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A smorgasbord of musical treats at Taste of Chicago

Dierks Bentley | AP

Dierks Bentley | AP

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Updated: July 6, 2012 1:06PM

Taste of Chicago 2012 features the usual wide-reaching smorgasbord of musical acts. The difference this year is they’re asking you to pay for them.

Earlier in the year, the City Council approved a plan to charge $25 tickets for the 3,000 seats in front of the Petrillo Music Shell. The lawn beyond, with a capacity of 30,000, remains free, as does the overall chow fest.

So now the question remains: Will you pony up?

Here’s the lineup in the Grant Park bandshell next week:

Jennifer Hudson

She just launched a QVC clothing line, and she’s briefly joining the cast of TV’s “Smash.” This fall, she portrays Nelson Mandela’s wife in the biopic “Winnie,” and next year, she’s due to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But we know J-Hud from her first talent — That Voice. Her second album was out early last year. What’s she singing these days? Worth checking out, checking in.

Luke James opens at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 11.

Death Cab for Cutie

The pride of Bellingham, Wash., released its seventh alt-rock album, “Codes and Keys,” last year featuring the hit “You Are a Tourist.” They were just in Chicago in April for a series of theater gigs. The real bonus on this bill is the opener, the Tuscon-based Calexico, who’ll be previewing tunes from their upcoming album inspired by New Orleans, “Algiers.”

Calexico opens at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 12.

Michael Franti & Spearhead

The perennial Michael Franti, poet and musician, brings their relentlessly positive vibrations back to town for this steamy outdoor gig. Again, the reason for going here is the opening act: the indie soul band Fitz & the Tantrums, showcasing music from their hot debut and their upcoming follow-up.

Fitz & the Tantrums open at 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 13.

Radio Disney Show

This one’s not ticketed: Roshon Fagen (Ty Blue on the Disney Channel show “Shake It Up!”) and Shealeigh (winner of the fourth season of Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing competition) put on a free show for kids.

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, July 14.

Chaka Khan

Here’s a definitely hot ticket: The Queen of Funk, Chaka Khan, comes home for another run through her hits (“I Feel for You,” “Tell Me Something Good,” “I’m Every Woman”). Get ready: she still tends to play drums sometimes on stage.

The 10-time Grammy-winner recently revealed a battle with diabetes. Another killer opening act, too: Raphael Saadiq is the hottest of the new crop of neo-soul stars.

Raphael Saadiq opens at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14.

Dierks Bentley

He’s got an Airstream trailer and he duct-tapes his boots before going on stage. During a recent “unplugged” set, he countrified Adele’s “Set Fire to Rain.” The country crowd will have fun.

Lindi Ortega opens at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, July 15.

There’s also a second stage, the Bud Light Stage, with themed lineups of local acts. These performances are all free, from noon to 8 p.m. each day, located at the south end of Taste of Chicago, at Columbus and Balbo.

The July 11 theme is “Anything Goes,” featuring the local School of Rock Kids, great Chicago pop-rock band the Kickback and more.

July 12 is “Wear Your Dancing Shoes,” an odd moniker for a bill featuring the phenomenal pop-rock-rap of Kids These Days (4 p.m.) and the marching-band madness of Mucca Pazza (6:40 p.m.).

July 13 is “Rock ’Til You Drop” (OK, rolling eyes at these themes now), with the driving alt-pop of My My My (6:40 p.m.).

“Tribute Day” July 14 features a Woody Guthrie tribute (noon) and various artists pretending to be other various artists.

“Variety Day” July 15 mixes in world music, folk and punk.

For more information and complete schedules, call (312) 744-3316 or visit

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