With winters like what we experience here in Chicago, it doesn’t take long for one to start coming up with some creative ways to stay warm. I’ve tried building living room forts around radiators, layering like Randy from A Christmas Story, and hanging out in the laundry room while my clothes dry, but nothing warms me up quite like cutting a rug to some good ‘ole jammy jams. Thankfully for me, and other like-minded Chicagoans, Railroad Earth brought a jam train into the city last weekend that doesn’t plan to depart until mid-March. Below you will find my top picks to go experience some warm vibes through the winter months.
Note: Regardless the season, these acts will melt your face and warm your soul.
Buddy Guy – 1/16-19th, 23rd, 25th-26th, 30th-31st
Buddy Guy’s Legends – Tickets – Parking
If you haven’t treated yourself to Buddy Guy’s Legends, January is the month to do so, as the Legend himself will be playing a total of 10 shows at his home base. This rock-and-roll hall of famer has influenced some of the most notable guitarists EVER, such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Derek Trucks, and continues to solidify his cemented legacy every time he takes the stage. The Chicago blues wouldn’t exist without him, and yours wouldn’t be so soothed; there are no excuses to not catch one of these shows!
Keller Williams – 1/17
Park West – Tickets – Parking
Only go to the K-Dub show if you want to dance non-stop for a couple hours and leave Park West with a huge smile on your face. This one man jam band is scheduled to bring us a solo set full of live phase looping, followed by another set of funk alongside More Than A Little. Chicago is stop number 2 on Keller’s 40+ stop “What the Funk Tour”, meaning we get one of the first glimpses into what he’s taking across the country this year. So if you’re not there, we’ll be wondering… WTFunk?
BoomBox – 1/24
Concord Music Hall – Tickets
Don’t be fooled by the beats; BoomBox is 100% rock & roll. Comprised of Zion Godchaux (son of former members of the Grateful Dead, Keith and Donna Godchaux) and Russ Randolph, BoomBox’s unique blend of programming and live instrumentation allows them to achieve a psychedelic rock/house mixture that anyone can get down with. Their shows are completely unscripted and influenced by the energy of the crowd; bring your dancing shoes and they’ll make sure they get put to good use.
Dark Star Orchestra – 1/31
The Vic – Tickets – Parking
If you think it’s impossible to bring The Dead back to life, you clearly haven’t been to a DSO show. For the past 15 years the band has performed countless setlists from the Grateful Dead’s 30 year tour catalog, adapting everything about the era the show was played in, right down to the stage positioning. DSO gives lifelong Deadheads an opportunity to relive their favorite shows, and new ‘heads a chance to experience the magic that was happening before they were even born. The fact that they’re also Chicago natives makes this show a must for any Deadicated fan.
Galactic – 2/1
Park West – Tickets – Parking
Galactic is a very apt name for this funky jazz jam band out of New Orleans, as even though they claim to be from Louisiana – they are not of this world. Since the bands inception, their sound has evolved from being strictly NOLA jazz funk to an intoxicating musical concoction consisting of hip hop, and electronic ingredients that somehow manages to remain true to their roots. Think of them as a musical collab that practices telepathy with each other on stage to communicate the mood of the bayou to the galaxy with music as their universal language – and then go see what I mean by that.
John Butler Trio – 2/7-8th
The Vic – Tickets – Parking Night 1 – Night 2
The John Butler Trio is jam band from down under that will raise your spirits to the ceiling – which will be much needed come February. They wow’d me at Wakarusa a few years back, and I’ve gotten very familiar with their Aussie roots jams ever since. One of the more notable contributions of JBT to the world is “Ocean”, which is questionably one of the best instrumental guitar pieces of our time (do yourself a favor and give it a listen). With a new album dropping literally days before the show, you won’t want to miss this one. You’ve got two chances to see them; we suggest taking advantage of both.
əkoostik hookah – 2/15
Reggie’s Music Joint – Tickets – Parking
The only problem with əkoostik hookah is that you might want to move to Columbus, Ohio after having seen them so you can make it more of a regular thing. It’s celebratory music, comparable to the likes of Widespread Panic, that ideally would be listened to in a big open field so you can dance around in circles throwing flower petals everywhere… and I mean that in the best ways possible. I imagine you’ll be surprised it’s not summer when you leave Reggie’s, and you might be wondering where all your family is going before realizing they were just strangers you attended a concert with; they’ll make your soul shine until summertime!
Umphrey’s McGee – 2/20-22nd
The Riviera – Tickets – Parking Night 1 – Night 2 – Night 3
As noted on the bands website, there are two guarantees with Umphrey’s: You never know what you’re going to get, and they always deliver. They are relentless musical alchemists that will make your head spin with mash-ups that span decades, and improg dance grooves that will make your legs shake for days, and they will surely bring it hard on their 3-day Chicago stint. Umph is undoubtedly one of the most eclectic, fun, and accessible live acts in the jam scene today; if you have a wide-ranged musical palate, they have the ability satisfy every one of your individual taste buds with just one song. Their innovation really leaves me with no words to adequately describe them, so UM… just go.
Masters of March
RatDog – 3/7
Chicago Theatre – Tickets – Parking
Bob Weir’s RatDog is back in tune, scheduled to hit the road for one month this year, and they were kind enough to make a stop in Chicago! Weir will be joined by the regular (aka all-star) roster, Jeff Chimenti, Steve Kimock, Jay Lane (Primus), Robin Sylvester and Wasserman. Coming hot off the heels of a 6-disc release of shows Weir and Wasserman played with the Jerry Garcia Band in the Fall 1989, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some rehashings of the jams from those sets (which were incredible by the way). Regardless of if that happens, this show is sure to leave you Dancing in the Streets for hours after the encore.
Mike Gordon – 3/8
Park West – Tickets – Parking
If you simply cannot wait for another dish of Phish, then Gordon’s solo show is one you don’t want to miss. Having authored 19 original Phish songs, co-penned 25, and dropping a new album next month, phans of Gordon and Phish alike are sure to get their fix. If you’re not familiar with Gordon’s solo efforts, rest assured you will get the same liquidy bass grooves, and descending harmonies that he adds to Phish. If you’re not familiar with Phish or Gordon, this would be a nice introduction. His live recording from The Egg is on LivePhish.com for free if you can’t wait to see what’s in store; I know I can’t.
Don’t be a “Slave to the Traffic Light” while you circle the block looking for a spot!
The Phishums said it best, “bummed is what you are when you go out to your car and it’s been towed”; that’s why if the tires on your car are making contact with the road to any of these shows, we suggest you book a parking spot in advance. We have options available for every aforementioned show with the exception of BoomBox. In that case we suggest using our good friends at Parknav’s app to find yourself some street parking.
Get your tickets, lock down that parking spot, and let’s dance the cold away!