Fresh indie rock from L.A., Momma perfects a balance of heavy riffs, deep emotions, inviting sonic production, and a lighthearted, wry sense of humor, creating a singular lane in today's world of alt rock. Momma embraces their ‘90s influences while also bringing the sonics forward with a contemporary freshness.
Squirrel Flower’s heart-rending sophomore album Planet (i), following her 2020 debut I Was Born Swimming, is exactly that. A singular planet, a world entirely of artist Ella Williams’ making. Buoyed by her steadfast vision and propelled by her burning comet of a voice, the record is a love letter to disaster in every form imaginable. Tornadoes, flooding, gaslighting assholes, cars on fire - these songs fully embrace a planet in ruin. As Williams rides from melancholy to jubilance to complete emotional devastation over the course of twelve songs, she carves out a future for herself and those she loves.
Mucca Pazza assembled itself in a steel mill parking lot along the Chicago River in 2004. Combining marching band traditions and street theater spectacle with rock and roll sensibilities, Mucca Pazza quickly found a home for its 30-odd members in the thriving Chicago underground music scene. An unparalleled eccentric, frenetic visual presence and genre-bending original compositions earned Mucca Pazza critical praise and a loyal local following.
Disaster Kid is a nostalgic indie rock band from Chicago composed of three friends (Seamus Kreitzer, Connor Criswell & Mason Stahl). Reflection is at the core of Disaster Kid’s music. Their songs are full of nostalgia and catharsis - packed together by vivid detail, energetic melodies, and lyrical storytelling. Disaster Kid’s sound is human and emotive.
Indie rock pioneers Superchunk close out Square Roots on Saturday night with their uplifting and energetic live show. Formed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1989, the group has run the gamut of milestone albums: early punk rock stompers, polished mid-career masterpieces, and lush, adventurous curveballs.
A veritable Chicago institution of underground rock, Eleventh Dream Day recently celebrated its 40th “bandiversary". Since first hitting the road in a battered Econoline van in the 1980s, Dream Day continues to build on their history by moving forward musically, while never forgetting what inspired them. As a live unit, they remain a sonic force to be reckoned with.
Cosmic Country Showcase is a fantastic homage to country variety shows like Grand Ole Opry with an extraterrestrial-psychedelic twist featuring Chicago’s queer country crooner Andrew Sa as the host of this out-of-this world revue along with a diverse group of guest vocalists singing country classics with an all-star band. Hop in and suit up! Get your spurs shined for this all-new show!
Nathan Graham is a musician born and raised in Chicago. His music bridges the gap between South Side Soul and Nashville Americana, creating a new inclusive vision of singer-songwriter. He built his career over the last ten years as a guitar-for-hire, touring internationally with major label and indie acts, all while focused on songwriting and honing his skills as a solo performer.
Come celebrate the launch of “Jug Band Happy Hour,” Jonas Friddle’s sly and modern take on the jug band blues. Jonas Friddle is a North Carolina born singer, songwriter and Old-Time banjo player whose songs have received numerous accolades including The John Lennon Songwriting Award. His most recent project “The Jug Band Happy Hour” is a tribute to his early days in the Windy City, playing the jug band blues at the Hideout Inn. The music has a raucous sound that takes good time music to the next level. Get ready for banjos, horns and songs about gravy.
Divino Niño are no strangers to bold reinvention. When Camilo Medina and Javier Forero, friends whose bond dates back to their childhoods in Bogotá, Colombia, moved to Chicago and recruited guitarist Guillermo Rodriguez to form a band, they were psych-pop outsiders playing live shows with a drum machine. The addition of drummer Pierce Codina solidified their place as local indie rock mainstays with their unrelentingly collaborative beats, immersive dance floor heaters, and mellow vibes for frenetic doses of reggaeton, electropop, and trap.
Jon Langford co-founded punk band The Mekons at the University of Leeds in 1977. Vocalist Sally Timms joined in 1986. Since then they’ve continued to work with The Mekons and on a host of solo projects melding country, punk, and commentary. Both currently based in Chicago, they remain frequent collaborators.
