For the last decade or so, one soft drink company has risen above the rest to curate some of the most important music, art and sports events the world-over. Whereas Sprite was once synonymous with hip-hop, Red Bull has become the go-to name for cutting-edge, authentic events that speak to the city they represent. After a highly successful run through last November as part of the brand’s 30 Days in Chicago, Red Bull brings it back this year with a few tweaks to keep things necessary, consolidating the month-long series into the inaugural Red Bull Music Festival Chicago.
While this year’s edition will look markedly different from what fans experienced at 30 Days, the lineup for this November is carefully curated to touch on the varying sides of Chicago. Whereas last year many of the sets that made up the daily shows were by artists and musicians from all across the country and world, with some hometown names sprinkled in. This time around, it’s decidedly more of a hometown affair.
Detail is key this time around and it kicks off in a big way. G.O.O.D. Music has had one of its most influential years to date and will celebrate the release of albums by Nas, Teyana Taylor, Valee, Pusha T and more, who are all slated to be in attendance alongside Sheck Wes and more this Monday to kick off November’s festivities. From there it’s a long run through the assorted side of Chicago’s arts and music scene, with Vic Mensa and Cupcakke hosting a pair of shows in the first week between a live radio show on Red Bull Radio investigating women in the rave scene and underlining that sentiment with the dance-forward Drone Activity at Smart Bar.
While the big gripe of last year was local artists being left out in the cold for the most part, this year’s edition is way more inclusive for those nearby. Xicago offers a platform for latinx artists from Chicago like Tatiana Hazel, Kaina, Boy Jenius and more to take the stage just in time for National Hispanic Heritage Month. That event, on November 11 at Saffron Rails is perfectly indicative of the way the Red Bull team has focused on creating unique, thematic experiences throughout.
Many of the performances stretch what is modern and contemporary as well. “Where Future Unfolds-Flowers For Chicago” on November 15 is a performance by an ensemble orchestra at the Garfield Park Conservatory and “Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings” shows off the best jazz artists in the city today. Both of those are sure to have a much different feel than opening night, and that’s exactly the point. Instead of a sustained push for daily turn up, Red Bull seems to have learned from its time spent here in 2017, choosing to tailor this run to the up and down nature of going out in Chicago. Sprinkled in are talks with No I.D. on November 20 and a look at the history of house music. To close the month out, the Chicago underground comes out on November 23 at Subterranean and the big close is Jamila Woods’ experiential HEAVN performance which from whispers in the background sounds as though it is going to be absolutely amazing. With no prior information on the subject, I’m hoping to see Vince Martell and the VAM team get back together with Jamila to create something truly memorable as they did for her “Holy” video a year back.
Regardless of where you find yourself this November, make sure to take part in some section of this monster of a festival. Different from last year, Red Bull seems to be taking a real interest in sides of the city that many overlook or take for granted, and we couldn’t be more excited for it. Check back here to Mild Sauce for regular updates all month long.