The windows in my bedroom were wide open and let in a warm breeze as the sounds of neighbors chatting and laughing melded with bands doing soundchecks over large speakers. Just a few steps away from me was a weekend full of music and community.  

“Chicago in the summertime is The. Place. To. Be. And a huge part of that is because there are so many festivals around the city that are completely free and open to everyone,” says Macie Stewart of Chicago experimental rock duo Finom.  

Midsommarfest just wrapped up its 58th year in Andersonville on Clark Street, from Foster Avenue to Gregory Street. It’s one of the oldest street festivals in Chicago, with five stages for music, DJs, dancers and other performers.  

From May until October, neighborhoods across Chicago are brimming with people, local food and drink vendors, art installations, activities, and music, music, music. There’s never a dull weekend—instead, there’s almost too much to choose from. And the local music lineups just keep getting better.  

This year’s Midsommarfest lineup featured a handful of local sets from Justice Hill and Nightime Love, NNAMDÏ, Finom, Cecy Santana, Oux, Ovef Ow and many more—as well as out-of-state bands like Honey Trap.  

NNAMDÏ, Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, headlines Midsommarfest on Friday, June 7, 2024. Photo by Kendall Polidori

Trey Elder, president of Quiet Pterodactyl NFP Inc., had a major hand in helping book this year’s music lineup, alongside a planning committee and sponsors like Replay and the Swedish American Museum. Planning each year’s festival begins immediately after the fest ends, but Elder says he’s been actively working on it since November.  

“I’m excited for it to be over,” he jokes. “No, it’s a great weekend.”  

And it was. Elder has been an Andersonville resident for about 16 years and as I briefly chat with him at the fest, a handful of attendees and friends steal quick hellos, hugs and shots of bourbon.  

“It’s a large-scale production with lots of people, both workers and volunteers,” Elder says. “It brings the whole community together.” 

Trey Elder, president of Quiet Pterodactyl NFP Inc. Photo by Kendall Polidori

To kick off the fest on Friday, June 7, I caught up with Justice Hill before his set on Swedish Stage—a musician who I run into often at other Chicago shows, like surprise Dehd sets in abandoned Logan Square parking lots, and who I’ve seen perform a handful of times since 2021.  

Hill is exactly off stage as he is on stage: a large contagious smile from ear to ear and exuberant energy that makes you feel a tad more alive. He played a long hour and a half set, that had flocks of people coming up to the stage to dance, turning to their friends to ask, “who is this?!”  

“Justice [Hill] and I are friends, so I’m glad to see we could get him on the same stage before NNAMDÏ,” Elder says. 

Justice Hill & Nightime Love by Kendall Polidori

Hill and NNAMDÏ hold a similar soulful, full-band vibe, ranging from R&B to hyper-pop, to alternative indie. They’re both undeniably emotive in their performances, making it difficult to look away, not wanting to miss a single minute.

This is Hill’s fourth year playing Chicago fests, and each time he’s been inching closer to the headliner spot. I write a lot about the Chicago music community—how the folks in it are tight-knit, supportive and creative. Hill notes the significance of the lineup, sharing the stage with friend and Chicago indie R&B musician NNAMDÏ.  

“We’re friends, and I’m friends with the whole band. We’re sharing equipment,” Hill says. “It’s a real community.” 

Since the last time I saw Hill and his band, Nightime Love, headline a show at Chicago’s The Hideout last year, he’s been putting the finishing touches on his second studio album, following the release of Room With A View in 2021. Though he can’t disclose much about it yet, he says it’s an homage to Chicago and the 10 years since he moved here.  

Hill studied songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston and taught himself piano. But it wasn’t until he came to Chicago that he found his music community and homed in on his full creative potential.  

“The music scene there is almost nonexistent to me,” Hill says of Boston. “But here, I feel like, a lot of people take pride in getting successful and staying here. There are so many people here in so many different pockets and genres, and different niches for people to fall into. We can’t really find that in most other cities. Being here and hearing so much music, being a fan of so many people and being part of that is really nice.” 

Hill says with his second album not out yet, the best way to reach new fans is through live shows. And as someone who feels the need to go to every show of his that I can, it’s evident that seeing him live creates long-term fans. Hill emanates a certain child-like joy through his performance. In between hearty, booming vocals, he often looks upward to the sky with a sense of pride and glee, hands flying across his keyboard effortlessly. He considers performing his one superpower in life.  

“I have worked really hard to find my own sound and path here,” Hill says. “It feels like such a privilege to perform.” 

Stewart of Finom agrees, as she and bandmate Sima Cunningham have been going to and performing at Chicago festivals since they were in high school. Headlining, she says, feels like a culmination of their respective careers in the city.  

“It’s an amazing part about living in this city, and makes it feel like such a fertile creative hub,” Stewart says.  

Finom (Sima Cunningham, left, Macie Stewart, right) close out Midsommarfest with a headliner spot on Sunday, June 9. Photo by Kendall Polidori

Finom closed out the festival on Sunday, June 9, with a fierce, lively set. Seeing Finom live will make you love music again—they remind fans what it’s like to let the music move you, to let go and dance.  

The band, joined by fellow Chicago musicians Vivian McConnell (V.V. Lightbody) on bass and flute, and Spencer Tweedy on drums, played through their new album Not God, with a few older songs sprinkled in between. The set put Finom’s versatility on full display, with soft ballads, speedy prog rock, alternative guitar riffs, and violin solos—plus an energetic cover of B-52’s song Give Me Back My Man.  

Macie Stewart of Finom by Kendall Polidori
Sima Cunningham of Finom by Kendall Polidori

Chicago fests like Midsommarfest are accessible to everyone, with kids dancing at the front of the stage along with teenagers and adults, all coming together to celebrate music and community. During Hill’s set, a young girl ran up to the front of the stage to boogie through floating bubbles; meanwhile, during Finom’s set, a group of young adults danced their hearts out, bouncing up and down, and not once taking out their cellphones.

“It feels really rewarding to be part of this continuation of amazing local and out-of-town musicians and get to celebrate the start of summer in our favorite city,” Stewart says. “Some of our favorite Chicago summer memories are of watching bands at festivals with our closest buds. It’s such a quintessential part of the city.” 

Check out The Rockhound’s recent interview with Finom for their latest album release, Not God, here.

Kendall Polidori is The Rockhound, Luckbox’s resident rock critic. Follow her reviews on Instagram and X @rockhoundlb, TikTok @rockhoundkp