Chicago Gets in on the Country Music Craze

Country music was born in the southern United States (Tennessee, to be specific). As such, it has remained, in many people’s minds, a symbol of the South, along with the sweet tea, dirt roads and pickup trucks that modern-day country stars love to sing about.

However, in recent years country music has experienced an intense surge in popularity all over the nation—and to some degree, internationally. In 2012, country overcame classic rock and took the spot of No.1 most popular music genre in the U.S.

Chicago is jumping on the country bandwagon. It may come as a surprise that Northerners identify with lyrics that describe a region entirely different than our own, but I can personally attest that a large number of my graduating class at New Trier listened to it religiously. Many of us have never lived south of Springfield, so what gives?

Thinking of country songs as a Southern phenomenon ignores the more universal themes found in their lyrics: summer, love, heartbreak, or just plain partying. Almost anyone can relate to those.

The result of this growing audience is, along with controversial pop-ification, a wealth of new ways to feed the country craze. If you already love country music or think you might want to give it a chance, here are some ways to get in on this musical trend without crossing the Mason-Dixon Line:

Tune Into Twang

US 99.5 (WUSN) has long dominated as the only country music station based in Chicago. But in a sign of the changing times, in January 2015 Big 95.5 (WEBG) took over the Regional Mexican station previously occupying that station to become WUSN’s first true rival. 

Country in a Cornfield

Country Thunder (Jul. 23-26) – If you’ve ever wondered where half of the young people in the suburbs disappear to in late July, I can help: it’s to a giant, flannel-infested party in the middle of a cornfield in Twin Lakes, Wisc. This year, watch 22 artists including Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, or hang out in the rowdy campsites. 

Country Thunder Music Festival. Photo by Lexi Salberg
Country Thunder Music Festival. Photo by Lexi Salberg

Concerts to Catch This Summer

Not ready to commit to a multi-day festival? Check out these summer Chicagoland concerts:

Jul. 31 – Old Crow Medicine Show and Brandi Carlile at Ravinia

Aug. 29 – Little big Town and David Nail at Ravinia

Aug. 31 – Alan Jackson at Ravinia

Sep. 11 – Zac Brown Band at Wrigley Field

All summer – various artists at Joe’s Bar

Cocktails and Country

If your ideal night on the town involves a friends, a few drinks and a background soundtrack of Kenny Chesney or George Strait, look no further than these local spots that cater to country fans:

Joe’s Bar

Bub City

Houndstooth Saloon

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill

Skooter’s Roadhouse

Saddle Up Saloon

Old Crow Smokehouse

Charleston’s

Cadillac Ranch


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