Chicago music fans get treated a multi-venue music festival


Amy Buscemi

The Big Weekend

Amy Buscemi

Most weekends in Chicago present difficult decisions for live music lovers. This past weekend was no exception as it gave debut to “The Big Weekend,” a three-day multi-venue event which hosted over ten musical acts. Some concerts began early in the evening with others on the bill ending early the next morning.

Acts with a jam and improv influence ranging in genre from funk to electronic to progressive rock and beyond graced Chicago stages in a timeline grid like schedule. The three-day multi-music event, which kicked off the fall music season in Chicago, mimicked that of a summer outdoor music festival.

The weekend of music began on the evening of Thursday, Oct. 4, with a funk band from New York City called “Lettuce.” The band played a special two set show at Logan Square’s Concord Music Hall, a primary host to many acts who rolled through Chicago on this bill.

Friday, Oct. 5 gave way to important decision making for music lovers.  Up and coming jam band Spafford of Phoenix, Arizona, played an early show at downtown’s House of Blues while Portland, Oregon, producer Doug Appling, best known as “Emancipator,” played electronic downtempo music with his live ensemble at Lakeview’s The Vic Theatre. The late Prince’s backup band, “The Revolution,”  also billed at Lincoln Park’s Park West venue.

With staggering start times, a determined fan could make it partially to all three headlining performances. For the conflicted music lover, this would also mean missing opening act “Papadosio” at the Vic Theatre and “Southern Avenue” at House of Blues.

The music didn’t end with these three earlier evening shows. Chicagoland’s own Mungion would kick off the weekend’s first late night show as opener for Denver’s “The Motet.” Mungion primarily focuses on a jam and progressive rock influenced music styles and their performance could only be seen in full for Emancipator Ensemble and Spafford attendees that were willing to leave those shows early. The Motet is a funk, afrobeat and jazz influenced band whose late-night show started at 1 a.m. and would offer all early show attendees the option to see them later at night.

Saturday, Oct. 6 also brought an array of diverse music. The day kicked off with the only day show of the event.  The Big Boozy Brunch included a performance from Vince Herman of “Leftover Salmon” and went from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Leftover Salmon hails from Colorado and fans also had the option of seeing their bluegrass, rock, country and Cajun/Zydeco influenced sound later in the evening when they played at Park West.

A conflicting performance from Chicago’s own Umphrey’s McGee would take place at Uptown’s the Aragon Ballroom during the same time slot as Leftover Salmon. Umphrey’s McGee would be the largest drawing act and the only concert hosted at this historic Chicago venue during the Big Weekend.

Umphrey’s McGee is a multi-genre improvisational band with a strong progressive rock and heavy metal influence. The band stems from Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, and has established their firm roots in Chicago for many years now.

It is a commonality for bands of an improvisational jam classification to do multiple night runs of shows in one city and typically at one venue. Spafford would be the only band to be billed twice during the weekend with a late-night House of Blues show scheduled for Saturday. This time the band played well into the morning with the encore performance ending at 3:30 a.m.

“We are excited to be part of the Big Weekend. It’s a cool event. We look forward to kicking the tour off with this one,” Jordan Fairless said, bass player and vocalist for Spafford, during an interview with NEIU’s own WZRD Chicago 88.3FM on Thursday, Oct 4.

Meagan Panici is an NEIU alumni who attended both Spafford shows. Panici said, “It was my first time seeing them and I was blown away. The fans and band seemed to interact with one another and the jams were amazing.”

Music fans with a taste for a more electronic sound might have preferred to attend The Russ Liquid Project and Sunsquabi at Concord Music Hall to satisfy their Saturday late night music cravings.

Music lovers are anticipating a repeat of the event next year.

All performances were met with a room full of attendees despite none of the shows involved in the Big Weekend reaching sell out status. There is currently no information available about a repeat of the event on their website but to stay in-the-loop and also buy tickets when it is announced you can visit