Amp Up Your Summer! Must-Go Kindie Rock Concerts

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Summer is concert season — and adults aren’t the only ones with gigs to go to. Kindie rock bands are tearing up the stage at big neighborhood festivals and intimate venues alike. From acoustic-guitar songbirds to full-blown punk groups, the choice of kid-friendly acts is vast and also appealing to parents that are tired of hearing “The Wheels on the Bus” on repeat. Pencil in these must-go gigs before school is back in session.


Lollapalooza, Grant Park’s music blowout founded by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell and Grammy-nominated record producer Tor Hyams brings the noise for kids in a big way. Kidzapalooza is an entire festival-within-a-festival, where little music hounds come dressed the part with mohawks, dyed hair, fake tattoos and rock tees. The crowd ranges from preschoolers to tweens and has national acts like The Not-Its (Aug. 2 at 2:30 pm & Aug. 3 at 2:30 pm), Ralph’s World (Aug. 3 at 4:05 pm & Aug. 4 at 1:30 pm) and Ella Jenkins (Aug 2 at 12:30 pm). Other activities include hip hop and drumming workshops, and rock-star video karaoke. Take note: This year’s event is sold out. If you are going, consider yourself lucky. If you’re not and still want a piece of live kindie-rock action, read on for more concert options.

Grant Park
$95 for a day pass; kids 10 and under are free


Wicker Park Fest
The closest thing to Kidzapalooza (though on a smaller scale) is this neighborhood jam, where both rock and kindie bands play. This year, the local children’s shop Psychobaby is back with its annual Rock and Roll Kids Hair Tent, where stylists do mohawks, coloring and more for free. Festival organizers donate proceeds from the festival’s kids’ area to Jonathan Burr Elementary School in Bucktown.

July 27: 12:00 pm, The Boogers; 1:00 pm, Laura Doherty; 2:00 pm, Mr. Singer & Kerry Appleberry
July 28: 12:00 pm, Mary Macaroni; 1:00 pm, Young Stracke All Stars; 2:00 pm Lindsay & The Shimmies (shown in the photo above)

Milwaukee Avenue, from North Avenue to Paulina Street
$5 suggested donation for admission


Millennium Park Family Fun Fest
Every day new entertainment and amusements animate the big tent in Chicago’s art-spangled park. You can always count on seeing Wiggleworms (from the Old Town School of Folk Music) perform at 10:00 am and listening to storytelling at 11:00 am. Other performers and musical acts rotate every day at 1:00 pm. Catch Jeanie B! and The Jellybeans on Aug. 2, Future Hits on Aug. 5, Human Tim + Robot Tim (shown in the photo above) on Aug. 7 and Chic A Go Go on Aug. 14.

Chase Promenade North
201 E. Randolph St.
Admission is free


Little Miss Ann
Kindie starlet Ann Torralba may only stand at 5′ 1 ½” but she’s a force of nature. She packs big, heartfelt vocals in upbeat rock-folk songs laced with positive messages. Often she plays solo, but this summer you can catch her with a full band.

July 27 at 2:00 pm: Cantigny, 1S151 Winfield Rd., Wheaton (630-668-5161); admission is free (parking rates apply)
August 7 at 5:30 pm: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake-Cook Rd., Glencoe (847-835-5440); admission is free (parking rates apply)


Mindy Hester & The Time Outs
Mindy and her band have a lot of cred with music-loving parents. They transform songs by Neil Young, Guns & Roses, The Flaming Lips, The Clash and other pivotal rock acts into interesting, kid-friendly parodies.

July 27 at 10:00 am: Wilmette Theatre, 1122 Central Ave., Wilmette (847-251-7424); $10 in advance; $12 at the door


The band, made up in part by musicians affiliated with Old Town School of Folk Music, has off-the-charts energy and stage presence. Its blues, folk and Americana rhythms get tiny dancers moving. And, hey, it’s also just fun to say, “Poochamungas.”

July 28 at 12:30 pm: Jeff Fest, Jefferson Park, Lawerence & Linder Aves.; $5 festival admission
August 25 at 2:00 pm: St. Helen’s Carnival, Augusta Boulevard, between Western Avenue and Oakley Boulevard; admission is free


Ralph’s World
When Ralph Covert isn’t playing in his indie band The Bad Examples, he’s giving kids a jolt of bubbly rock ‘n’ roll via Ralph’s World. The band’s layered instrumentation and catchy hooks is the stuff of grownup radio. And in the lighthearted messages, kids find glee. After all, it’s hard to argue with lyrics like, “Happiness is a glass of lemonade.”

July 28 at 2:00 pm: Brookfield Zoo, 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield (708-688-8000); free with Zoo admission ($15 adults; $10 kids)
August 3 at 4:05 pm & August 4 at 1:30 pm: Kidzapalooza, Grant Park; $95 for a day pass; children 10 and under are free. (Currently sold out.)
August 24: Downtown Palatine Street Fest (solo gig), Slade & Brockway streets.; admission is free
August 25 at 10:00 am & 11:00 am: WTTW Kids Fun and Run, Lincoln Park, on Cannon Drive, south of Fullerton Parkway; $30 adults; $15 children


Istvan & His Imaginary Band
In the indie circuit, Istvan plays Martin acoustic guitar backed by drum machine affects for all-out quirky fun. In his kids band, he’s joined by talented friends that let it rip with cheerful originals that skim styles ranging from rockabilly to folk to rock.

August 6 at 11:30 am: Viking Park, 4374 Old Grand Ave., Gurnee; admission is free


Laura Doherty
The Chicago sweetheart pulls you in with songs about big-city-living, as seen through the eyes of a child. Known for feel-good guitar-driven folk-pop, she plays songs from her latest two albums, Shining Like a Star and Kids in the City.

August 16 at 5:00 pm: Little Beans Cafe, 1809 W. Webster Ave. (773-251-1025); $20 for one child, $35 for two children, $50 for three children
August 23 at 1:00 pm: St. Helen’s Carnival, Augusta Boulevard, between Western Avenue and Oakley Boulevard; admission is free


Mr. Singer & The Sharp Cookies
We love his outfits as much as his music. The colorfully dapper rocker plays originals, as well as classics in every genre from swing to rock to samba. If you love his full-band gigs, catch him solo at musical story hour every Wednesday and Friday at 9:15 am & 10:00 am at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Main Barn.

August 14 at 5:30 pm: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake-Cook Rd., Glencoe (847-835-5440); admission is free (parking rates apply)
August 17 at 10:00 am, Wilmette Theatre, 1122 Central Ave., Wilmette (847-251-7424); $10 in advance; $12 at the door

What is your favorite kindie rock band? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Kelly Aiglon

Photos: Courtesy of Kidzapalooza, Lindsay & The Shimmies, Human Tim + Robot Tim, Little MIss Ann, Mindy Hester & The Time Outs, Poochamungas, Ralph’s World, Istvan & His Imaginary Band, Laura Doherty, Mr. Singer