Music by the Lake is the summer music series held at Ferro Pavilion, on the campus of George Williams College of Aurora University, in Williams Bay, Wis. (Music by the Lake photo)

Hear the Sweet Sounds of Summer

Summertime is nearly here, and so are a variety of outdoor musical shows, from major headliners to local acts. See a summary of a few local hotspots inside.

Music by the Lake is the summer music series held at Ferro Pavilion, on the campus of George Williams College of Aurora University, in Williams Bay, Wis. (Music by the Lake photo)
Music by the Lake is the summer music series held at Ferro Pavilion, on the campus of George Williams College of Aurora University, in Williams Bay, Wis. (Music by the Lake photo)


Ah, summertime, and the living is easy – warm weather, cookouts, picnics, magical evenings. No matter how we pass these lazy hazy crazy days, nothing captures the quintessential essence of the season quite like music.

And – digital playlists notwithstanding – nothing captures the magic of a melody on those endless summer nights quite like a live performance. Throughout the northwest suburbs, Saturdays in the park (not to mention the other days of the week) are filled with music, from Big Band to Motown, country to Calypso, punk to Polynesian, blues to Bossa Nova, rock to ragtime.

Whether you’re after hot fun in the summertime or just a way to beat the summertime blues, a place for dancin’ in the street or just groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon, Northwest Quarterly’s highlights of summer concerts is certain to tell you something good.

Music by the Lake, Williams Bay, Wis.

Each year, Aurora University at George Williams College fills the air on campus and around Lake Geneva, Wis., with beautiful music. Its outdoor summer series, Music by the Lake, has showcased such diverse artists as Kenny Loggins, The Ramsey Lewis Trio, the Chicago and Milwaukee symphonies and KC & the Sunshine Band.

The popular music series is held at the college’s Ferro Pavilion, with covered seating for 650, an adjacent open-air terrace for 550, and lawn seating for more than 1,000.

As artistic/executive director for Music by the Lake for 14 years, Christine Flasch works year-round to bring diverse national and international artists each season to the modest venue.

“We’re trying several new things in the season lineup this year,” says Flasch. The first is a change in the opening concert, traditionally a Big Band with a vocalist. This year, it’s Blood, Sweat & Tears, with new front man Bo Bice, runner-up to Carrie Underwood on “American Idol.”

“Activity around the lake isn’t quite in full swing, and we decided to go with a rock concert this year, to draw a little different audience and more locals,” Flasch says. “Blood, Sweat & Tears is on the order of Chicago, featuring a rich horn section.” The group scored in the 1960s and ’70s with numerous hits, including “Spinning Wheel,” “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” and “Lucretia Mac Evil.”

Next, on July 19, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ U.S. television debut, is BritBeat. “There are so many Beatles bands out there, but this is a fantastic Chicago-area group that’s wanted to play Music by the Lake for three years,” says Flasch. “I was contacted very early this season by Chris Getsla, who performs the role of Paul McCartney – he even plays a left-handed guitar – who told me about several new additions for the anniversary year, including an Ed Sullivan character. This group looks like them, sounds like them, and puts on a great show.”

Returning for a second consecutive year, for the Children & Family Concert on July 27, is Laurie Berkner, a popular children’s musical artist. “We had such a marvelous response last year,” says Flasch. “Laurie has a huge following. We drew 1,100 last year, when our typical attendance is 300 to 400. She’s also a wonderful person who connects sincerely with her audience.”

Aug. 2 brings “Jim Witter’s Piano Men,” who play the music of Elton John and Billy Joel, and on Aug. 9, The Beach Boys – the original boys of summer – take the stage. The season closes on Aug. 17, with Ladies for Liberty, a trio of vocalists a la The Andrews Sisters singing music of the 1940s, backed by Gary Christensen’s All-Star SUPERband.

