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Millennium Park Summer Music Programming Schedule Not As Loaded As In Past Years

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 2, 2012 4:20PM

Chicagoist/Chuck Sudo
The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events last week announced its summer music programming at Millennium Park and it doesn't have us feeling the goose flesh as in previous years.

Take, for example, the Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays. Last year's lineup was loaded and had us reaching for the lawn chair and picnic basket every week through its run. This year the only acts announced so far have been Kelly Hogan (May 28), Jonathan Richman (June 4), Chico Trujillo (June 25) and Charles Bradley (July 16). Of those four, the only act we'd pencil in as a must-see is soul shouter Bradley.

More damning is the Music Without Borders world music series, which is gone altogether and has sparked an online petition drive to encourage DCASE to bring it back. (Music Without Borders was the brainchild of former Cultural Affairs programmer Michael Orlove, who's heading to the National Endowment of the Arts in May.)

Music Without Borders was arguably the broadest of Millennium Park's summer music programs and the one series that brought a melting pot of people downtown. It's been replaced by a new series called Loops and Variations, a series of six concerts combining new music with electronica and featuring a June 28 show by the amazing eighth blackbird.

Loops and Variations has the potential to be a welcome addition to the park's music programming. We don't see it having the broader crossover appeal of music without borders, however.

The most disconcerting aspect of this summer's music programming is that it doesn't seem to appear as though there's a strong central visionary like Orlove at the helm; someone who can mix name artists with bands that deserve a wider audience. As the schedule stands on paper, we imagine being able to find purchase on the Pritzker Pavilion lawn with ease, instead of trying weaving our way through the lawn because of the Calcutta of Hipsters that marked Iron and Wine's performance last year.