lo-fi bedroom pop that pull you in and never let go. If you’re lucky he’ll end the set in a slow dance party or a boisterous singalong to an old standard. Whatever he has up his sleeve, you know he’ll have a memorable performance.
– Julian Ramirez

The Island of Misfit Toys

This local, nine-piece group, who describe their genre as “busy music,” hold nothing back.  Frontman Anthony Sanders may be one of the most honest lyricists you’ll ever hear, revealing his emotions in a way that makes all of our subtle, self-conscious tendencies feel mutual.  He spent time a few months back touring around the Chicago suburbs using only public transit, and is gearing up to do the same on the Megabus out East in the near future.  The band, who perform on the North Stage at 1pm Saturday, are beginning a tour of the East Coast, with tour dates here.  “TIOMT” accent their genuine frontman with horns, two drummers, xylophone, violin and whatever other instruments these versatile musicians can incorporate. There’s no reason to miss these Chicagoans performing on Saturday, Take a listen to their full AudioTree session or their album on Spotify to prepare!
-Matt Brooks



Let’s avoid the obvious comparisons and just say that Ought are amazing. They’ve gone from a college musical project to an undeniably crowd pleasing triumph. The Montreal quartet fills their post-punk songs with rapid and deft instrumentation that is underlined by the impassioned vocals of Tim Darcy. There are times where Darcy’s observational lyrics are so sharp and vicious that you’ll find yourself lost in their chaotic and ever earnest delivery. If you need any more convincing, watch their Blue Stage headlining performance at Pitchfork Fest last year.
– Julian Ramirez


There is something so intoxicating about the droning bliss of RLYR (pronounced relayer).  The group is birthed from three integral musicians of insanely talented Chicago bands: Pelican’s Trevor de Brauw, Steven Hess of Locrian, and Colin DeKuiper of Bloodiest. They meld together noise, post-punk, and a heaping pile of energy into their lengthy songs. Seriously, their first album is 45 minutes of nonstop experimental rock made up of just four songs. This is where you go on Sunday to lose control and rock out.
– Julian Ramirez

Bad Bad Hats

This indie trio from Minneapolis are simply addicting.  Still moderately fresh off of their 2015 EP Psychic Readers, Bad Bad Hats don’t take long to steal your heart. With a voice that reminds me of a more addicting Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir (Of Monsters and Men), Kerry Alexander’s songwriting is versatile in nature. The experience of listening to the grungy “Shame” and minimalistic “Things We Never Say” exemplifies that versatility, and we invite you to see it for yourself on Milwaukee this month.
– Matt Brooks

Tickets are free, with VIP passes available for purchase.  So jump off at the Damen or Division Blue Line stops, use their complimentary bike parking stations, bring your pets, and pray for no rain!

Matt Brooks
Matt Brooks