Musically, Elizabeth Moen teases sounds from alt-country, contemporary Nashville, and indie soul but mostly settles into the less genre-specific tone of early 20’s weariness via haunting guitar twangs, ethereal rhythms, and her voice to guide us through the eerie minimalism.
You might call Angela James’ voice arresting. Her rich, crooning style is clearly inspired by singers from her upbringing in Tennessee; names like Hazel Dickens and Neko Case aren’t far reaching comparisons. Her songs are intimate and honest portraits reflecting the challenges and the beauty of change.
Holy Joke burst onto the local Chicago scene in 2023 with a dynamic live show that toggles between moments of twangy bombast and gentle whispers of pedal steel. Inspired by alt-country greats and modern indie rock artists, their songs are both thematically introspective and delivered with infectious energy. The band's debut EP "No Way Home" is available everywhere on June 8.
Los Vicios de Papá drops immigrant beats with a passion for reggae, ska, and cumbia. Their lyrics stem from their struggling and undocumented youth experience. LVDP was born out of a crumbling public education system and failing immigration policy in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood.
Shanta Nurullah is a sitarist, bassist, composer, bandleader and storyteller focusing on positive, uplifting recordings and live performances. Her group Sitarsys brings together western and eastern instruments played by a group of creative musicians in a variety of groupings, from trio to octet, performing originals and covers.
Cool off inside as the Old Town School’s Teen Music Collective struts their stuff on the Maurer stage. With an emphasis on creativity, expression, and collaboration, OTS Teen Music Collectives are a place for experienced teen musicians to gather and learn, write, and perform music together.
A genre defying folk punk group giving you silly and moving originals and quirky covers and a whole lot of talent. THEM queers is a two piece band founded by Molly Smith (they/them) on tap and percussion and Nate Kistler (he/they) on vocals and instruments, and they are here to give you a wildly charming time.
Swing by the Family Stage for some interactive, Indian dance with Old Town School teaching artist Alka Nayyar including Bhangra, popular Bollywood, and regional folk styles!
Clamor & Lace Noise Brigade is Chicago’s first street marching band composed solely of musicians and performers of marginalized genders. In Clamor & Lace, musicians, dancers, and artists of all backgrounds and skill levels collaborate to create joyful, raucous, and high-energy performances. The band’s eclectic repertoire embraces and promotes female and non-binary composers–with cover songs by new wave and riot grrrl goddesses, pop divas, and outsider music legends, as well as an ever-expanding collection of strange and wonderful originals.
Since the release of their self-titled album in 2009, indie rockers Real Estate have become "expert at communicating a particular type of suburban ennui... and fantasizing about life elsewhere" (The New Yorker) with their deeply reflective, and beautifully adventurous music.
Brigitte Calls Me Baby plays a unique style of pop with a wistful hope for more while embracing the tropes of desire, despondency, and solitude. The sound of "sixties pop classics are absolutely drenched in hormones and melodrama...Elvis meets Scott Walker, with a dash of Morrissey…” - No Distance Records U.K.
Tuvergen Band is a Mongolian folk-fusion group based in Chicago. Each member of this trio brings a different musical tradition to the table, fusing ancient Mongolian and Tuvan melodies with modern sensibilities and idiomatic world music rhythms. Their music is a modern take on nomadic music.
The music of Lala Lala, the project of Chicago-based musician Lillie West, "has the rippling feel of a psychedelic experience” (Bandcamp). Her alto voice intones over murky, melancholy sonics, and in a quick turn, expands with synth, a jockeying beat, and warped vocals that hover in the background.
Disq, from Madison, Wisconsin, have assembled a razor-sharp, teetering-on-the-edge-of-chaos melange of sounds, experiences, memories, and influences. As they careen from their teens into their 20s, their sound is a gnarled mix of power pop, anxious post-punk, warm psych-folk, and hectic, formless, tongue-in-cheek indie rock.
