Ravinia Festival may not be a festival in the way the most readers think of it -- in fact, its cornerstone has always been a fine program of classical music, a genre that has yet to infiltrate any other festivals that I've been to (except the Clifford Ball).
However, if you're looking for a more laid-back, BYOB musical experience in Chicago's north suburbs, and you are a fan of rock / jam / jazz / etc., there may be more than a couple acts that you'd like to check out in this environment. Yes, they tend to side on the mellow side, but no reason not to grab a picnic basket, some Chardonnay and make summer.
Tickets go onsale on 4/26. Here's our selection for the best bets.
6/20 Bodeans -- Nostalgia alert! For those of a certain age (hint: mine), these guys were inescapable college music. Nice to see the Milwaukeeans are still making a go of it 20 years later.
6/25 Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings -- Real New York Style funk and soul. You may remember Sharon from her guest appearance with The Phish at Festival 8.
6/26 Jackson Browne & Sara Watkins -- Laid back So-Cal sounds for a laid back venue. Ex-Nickel Creeker Watkins lends support while her more buzzed about Creek compatriot will be around in August.
6/27 Los Lonely Boys / Los Lobos with Alejandro Escovido -- Of the two "Los" bands, I'm a much bigger fan of Los Lobos... but I've always had a soft spot for Alejandro. Viva Spanish Language Rock!
7/6 David Byrne & St. Vincent -- I was blown away at this show during its initial Chicago area appearance downtown in the fall. If I hadn't already experienced it then, there'd be no keeping me from this one. Do yourself a favor a get a pavilion seat for this one!
7/14 Willie Nelson & Family -- The biodiesel bus and high flying weed party rolls into Highland Park. Since HP was the childhood home of some of the most prolific stoners I know, that is only appropriate.
7/22 Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson - Performing Thick As A Brick Parts I & II. Ron Burgundy appearance optional.
7/26 Brian Wilson / Al Jardine / David Marks -- After the Beach Boys reunited last year, these founding members sort of got hung out to dry. Now they're back on the road. Come see one of the most fragile living legends out there.
7/29 Heart with Jason Bonham -- It's Heart. With Jason Bonham. Insert joke here.
8/1&2 Steely Dan -- Will this be the summer that I finally break my Steely Dan cherry? I certainly hope so and with a pair of gigs, it is looking likely...
8/18 Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile -- These string virtuosos will gather for the live debut of their “Goat Rodeo Sessions” album. Super exciting. The music is must hear stuff and clearly the lineup is world class. Score points for Ravinia for nabbing this exclusive.
8/23 Lyle Lovett -- His band is always top notch, the songs are superb country-rock hybrid and he's kinda weird in an alluring way, don'cha think?
8/27 John Hiatt & Robert Cray Band -- The dog days bring out these grizzled veterans. Probably a good idea to put these guys on your bucket list.
There are plenty of other bands that I can't enthusiastically endorse but they may be your speed (Chicago, Matchbox 20, Journey, Goo Goo Dolls). Check the full calendar and ticket information at Ravinia.org.