It’s that time of year again, The Chicago Blues Festival is here and runs from June 6th through the 9th. Chicago is the home to the blues so the Chicago Blues Fest is an important event that promotes and celebrates the music for a weekend in Chicago’s Grant and Millennium Park. Blues is the father to Jazz music and I could go further into detail, but to put it simply, no blues no jazz. With Chicago’s Blues Festival being the largest in the world lasting for four days with over 500,000 fans it can be a little overwhelming. So I have created this guide to the Blues Festival to help you make your Blues Fest experience as enjoyable as possible.
The Chicago Blues Fest kicks off with a bang on Thursday evening with Shemekia Copeland headlining. This day starts late at 6:30 and ends at 9 So its a short day, but packed with three fantastic sets. I recommend seeing all groups on Thursday, there are only 3 sets, and you have a unique balance of young artists and a bigger name musician in Copeland. All performances on Thursday are located at Millennium Park – Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
Friday is the first full day and is jam packed with events all day long. There are a multitude of stages and they all have unique personalities. The Blues Kids Foundation Tent has young performers, Jam sessions, and Master class sessions. While, on the other side of the spectrum Petrillo Music Shell has the headliners. If you plan on going early I recommend starting your day at The Blues Foundation it’s a win win situation you get to hear great young musicians and they get an opportunity to play on a big stage. Other highlights for Friday include Bob Stroger & Friends at the Windy City Blues Society Stage, Mojo at The Budweiser Light Crossroads Stage, and Terry “Harmonica” Bean at The Mississippi Juke Joint Stage. The highlight in my opinion is still the Petrillo Music Shell it has the headliners which are the atists most came to see and or the most well known. Still, I recommend checking out a set or two at as many different stages as possible if you have the time.
If possible I would start my day at 11:00 a.m. with the Columbia College Blues Ensemble at the Blues Kids Foundation Tent. Trust me these kids can play and it’s encouraging knowing these kids will keep Blues music going for future generations. Other highlights on Saturday include “Baker’s Dozen” Harp Blowout hosted by Harry Garner Band at Windy City Blues Society Stage, Mike Avery and West Side Soul at Bud light Crossroads Stage, and Tribute to Howlin’Wolf featuring Eddie Shaw and friends and Mississippi Juke Joint Stage. As always the Petrillo Music Shell closes the day and does so in a bang, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Otis Clay, The Memphis Soul Revue, need I say more?
The bittersweet final day, so many great acts but like all great things they come to an end and Sunday concludes Chicago’ Blues Fest. The difficulty of the final day in my opinion is all stages close at different times and they all have great final acts. The Bill Whitehead & Paul Streff Duo at the Windy City Blues Society Stage, Linsey Alexander Blues Band at the Bud Light Crossroads Stage, a blues jam session at the Mississippi Juke Joint stage, Magic Slim Tribute featuring Shawn Holt & The Teardrops at Pepsi Front Porch Stage, and The Petrillo Music Shell concludes the Festival with Chicago Blues: Old School, New Millennium which includes a multitude of fantastic acts so it should be a special moment.
Going to Festivals can be an exciting and exhausting event. My advice is to pick some acts you want to see and leave room in your agenda for food, drinks, bathroom breaks, etc. Remember the Blues Fest is free so take advantage of seeing as many acts as possible especially since most of these musicians are professional and you would have to pay a lot to hear them all throughout the city. As far as the acts I recommended I tried to pick different groups from different stages to give you a multitude of styles Male singers, female singers, guitar based acts, young, old and even some Harmonica. I recommend that you also pay close attention to which stages you prefer as I said earlier the stages have different personalities and perhaps their will be one whose acts you like more then others. Overall the Blues Fest and all the acts are fantastic and as long as you are willing to be open-minded you will have a great time.