Northalsted Market Days
By Cait Brennan - July 31, 2014
You're invited to the largest LGBT festival in the Midwest
They say Arizona summers are the hottest, but it doesn't get much hotter than Chicago's Boystown neighborhood in August, when the annual Northalsted Market Days draws one of the biggest crowds of any LGBT event in the Midwest to "the best gay neighborhood in the world."
Each year this two-day festival showcases some of the best food, arts and crafts, and live music Chicago has to offer, so it's no surprise that more than 150,000 visitors are expected attend the annual festival.
For those making the trip from Phoenix, Jennifer Gordon, publicist for the Northalsted Business Alliance, that hosts Market Days as well as the Chicago Pride Fest each June, says this event — in its 34th year — is a street party like no other.
And, with a stellar lineup of 40 acts, on three stages, including Neon Trees, Karmin, Belinda Carlisle, Mary Lambert and more, it's easy to see why.
Taking Center Stage
"[At] this year's Market Days, there's something for everyone," Gordon said. "It's such a diverse lineup, and I think that it's reflective of the neighborhood. It's very intentional to have a diverse lineup that's all-encompassing, all-welcoming, that will appeal to a wide range of audiences."
High-energy dance rockers Neon Trees headline the mainstage Sunday in support of their new album Pop Psychology. Frontman Tyler Glenn came out as gay in a Rolling Stone interview published in April. As the first major Pride set since the interview, the band will cover hits like "Animal," "Everybody Talks" and the taboo-busting gay/straight fantasy "Sleeping with a Friend."
Powerhouse pop duo Karmin is crashing the party too, bringing favorites including "Hello" and "Brokenhearted" to the crowd.
Rising star Mary Lambert will also hit the stage. Lambert transformed her featured spot in Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' double-platinum gay anthem, "Same Love," into "She Keeps Me Warm," the first single off her album, Welcome To The Age Of My Body, that she refers to as "the other side of the story."
Other musical highlights include a solo set from legendary Go-Go's frontwoman Belinda Carlisle; a performance from pop singer, and former Dancing with the Stars contestant, Aaron Carter; and an appearance by the spectacular all-girl hard-rock cover band Lez Zeppelin.
Additionally, dance diva Deborah Cox, San Antonio indie/punk-influenced Girl In A Coma and alt-pop gems The Locals are also among the events entertainers.
If the lineup isn't enough to beckon travelers from throughout the Midwest and beyond, the Northalsted area is part of Chicago's Lakeview district, one of the city's hotspots for dining and nightlife.
The Heart of the Gayborhood
"It's a very vibrant, diverse neighborhood in the heart of the north side of Chicago," Gordon said. "It's right along the lakefront and right up against Wrigley Field. There's always a lot going on. Boystown, in particular, is one of the bigger attractions."
According to Gordon, Market Days is one of the oldest, and biggest, street festivals in Chicago.
"Market Days originally started as a sort of mellow sidewalk festival among some of the businesses in Boystown," Gordon said. "[Now it's] something that not only people in the Chicagoland area look forward to, but we have many national and international visitors as well."
The street fair runs six city blocks down North Halsted Street, from Belmont Avenue to Addison Street, through an area that's been Chicago's go-to spot for gay-friendly business since at least 1980, the year the Northalsted Business Alliance was formed to promote the area.
"We're a neighborhood that celebrates pride year-round," Gordon said. "With Illinois passing marriage equality, this year is extra special and people will be celebrating."
More than 300 local vendors will be on hand to keep festivalgoers supplied with food, beverages, arts, crafts and other goodies.
"It's an amazing and unique vibe. You just have to see it to believe it," Gordon said. "It's a perfect time to be in Chicago."
And, needless to say, with recent advances in LGBT rights, the mood will be festive. -E
Cait Brennan is a singer/songwriter and freelance writer based in Phoenix.
Chicago's Northalsted Market Days
11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 9-10
General admission, $10 donation;
VIP passes, $20 each day
SATURDAY, AUG. 9
Deborah Cox, 1:15-2 p.m.
Blush, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Steve Grand, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Whiskey & Cherries, 7-7:30 p.m.
Cary NoKey, 7:45-8:15 p.m.
Belinda Carlisle, 8:45-9:25 p.m.
Crush on Radio, 12:15-1:40 p.m.
Godwin & Branden James, 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Brynn Marie, 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Radical Something, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Girl Group, 8:30-9:30 p.m.
Hag, 12:15-1:15 p.m.
Skirt Steak, 1:45-3:15 p.m.
Girlband, 3:45-5-15 p.m.
The Locals, 6-7:15 p.m.
Girl in a Coma, 8:15-9:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, AUG. 10
Charice, 1-1:45 p.m.
Aaron Carter, 2:45 – 4 p.m.
Neon Trees, 5-6 p.m.
Rockell, 6:45-7-15 p.m.
Karmin, 8-9:15 p.m.
Mary Lambert, 12:15-1 p.m.
One Night Band, 2-3:15 p.m.
Ariana & the Rose, 4-5 p.m.
Abba Salute, 5:30-7 p.m.
16 Candles, 7:45-9:45 p.m.
The Personnel, 12:30-2:50 p.m.
Catfight, 3:30-5:30 p.m.
The Handcuffs, 6:15-7:15 p.m.
Lez Zeppelin, 8:15-9:30 p.m.