For tickets/info, visit

Music by the Lake

Blood, Sweat & Tears with Bo Bice, June 28
BritBeat, July 19
Laurie Berkner Solo, July 27
Jim Witter’s “Piano Men,” Aug. 22
The Beach Boys, Aug. 9
Ladies for Liberty & the All-Star SUPERband, Aug. 17

Concerts at Festival Park, Elgin

Elgin’s Festival Park plays host to a series of outdoor concerts this summer, thanks to a collaboration between Elgin’s Grand Victoria Casino and St. Charles’ Onesti Entertainment and Arcada Theatre.

“This began as a vision of Jim Thomason, the casino’s general manager,” says Ron Onesti, Arcada owner and Onesti Entertainment CEO. “He contacted me, and said he wanted to expand entertainment programming to bring attention to all of the great things downtown that Elgin has to offer, including a wonderful casino.”

The program debuted successfully in 2013, with three classic rock concerts. “Everything went very smoothly,” Onesti says. “The concerts were well-attended, and residents and city managers alike were happy with the results.”

Happy enough that many more shows are scheduled this summer. The season kicks off on June 20 with Il Volo, the young Italian pop vocal tenor trio, performing with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. Then it’s heavy metal on June 22, with Vince Neil, the singer from Motley Crue; Dee Snider of Twisted Sister; and Tom Keifer of Cinderella.

Then for Independence Day, Onesti and Grand Victoria, in collaboration with the City of Elgin, give the city its first-ever “Rock & Roll Jackpot Fourth of July.” The two-night mini-festival features Three Dog Night on July 3, with hits like “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” and “Joy to the World,” and music of the band Chicago, with former members Danny Seraphine and Bill Champlin. In late afternoon on July 4, The Chicago 6, featuring Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael and Otis Wilson – members of the ’85 Chicago Bears – cover artists ranging from Smokey Robinson to ZZ Top. The after-dark double bill includes Dennis DeYoung, formerly of Styx, and Creedence Clearwater Revisited (all original members, sans John Fogerty), followed by a fireworks display.

The lineup also includes country star Josh Turner on July 12; “Southern Rock Reunion” with Marshall Tucker Band, Molly Hatchett, The Outlaws and Artimus Pyle Band (from Lynyrd Skynyrd) on Aug. 3; and Deep Purple (“Smoke on the Water”) with The Orchestra (original members of ELO), on Aug. 20. Even as opening night approaches, Onesti continues to work to book more artists. “I’m trying to add at least three more genres – pop/rock, and something to go along with ‘Art & Soul on the Fox’ and Elgin International Fest,” he says.

A stage that’s installed and removed for each show, along with portable lighting and sound equipment, converts Festival Park into the ideal open-air venue. Food and beverage vendors will be on hand during performances. “Music represents escape – for two hours during a concert, you’re in another place,” says Onesti. “Experiencing it outdoors just adds to that.”

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Concerts at Festival Park

Il Volo, with Elgin Symphony Orchestra, June 20
Vince Neil, Dee Snider & Tom Keifer, June 22
Rock & Roll Jackpot Fourth of July, July 3-4
Josh Turner, July 12
Southern Rock Reunion, Aug. 3
Deep Purple & The Orchestra, Aug. 20

Naper Nights, Naperville

This is the way to spend a night at the museum.

Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., is usually the site of characters in historic costumes and Civil War re-enactments. Each summer, however, for one big weekend a month, it presents a lineup of bands that span the history of rock music.

The concerts are held each month, on Friday and Saturday evenings, with a double bill that’s attended by around 1,700 to 1,800 for both days – more than 8,000 over the course of the entire series.

“We bring in mostly tribute and cover bands, from the Naperville and Chicago area,” says Amanda Fehrenbacher, special events coordinator at Naper Settlement. “We set up a stage and remove it for each performance, and music lovers can set up blankets, tables and chairs – the whole nine yards. We focus on the community and bring in local food and beverage vendors, including our beer provider, Two Brothers Brewing Co., out of Warrenville.”

Gates open at 5 p.m., and concertgoers can choose from standard fare like hot dogs and brats, or cuisine prepared by a local restaurant. In June, the promoted vendor is Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House, and in August, it’s Sullivan’s Steakhouse.

