Chicago's summers are the best anywhere -- meteorologically, sure, but also because of the plethora of neighborhood street festivals practically every weekend.
The food, the beer, the curious crafts and arresting art -- come for all of that, but stay for the music. Many of this summer's street fests are can't-miss bargains when factoring in their concert lineups.
The city's web site has a complete schedule of the summer's street festivals. Here are eight suggested 'hood happenings, where the scheduled music gets well beyond the usual cover bands and tribute acts ...
Taste of Randolph Street
The 15th annual Randolph Street festival has a killer alt-rock lineup this weekend, featuring Divine Fits, the Joy Formidable, Milo Greene, Lord Huron and more, including Chicago's justifiably beloved JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound. Divine Fits are the buzziest alt-rock band here, but don't miss the Joy Formidable, who live up to their name as a gleeful rock powerhouse.
June 14-16 outdoors around 900 W. Randolph; suggested donation of $10 to the West Loop Community Organization.
Chicago Craft Beer Festival
Here's to good friends. Tonight is kinda special. The beer will pour. But on Saturday and Sunday nights, don't down so many suds you can't enjoy the music. Saturday features swampy Texas blues queen Marcia Ball (a longtime artist on Chicago's Alligator blues label). Sunday's act, the great country-folk slinger Robbie Fulks, isn't hard to find around Chicago but never to be avoided when possible.
June 21-23 @ St. Michael in Old Town, 1633 N. Cleveland Ave. Admission is free; $35 advance for a one-day beer tasting pass, $40 purchased on-site.
Green Music Fest
This gathering of environmentally minded innovators and vendors usually takes its music lineup seriously, and though this year's schedule is weaker than usual there are a few gems on board for emission-free, sustainable rocking. In particular, focus on Sunday's south stage, featuring some superb regional acts with timeless influences, including Chicago's Great Divide (4 p.m.), Missouri's rollicking Ha Ha Tonka (5:15 p.m.) and the supreme talent of Chicago singer-songwriter Joe Pug (7:30 p.m.)
June 22-23 @ Damen Avenue between North and Schiller. Admission is free; $5 suggested donation to the Chicago Center for Green Technology.
Lincoln Park Arts & Music Festival
The Barenaked Ladies are at the Charter One Pavilion on July 9, but the guy who sang all the BL songs you know and love -- he left the band a few years ago. Steven Page, the voice and primary songwriter for everything from "Be My Yoko Ono" to the theme song for TV's "The Big Bang Theory," is a solo act now -- and a fun, engaging one. He headlines this fifth annual fest at 8:15 p.m. June 29.
June 29-30 @ Racine and Fullerton avenues. Admission is free; $7 suggested donation to the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce.
Windy City Ribfest in Uptown
Wave those sticky fingers in the air for a nicely varied lineup at this charred flesh fest. Chicago Afrobeat is a helluva show (3:30 p.m. July 7), the guys from Little Feat (Paul Barrere & Fred Tackett) have a rich music tradition belying this booking (5 p.m. July 6) and David Lowery's post-Camper Van Beethoven band Cracker as the Saturday night headliner is the perfect accompaniment to sauce-smacking lips (8:30 p.m. July 6).
July 5-7 @ 4700 N. Broadway. Admission is free; $5 suggested donation to Business Partners, The Chamber for Uptown Chicago.
Sheffield Garden Walk & Festival
If you're more inclined toward the side of this event that's about garden walking and refreshing summer evening breezes you should seize this free-to-cheap opportunity to see Chicago's legendary Poi Dog Pondering (8 p.m. July 21), whose show is similarly nourishing and breezy.
July 20-21 @ Sheffield Avenue between Webster Street and Belden Avenue. Admission is free; $7-$10 suggested donation to the Sheffield Neighborhood Association.
Taste of Lincoln Avenue
If you attend this festival and voluntarily position yourself at the stages where the tired old Wedding Banned (8:15 p.m. July 27) and Sixteen Candles (8 p.m. July 28) are headlining, you deserve every long moment of your boredom. Saturday's main headliner is @#$%! Dave Davies from the Kinks (8:30 p.m. July 27), a great guitarist and boasting one of the richest histories in classic rock. Sunday's final act is '80s arena rockers Loverboy (8:30 p.m. July 28), with Mike Reno still in headbands. (Maybe Sixteen Candles will go for "Working for the Weekend" at the exact same moment ...)
July 27-28 @ Lincoln and Fullerton avenues. Admission is free; $10 suggested donation to the Wrightwood Neighbors Association.
Now for something completely different: This 58th annual celebration of Japanese culture features an intriguing musician worth checking out. Yoko Noge's Japanesque Band (8 p.m. Aug. 10) features the satiny vocals of its namesake threading through a unique mixture of Minyo folk music with Dixieland jazz and Chicago blues.
Aug. 9-11 @ Midwest Buddhist Temple, 435 W. Menomonee St. Admission is suggested donation of $6 adults, $5 students and senior citizens; the Yoko Noge concert is $10.