Windy City Smokeout Review - All Things Country and BBQ

On a summer weekend in Chicago, there are so many activities to choose from.  This past weekend, the Taste of Chicago dominated Grant Park, the Cubs played the White Sox at Wrigley Field, and the Windy City Smokeout entertained for three days with BBQ, Country Music, and Beer near the Chicago River under the Ohio Street Bridge.   Fresh off my first foray into BBQ and music this summer at Naperville’s Ribfest over the 4th (review here), I was looking for something different and fun.  And the Smokeout delivered.  Great bands, interesting BBQ, and the opportunity to try out craft brews from the Midwest and beyond.  And for connoisseurs, extra opportunities for dinners from well-known BBQ and television celebrities provided something for everyone.

 

A Day's Line-up

The Smokeout had two stages, where acts from across the country alternated, which allowed for spectators to take in all the music on the schedule.  From bluegrass sounds to modern country, the bands provided something for all country music tastes.  I had the opportunity to hear Pat Green on one stage Friday night, and he killed it.  He was funny, engaging, and most of all, his band was excellent.  The knowledgeable crowd sang and danced along with Pat and his boys while sipping Shiner Bock or other alcoholic beverages that included Budweiser products like their popular –rita’s which are sweet and tasty.  Goose Island and Jack Daniels, a few of the many sponsors, had their products available as well.   The craft beer bar was extremely busy -- with vendors like Bell’s and Pipeworks, folks were eager to try out their offerings.

 

Pat Green Kicks It

Cornhole at the Shiner venue

Craft Beer Bar

After Pat Green kicked it, I tried out some smoked chicken from Ubon’s BBQ, with a side of their delta caviar, which was a bean, corn, onion, cilantro mixture that a fresh change BBQ beans and cole slaw (not that I might those sides).  The smoked chicken was tender and with just the right smoke.  I found a close-in spot at the North Stage and took in Kasey Musgraves, a one-time contestant on Nashville Star and an up-and-coming start with Grammy nominations under her belt.  She had a fun stage with neon saguaro cactus and her band member’s coats lit up, too.  Her brand of more traditional country was full of fun stories and catchy tunes. 

 

Artsy Skyline at Smokeout

As for other bands, I also enjoyed the Turnpike Troubadours from Oklahoma and Chris Young, especially his hit ballad “Who I am With You.”  I was unable to attend on Sunday, but having seen headliner Lee Brice previously, I’m sure the crowd was in for a treat.

 

The festival had a fun down-home feel to it.  Picnic tables dotted the small amount of grass available, and in another spot, Adirondack chairs invited eaters and drinkers.  Bean bags flew back and forth at the cornhole games set up at many of the vendor’s sections, and the Jack Daniels venue featured on-the-spot burn-ins of Jack Daniel’s barrel-related items.   The event was well-run, which plentiful and higher class restrooms and ticket vendors across the festival grounds.

Burning Barrel Souvenirs

Country Accoutrements

As for the BBQ, vendors such as locals Lillie’s Q and Chicago Q and some I hadn’t heard of like Smoque and Hogapalooza offered up ribs, pork, beef brisket.  I was enamored with the Pulled Pork Barbeque Sundae from Chicago Q which featured BBQ beans and pulled pork with a pickle spear in a cup.  Also, I saw many Memphis Walking Tacos from Lillie’s Q – a bag of chips with meat spooned in.  Non-BBQ foods included ice cream bars molded on a pretzel stick, lobster rolls, and a section of watermelon.   There was no going hungry at this gig.  If you were so inclined to add on to the generous entry fee, there were several options for dinners like Myron Mixon Whole Hog Dinner, or the Sunday BBQ Brunch hosted by Man vs. Food’s Adam Richman, who also was involved in hosting/judging the amateur BBQ contest.

 

The Smokeout partakers were on the young side – twenties, but many of us more seasoned BBQ and music lovers had no trouble enjoying the event.   On Saturday night, there was quite a crowd for Chris Young where everyone was standing in a pit-like setting and it got a little close-in for me.  If there had been some sort of issue requiring a quick exit, I am not sure where everyone would have gone.  Still, the atmosphere was festive and cordial. 

 

The crowd for ChrisYoung

Dressed for Country

I look forward to seeing who is on the schedule for next year’s Smokeout.   The Chicago setting, the food and beer, and the music made for a good ol’ time.

 

Check out the Windy City Smokeout website here to see what is happening.

 

Photos by Robin Kuss

 

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