LINCOLN SQUARE — Square Roots Festival is taking over Lincoln Square this weekend.
Now in its seventh year, the three-day festival put together by The Old Town School of Folk Music and Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce will feature 70 live performances on four stages alongside beers from 40 regional craft breweries.
“We expand and contract our lineup a little bit every year but this year we have four stages, the two main ones outside and then the two inside the school,” said Dave Zibell, marketing director at the school. “It just gives us a ton of opportunities for performances. But I think this year’s lineup is as high as it’s ever been since we started Square Roots.”
In addition to the live performances, Zibell says the festival also has a lot of interactive opportunities that attendees can participate in, like a brass band-led parade on Saturday and a samba parade on Sunday.
“I think something we often don’t get to talk about is that there is a lot of stuff to participate in like dance workshops and group signing,” he said “You can bring your guitar here and find someone to jam with. And of course anyone can be in a parade, right?”
The three-day festival that begins Friday and ends Sunday includes live music from The Jayhawks, Pokey LaFarge, Matthew Sweet, The Handsome Family, Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, The Dream Syndicate and Nkulee Dube, among others. Meanwhile Little Miss Ann and Nick Davio will perform shows geared towards children.
“I’ve been a Matthew Sweet fan since I was a kid. And Bombino will be performing on Saturday night, which has a desert blues kind of sound,” said Zibell. “And I really like Beach Bunny, they’re a Chicago band, more of an indie band.”
The festival’s full three-day lineup can be found here.
Rudy Flores, the chamber’s executive director, says the festival’s guiding principle for music, beer and food is hyperlocal. And so this weekend Square Roots will introduce a brew lounge on Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 6 p.m., that will showcase 46 limited run beers. Once these beers are tapped out they’ll be gone.
“Basically how our festival’s worked in the past, we forgo big beer sponsors like Miller or Budweiser because it doesn’t help the small guy, the local business in the area,” said Flores. “So this year we’ve been working with a lot of the local breweries to fill our brew lounge. This is a smaller commitment for breweries like Dovetail. They can bring a limited release or speciality released items that aren’t readily available to the public.”
So Chicago breweries like Half Acre Beer Company, Dovetail Brewery and Begyle Brewing Company will be pouring beer alongside favorites with larger distributions like Lagunitas this weekend. Flores said he’s most excited for Dovetail’s Kriek Belgian lambic, which was spontaneous fermented from wild yeasts and took two years to create.
And earlier this week Chicago’s own Celtic punk rockers The Tossers announced that Revolution Brewery would be pouring a new stout celebrating the band’s 25th anniversary to coincide with their Sunday performance at the festival.
“We’re big fans of The Tossers and they told us they’re big fans of our beer,” said John “Jumpy” Palos, a brewer from Revolution who was part the collaboration. “So once we got together to collaborate they told us that The Tossers drink two types of beer: pilsners and stouts.”
Once it was decided that the new beer would be a stout, Palos aimed for Smash The Windows stout to be more of a “session” style dark beer that would be more drinkable in the heat of a summer festival.
“Sometimes a beer collaboration is just the other people sitting around. But the band was really involved and helped with the recipe,” said Palos. “I mean, they choose a malt from Ireland for this.”
Tony Duggins, who plays mandolin and sings with The Tossers, recalled working alongside his bandmates to shovel the hops and malt into the brew once Revolution told them the ingredients had arrived in Chicago.
“And they’ve done this before with a few other groups, like Local H and some other guys. But it was really flattering when they called us,” Duggins said. “And a stout is perfect for us because we sing a lot about drinking and are a drinking group, it’s a part of life that we enjoy. There are just some things in life that fit right.”
The festival’s full beer list can be found here.
An event this large requires a small army of volunteers to staff it, and Flores said there are about 500 volunteers working it this year.
“And we have a grant program which means our volunteers get paid to be at the event based on the hours they work, but the money goes towards the organizations they’re supporting,” he said.
Organizations benefiting from this year’s festival include The Friendship Center, Heart of Lincoln Square, Saint Matthias, Community Christian and DANK Haus – German American Cultural Center.
Additionally proceeds from the festival also go towards supporting The Old Town School of Folk Music’s financial aid opportunities and its outreach programs at Chicago Public Schools, juvenile detention centers and programing on the city’s South and West Sides.
“It’s just nice to throw a party for your neighbors,” Zibell said. “We ask for a $10 donation and I can’t think of a better value. Just going to see a band like the The Jayhawks or Matthew Sweet, you’d be paying like $20 or $40. We have over 70 bands and all these breweries here. It’s an incredible value that also invests back into the community.”