“On July 26, we’re trying something a bit different,” Fehrenbacher says. “We’re opening early, at 3 p.m., and bringing in food trucks from the surrounding area. It will be family-friendly, with different children’s activities each month.”

This will be the series’ eighth season. Cost for each concert is $15, $10 for ages 4-12, and free for kids under 3. For tickets/info, visit

Naper Nights 2014

Deacon Blues; Michael McDermott & the Duke Street Kings, June 20
Fortunate Sons; Mike & Joe, June 21
Think Floyd, incl. entire Dark Side of the Moon, July 25
Naperville Park District Battle of the Bands; OMT; The Ents; ARRivAl, July 26
American English, Aug. 22
Tumbling Dice; 16 Candles, Aug. 23

Sounds of Summer, Palatine

In June 1988, the Palatine Park District finished construction of the Fred P. Hall Amphitheater at Community Park, 262 E. Palatine Road, complete with dressing rooms and public restrooms, to provide free live entertainment during summer evenings. This year is the 27th consecutive season for its Sounds of Summer.

“We offer a variety of concerts, and they’re always free,” says Carol Lange, cultural arts coordinator for Palatine Park District. “Our Palatine Concert Band, with about 80 members, performs three concerts here. They play all kinds of music. We try to mix things up for the rest of the shows – bluegrass, folk, rock.”

The series, which attracts people from all over the northwest suburbs, has grown in popularity over the years. “When I started in 1991, the average attendance was 300 to 400,” says Lange. “Now, it’s 500 to 700. Numbers vary, depending on the performer. When the Beatles band American English plays, we get upwards of 4,000. When a folk duo plays, it can be more like 400.”

The venue, on the south side of the 15-acre park, is like a mini Ravinia, with lawn seating only. “People bring blankets and big picnic spreads,” says Lange. “It’s a wonderful atmosphere. Our Park Board supports it greatly, and we’re pleased to offer an inexpensive family event for summer evenings.”

Poolside concessions at the Family Aquatic Center will be open during all Sounds of Summer concerts. Performances are canceled for inclement weather. Palatine Park District also offers free music at Towne Square, located at Palatine Road and Smith Street, at noon every Friday and at 6:30 p.m. every fourth Thursday. For more information, visit

Sounds of Summer

Sundling Jr. High Band, May 22
Palatine Children’s Chorus, June 18
Palatine Concert Band, June 11
American English, June 13
Motor City Music Machine, June 20
Hillbilly Rockstarz, June 25
Acoustic Soul, June 26
Palatine Concert Band, July 9
Barefoot Hawaiians, July 11
Serendipity, July 16
Classical Blast, July 23
Harper Guitar Extravaganza, July 24
Triadd, July 25
Palatine Concert Band, July 30
7th Heaven, Aug. 1
Mr. Meyers, Aug. 8

Concerts in the Park, Crystal Lake

This free summer series, held at 7 p.m. Tuesdays at Main Beach, 300 Lake Shore Dr., kicks off on June 10 and wraps up on Aug. 12. It features community orchestras and local bands, playing everything from reggae, classic rock and Motown to country, Big Band and Lady Gaga.

On Aug. 9, Blast on the Beach is a family festival featuring Bad Medicine, a Bon Jovi tribute band, along with loads of family fun that draws 4,000 visitors each year.

“It starts at 3 p.m., and has a craft fair, a fun fair for kids, a treasure hunt and other activities,” says Jacqui Weber, marketing coordinator for Crystal Lake Park District. “We’ll also have food, wine and beer. It ends with the concert, and it really is a blast on the beach.”

For information, visit

Concerts in the Park

Crystal Lake Community Band, June 10
R-Gang, June 17
New Odyssey, June 24
New Invaders, July 1
Voices in Harmony, July 2
Crystal Lake Community Band & Voices in Harmony, July 6
Final Say, July 8
Johnny Russler, July 15
Student Body, July 22
Jin & Tonic, July 29
Crystal Lake Community Band, Aug. 5
Blast on the Beach, Aug. 9
Bill O’Connell Chicago Skyliners, Aug. 12