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Windy City Smokeout // Chicago, IL // 8.04-8.07

Article and Photos by: Charles Yamabe

Chicago, IL — A little over a week ago, Chicago experienced the ninth year of the biggest country music festival in the city. Spread over four days and taking place in the United Center parking lot, Windy City Smokeout was a huge success. The crowds were massive and the air was filled with the scent of smoke and BBQ. Country music filled the air and craft beer flowed like water. It was the hottest and most humid weekend of the summer but nothing could stop the fun that was to be had. There’s something to said about a festival that can take place on the hottest weekend of the summer and that still has sell out crowds.One of the biggest surprises of this years festival was the “unofficial” pre-party that was taking place right outside the gates. Some local guys threw a country themed party on their deck and were inviting festival attendees to stop by. The party was sponsored by KC and the hungry boys a new up and coming country group.

Bands — This year saw the likes of Jordan Davis, Lily Rose, Niko Moon, Mackenzie Porter, Kip Moore,Turnpike Troubadours, and Russell Dickerson. The headliners included Willie Nelson, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, and Sam Hunt. The standout artist of the weekend was Jordan Davis who played to a packed crowd. Jordan brought a happiness and confidence that overpowered the crowd and had them dancing fo his entire set. That’s not to say that the other artists didn’t bring their own forces to be reckoned with. Willie Nelson headlined the first night and played to a sold out audience. As soon as he and his bandmates took the stage the entire audience went into an uproar that didn’t stop the entire set. Having a legend like Willie Nelson is a treat for those that have seen him before and for those who haven’t. At eighty-nine years old Willie sounded as good as ever. Tim McGraw being a classic country artist and somewhat of a country sex symbol held the crowd in the palm of his hand the entire set. His dancing and grinding had the women swooning and his lyrics had the men getting rowdy. Sam Hunt like Willie Nelson played to a sold-out crowd. The audience was packed in and people didn’t leave the entire set. Miranda Lamberts demographic was a little different from the rest of the nights. Lambert had a large number of women in attendance, something that wasn’t a prevalent the three nights before. The crowd was a sea of pink and pastels with the ladies singing every word.

Beer — As soon as you walked in you were greeted with a city street length alley of icy cold goodness. This festival had over twenty-eight different breweries on site! Those numbers alone would make the die-hard beer lover drool. However, when you factor in that each brewery had two to three beers each, that gives you a total of over 60 different kinds of beers. Those numbers are unheard of at music festivals (Really, those numbers are unheard of outside of a beer fest!). They brought in a wide selection of beers as well. Everything from American Pale Ales, India Pale Ales, Pilsners, and Mango Whit beers. Basically, they had a beer for every discerning taste. The focus of the beer seemed to be on craft beers. Sure they had some of your more basic all American beers but overall it had a very craft forward touch.

BBQ — Located along with the cocktails section of the fest the food court area at this festival was massive and boasted over twenty different barbecue joints from all across the United States. Some of the standout places were HooDooBrown with their cheddar jalapeño stuffed sausage, Ubons with their BBQ chicken, and Smoque with their smoked pork belly. While a majority of the restaurants were from the Southern states, only a few were from Chicago and New York. By the end of the festival, most of the stands had sold out of almost everything. But that didn’t stop the attendees from getting what they could. At one point people were just eating bowls of large chunks of smoked pork and going to other stands to get what remaining BBQ sauce was left to slather on their meat. For those that don’t eat pork or beef, there were options for them as well. There was mac and cheese at a few stands as well as cornbread and fried okra.

All in all Windy City Smokeout was an all around good time. People left their politics and prejudices at the door. It was about people coming together for three days of good food, good drinks, and good music. With a record sell out crowd on Saturday and huge crowds the rest of the weekend, the Windy City Smokeout is guaranteed to see future success for many years to come. Wind City will be celebrating it’s tenth anniversary in 2023 and has already announced one of the headliners the Zach Brown Band.

To get an idea of all the festival has to offer you can click this link Windy City Smokeout

Charles Yamabe
One day my love of music and passion for photography serendipitously collided. Since that day I have carried my camera around with me everywhere I go. You can find me on Instagram