The warmer months offer numerous opportunities to pack a picnic basket and listen to live music under the stars. Here are a few places to check out some outdoor music this summer.
There’s nothing quite like the combination of a warm, summer night and live music performed under the stars.
Its power goes way beyond the acoustics and melody. What’s not to like about sitting on a blanket and experiencing the scenic backdrop of downtown or the picturesque views of a river or lake?
Throughout our region, parks and town squares are bustling this summer with people eager to enjoy an outdoor show in a beautiful setting. We found a few of the most popular.
Summer Concerts in the Square, Huntley
Huntley’s modest town square is usually filled to capacity most Tuesday nights from June through August.
For the fourth year, the popular summer concert series returns to the heart of Huntley. People show up well in advance of the 7 p.m. start to claim their spots. The stage is set on Coral Street, at the north end of the square, where about 500 people sit and enjoy the free show.
“They bring their lawn chairs and blankets,” says Barbara Read, special events manager for the Village of Huntley. “People will also bring tables and host pot luck dinners, and they’ll have candelabras on their tables. It’s pretty cool to see what people will do.”
Bands that tour around the country appear in Huntley, and they represent many genres. This year’s calendar includes performers such as the Blooze Brothers, a tribute and show band that honors the original Jake and Elwood of “Saturday Night Live” fame. The concert series also features Caribbean rock bands, Motown revivals, R&B hits and classic rock.
“The concerts in June and July are geared toward families, and when school starts, the concerts are more for people without kids,” Read says.
The concerts take place in an atmosphere that’s all about music and friendship. People can walk around and chat with their friends while their kids play games around the square.
“I can’t wait for the season to begin,” Read says. “It’s so much fun to be on the square on Tuesday nights.”
Summer Breeze, Schaumburg
Don’t underestimate the deep loyalty of crowds that return year after year to see live music on the grounds of the Robert O. Atcher Municipal Center Complex.
“The concert series is extremely popular and well attended,” says Alissa Brunet, production coordinator at the Prairie Center for the Arts, which manages Summer Breeze. “Concertgoers often arrive early to save a spot on the lawn. We’re fortunate to have a beautiful outdoor setting to work with.”
This year’s season comprises six acts appearing on select Saturday evenings between July 6 and August 24. These free concerts start at 7 p.m.
This year’s acts include rock, retro-pop, country music and contemporary music – and lots of things in between.
“We try to keep the music fun and familiar, while still providing variety,” Brunet says. “This year’s artists specialize in everything from swing to country.”
The outdoor stage is located in a peaceful, park-like setting, with a small lake and rolling hills that create the perfect backdrop for an outdoor concert. About 3,000 people attend, Brunet says.
The venue has open lawn seating, so concertgoers are encouraged to bring their own blankets and chairs. People can also bring a picnic to enjoy, though there are food vendors on site.
If you don’t want to sit during the performance, you can enjoy a leisurely walk on the paths throughout the park.
“The atmosphere is casual and relaxed,” Brunet says. “People bring their picnic blankets, food and beverages, and they make an evening of it. Top-notch music, combined with a lovely outdoor setting, makes for a great way to spend a Saturday evening.”
Concerts in the Park, Crystal Lake
A local tradition for 35 years, this concert series is set around an open band shell on the shore of Crystal Lake, right at Main Beach, 300 Lakeshore Dr. Families and friends are invited to gather at these free concerts each Tuesday from June through August.
Concerts begin at 7 p.m. and last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. Local and regional performers play a variety of music, including R&B, Motown, classic rock, Top 40s and music from decades past.
Concertgoers are encouraged to bring picnic dinners; boaters pull up to the shore as they enjoy the beautiful lakeside setting, a sunset on the water and live music.
Anywhere between 600 and 1,200 people show up, many bringing picnic dinners complete with table settings. Beer, wine and small charcoal grills are accepted on the grounds, but glass bottles are not.
Concession stands are available at the beach house, as well.
As the night progresses, some people have been known to dance in front of the band shell as the sun sets over the lake.
Kids are welcomed to swim at the beach, play in the sand or run around the playground.
Concerts in Lincoln Park, St. Charles
When you attend an outdoor concert in Lincoln Park, you’d better plan to bring three things: your blanket, your chair and your dancing shoes.
Located in downtown St. Charles, amidst shops, restaurants and nightlife venues, the Lincoln Park Gazebo hosts the popular, free Concert in the Park series each Thursday at 7 p.m. from June through August. The 1.6-acre park fills up quickly, so the earlier you get there, the closer you can be to the stage.
And you’ll want to be close, if you’re into dancing. There’s a small pit just in front of the gazebo where patrons are known to accompany the rhythm.
The 12-concert series this year features genres ranging from classic rock and blues to rock ‘n’ roll and the latest Top 40 hits.
There are walking paths throughout the park, so if you choose not to sit, you and the children can still walk around or enjoy the playground while enjoying the music.
Thomas J. Weisner RiverEdge Park, Aurora
This is the sort of place where it’s easy to marvel at the scenic backdrops provided by the Fox River and downtown Aurora.
“At nighttime, the city is lit up, and performers will stop their concerts and talk about what a beautiful place we have,” says Jim Jarvis, VP of programming and sales at Thomas J. Weisner RiverEdge Park.
The John C. Dunham Pavilion at RiverEdge Park holds about 6,000 people inside a 10-acre open-air venue. Some concertgoers buy reserved seating close to the stage, while others bring their own blankets and chairs to sit on the surrounding lawn.
During this summer’s concert series, RiverEdge’s seventh, the pavilion will welcome a wide variety of acts, from the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson to Dionne Warwick, Megadeth and other acts representing rock, country and blues.
Guests who visit RiverEdge are welcome to bring their own picnic, or they can purchase food from vendors at the park.
“We’re large enough to get some of the big artists, yet we’re intimate enough to feel like you’re next to the stage,” Jarvis says.
This year’s schedule covers 18 concerts, with ticket prices ranging from $25 to $55.
“When people come to RiverEdge, it feels like a celebration of music, life and camaraderie,” Jarvis says.