Etran de L’Aïr (or “stars of the Aïr region”) welcomes you to Agadez, the capital city of Saharan rock. A family band composed of brothers and cousins playing for over 25 years, Etran has emerged as stars of their local wedding circuit. Beloved for their dynamic repertoire of hypnotic solos and sun schlazed melodies, Etran stakes out a place for Agadez guitar music. Playing a sound that invokes the desert metropolis, “Agadez” celebrates the sounds of all the dynamism of a hometown wedding.
Raised in Rio de Janeiro, Dill Costa is one of Chicago’s best samba instructors and performers representing the authentic Carnaval tradition that is part of Brazil’s rich musical legacy. Catch her dynamic performance on the South Stage, then stick around and join in the Samba Parade up Lincoln Ave!
Urban Twang’s quixotic songwriting team features lead vocalist Trish Clausen and guitarist Max Twang. Because of Max’s enthrallment and bemusement with bolo ties they redefined themselves with Americana vibes becoming Urban Twang. Urban Twang has performed at festivals and legendary venues around Chicago, opening for nationally touring acts, and with songs appearing in indie films.
Old Town School teaching artists John Mead, Alton Smith, Tommi Zender, Gregg Ostrom & Peter Manis will be your crack backing band for Live Band Karaoke! Sign up to sing your favorite song from the list. It’s your time to shine!Song List & Sign Up
A singer-songwriter of the highest order, member of Dolly Varden, and Old Town School teaching artist extraordinaire, Steve Dawson leads The Lucid Dreams in a set that beautifully blends Americana and classic pop featuring Diane Christiansen, Alton Smith, Tommi Zender, Larry Brown, and Mike Bradburn.
Moontype is an indie rock band consisting of Margaret McCarthy, Ben Cruz, and Emerson Hunton. The group originally met attending Oberlin College and coalesced as a trio here in Chicago. “...a giddy shot of joyful power pop. McCarthy’s restrained, gossamer vocals carry a dreamy hopefulness...her voice coasting along waves of shoegaze distortion with a serene poise that suggests all her desires are within reach…” - Chicago Reader
Timeless, angelic, and evocative - these are the words that come to mind when describing the musical stylings of Sabine McCalla. McCalla turns an old page in an old book. She combines American roots of r&b, folk, and gospel with lyrical poetry that speaks to the soul. McCalla takes the listener on a journey through the depths of the human experience. Whether it’s a lamenting ballad or a rollicking dance number, McCalla keeps you enchanted with superb storytelling and melodies to make your heart melt.
Renée Nanzer will take us all on a song-swept journey that will make you want to shake and groove, play and move! Featuring songs in Spanish and English, Renée brings her sweet and skillful set to the Family Stage this year. A longtime teaching artist and a talented performer, Renée can't wait to dance and canta with you!
Time for a celebration of Chicago, soul music's rhythm and melodies and the freedom of mind, body, and soul that we all seek. Led by teaching artist, performer, composer, and producer Bill Brickey, this interactive performance will brighten and enlighten.
Abby Lyons is a folk/pop singer-songwriter, whose music is honest, introspective, and sweet. Her stories are derived directly from her life and personal experiences, often diving into the subtle challenges of relationships with friends, lovers, chasing success, and the idea of fame.
Enjoy a set of Baroque & Bluegrass with Old Town School teaching artist Brandi Berry Benson! Brandi grew up playing bluegrass in her home state of Texas alongside her classical studies. She's performed with numerous bluegrass, country, and rock bands, continues to teach and perform folk music, and research historical fiddling traditions of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Join the fun and dance til your heart's content at our Family Barn Dance delivered by the always-engaging Silver Trotters! Led by longtime and beloved Old Town School teaching artist Barb Silverman, this performance is one you can just watch, but you'll likely be inspired to move. Come one, come all to the outdoor dance hall (that is, the Family Stage at Square Roots)!