For the months of June, July, August and September of 2011.
With a little help from the mainstay country music touring acts, the summer 2011 country music concert season in Chicago is really starting to take shape. As in years past, major acts such as Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Lady Antebellum and Kenny Chesney fill the calendar, but overall, in comparative to the past three years, this 2011 falls a bit short.
Area fans are starting to realize the loss of the annual Chicago Country Music Festival as the former two-day, downtown country music festival once held by the Mayor’s Office of Special Events was consolidated and will join other music festivals as part of the annual Taste of Chicago festival. A major blow to the summer concert calendar. Additionally, the 25-city “Country Throwdown Tour” skips Chicagoland for a downstate Illinois gig.
While in first quarter 2011, the Allstate Arena managed to wrangle in some major tours with the March 5 George Strait/Reba McEntire ticket and most recently the Sugarland “Incredible Machine Tour” on May 6, these two concerts could have fit nicely into the summer season. Although, Sugarland is scheduled for the Rockford MetroCentre on August 12.
Regardless of the “what could haves” Chicagoland and parts of Illinois and Wisconsin – to date – boast a whopping 54 summer concerts. In the spirit of tradition, here’s the Country Music Chicago Top 11 Summer Country Concerts of 2011. (In chronological order)
1. Kenny Chesney @ Toyota Park – June 9
Returning to Illinois soil for the first time since 2009, Kenny Chensey ditches Soldier Field for the near southwest suburban Toyota Park with a smaller lineup (Billy Currington/Uncle Kracker) and similar ticket prices. Since we haven’t had Chesney in the area for some time, and with new music and a huge dossier of great summer hits, will start off the season living those songs again. ticketmaster.com
2. Eli Young Band @ Joe’s Bar – June 17
The Eli Young Band isn’t a stranger to Chicagoland but it’s been some time since Mike Eli and his band hit up this north side country concert venue. Be sure to catch this show and check out their new music including their new single, “Crazy Girl”. joesbar.com
3. Miranda Lambert @ Joe’s Bar – June 2
One of the first concerts we reviewed here on Country Music Chicago was Miranda Lambert at Joe’s Bar, back in 2008. Since then, she’s married, grabbed a ton of awards and certifications, travels with a huge brigade and can sell-out Joe’s Bar in record time. While it’s unlikely any of us will actually be able to get into this show, because it’s sold out, there’s no doubt that it will be epic. Plus, the whole reason why Lambert is in town is to celebrate the venue’s 15th anniversary so a bit congrats to Joe’s! joesbar.com
4. Trace Adkins & Eric Church @ Concerts for a Cause – June 25
Every year a small-town pizza pub in downstate Peru, has held several fund raising country concerts at a local sportsman club. While for some the drive down past I-80 can be quite the trek, these concerts have become a yearly gig to look forward too. In 2011, the concerts are moving to a larger location at a nearby airport in LaSalle County to help ease parking congestion. Trace Adkins and Eric Church are on tap this summer. louslagrotto.com
5. Country Music Day @ Taste of Chicago – July 1
Loretta Lynn, Courtyard Hounds, Whitey Morgan and the 78’s and more…
Well if we can’t have the Chicago Country Music Festival, then I guess we can suffice with a one-day country music stint at the annual Taste of Chicago. Besides, it’s refreshing to see one of Country Music’s legends headed to Grant Park. Plus, don’t forget to pay homage to the great local bands playing on the Illinois Lottery Taste Stage. explorechicago.org
6. Justin Moore @ Pontiac Crystal Palace – July 2
The Pontiac Crystal Palace garnered our attention with a host of mid-level country music concerts throughout the spring. While it might be a bit off the beaten path, we recommend you have give this Crystal Palace a try, just don’t over indulge! Justin Moore is headed for a special “Freedom Fest” outdoor concert over the July 4th holiday weekend. You might just want to celebrate in this Small Town USA! pontiaccrystalpalace.com
When legends such as Marty Stuart make their way out of Nashville for performances such as this one a the downstate Watseka Theatre, we always try to get the word out on these special performances. The mainstay touring acts almost always seem to make it to Chicago every year but every once in a while you can catch a gem like this show. watsekatheatre.com
It wouldn’t be summer with out a visit from Mr. Paisley and a trip to the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre. In 2011 Paisley’s back with a new album, “This Is Country Music”, and a re-circulated, scaled back H2O Tour. livenation.com
Just over the Illinois/Wisconsin border, this 4-day country music festival is a country music fan’s paradise. The 2011 Country Thunder headliners include Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride, Zac Brown Band and Rascal Flatts and more! The fun isn’t just the music, get the real experience with camping and general admission packages. countrythunder.com
10. Steel Magnolia @ Sundance
The north suburban Sundance Saloon has gone through some changes in the past couple of years but it appears the suburban country dance club and entertainment venue is gearing up with a host of “national” touring acts this summer. Don’t miss Steel Magnolia on Sept. 3rd. sundancesaloon.com (Editor’s Note: It appears this show has been cancelled.)
While the majority of this list is geared towards modern top-40 country, Alison Krauss is best known for her bluegrass crossovers and it’s a rare opportunity to catch a great performer like Krauss at such a prestigious venue like the Chicago Theatre. ticketmaster.com
For a complete guide to area country music concerts, visit the Chicago Country Concert Calendar.