June 10-12, 2016 • Free Admission • Grant Park
There’s a reason blues musicians sing about “Sweet Home Chicago.” Chicago has historically been a beacon to musicians looking for bigger crowds and more places to play. Following the “Great Migration,” blues musicians from the South made Chicago one of the biggest spots in the country for blues music.

Fittingly, the annual Chicago Blues Festival is the city's largest music festival, too. More than a half-million people flock to Chicago's "front yard" for free outdoor concerts in the park. This year, festival highlights include:
  • 2015 GRAMMY® nominee Shemekia Copeland for a headlining show
  • tribute performances honoring Otis Rush
  • three stages with daytime concerts in downtown Grant Park (Bud Light Crossroads Stage, the Jackson Rhythm and Blues Stage, and the Front Porch)
In continuing with four decades of tradition, the Chicago Blues Festival will celebrate the genre's rich heritage and forthcoming talents with three days of performances — all FREE and open to the public, no tickets required.

Browse the schedule below and for the latest updates, visit and follow #ChiBluesFest on social media.


Preview Events: May & June

  • Hours: Vary
  • Locations: Vary
Leading up to the Chicago Blues Festival, during May and June there will be several preview performances and film screenings held at the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, as well as Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Library locations throughout the city. The “official” Chicago Blues Festival preview on Daley Plaza will take place Monday, June 6, at noon.

Friday, June 10

  • Hours: 11:00 am – 9:30 pm
  • Location: Grant Park (Jackson & Columbus Drive)
The festival opens on June 10 with a salute to Chicago’s Alligator Records for 45 years of what the label describes as “genuine houserockin’ music.” Deeply rooted in the blues, several of the label’s renowned recording artists will perform at the Petrillo Music Shell to kick-off the festival. 2015 GRAMMY® nominee Shemekia Copeland will headline the tribute with a sizzling performance of her many hits since her debut in 1998.

Before Copeland takes the stage, the Petrillo Music Shell will open with Tommy Castro & The Painkillers. The group’s funk and blues sound will delight fans with their guitar licks and high-energy performance.

Always a crowd favorite, Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials will bring their rowdy blues show to the Petrillo Stage. Bluesman Corky Siegel will join the band for a special collaboration and provide his special style of blues to the evening’s mix.


Saturday, June 11

  • Hours: 11:00 am – 9:30 pm
  • Location: Grant Park (Jackson & Columbus Drive)
Headlining the evening on June 11 is jazz and funk trombonist Fred Wesley & The New J.B.s. Wesley is best known as the music director, arranger, trombonist and a primary composer for the legendary James Brown from 1968 to 1975. The members of the New J.B.s are accomplished musicians from around the world with solid credentials in funk and jazz.

Best known as “The Soul Queen of New Orleans,” Irma Thomas will take the stage earlier in the evening. Thomas’ career has spanned over five decades and the GRAMMY® winner was named the “Soul Blues Female Artist” at the Blues Music Awards in 2013 and 2014.


Sunday, June 12

  • Hours: 11:00 am – 9:30 pm
  • Location: Grant Park (Jackson & Columbus Drive)
Performances on Sunday, June 12 will tribute legendary blues guitarist Otis Rush. A fearless electric guitarist, Rush was a leader in creating the modern, R&B influenced Chicago blues we know today as the West Side Sound.

The evening will begin with Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters. As an award-winning blues guitarist, Ronnie Earl learned from Rush and considers him to be the greatest musical influence on his career and life.

The tribute continues with Chicago legend Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater. Known as a blues-rocking showman with his left-handed, upside-down guitar playing and his signature Indian headdress, Clearwater is among the very finest bluesmen performing today.

Friends, artists and surprise guests will come together to celebrate Otis Rush with a special tribute for the headlining act. Confirmed artists to date include: Jimmy Johnson, Abb Locke, Brian Jones, Carl Weathersby, Bob Stroger, Sumito Ariyoshi, Big Ray, John Kattke, Mike Wheeler, Lurrie Bell, Shun Kikuta, Eddie Shaw, Sam Burton, among others.


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For complete schedule and more information, visit the official Chicago Blues Festival website:

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