With the arrival of summer quickly approaching, make sure to jump right into the festival season with the 31st Annual Chicago Blues Festival! Blues icons Bettye LaVette, Aaron Neville and Dr. John will all headline Chicago Blues Fest next weekend, June 13-15 in Grant Park. Celebrating "Blues by the Lake," the festival is free admission and open daily from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The weekend begins at the Petrillo Music Shell, featuring headliners at 6 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. on Friday, June 13 and Saturday, June 14. The stage will run 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 15.
A special tribute and centennial celebration honoring John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson on Friday at the Petrillo Music Shell will be performed by musicians influenced by his harmonica "crossed-harp" style. Led by renowned harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold - who played with "Sonny Boy" - the Siegal-Schwall Blues Band with Sam Lay, Marcella Detroit, Billy Branch, Omar Coleman, Mark Hummel, Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith, Billy Flynn and Johnny Iguana will all perform.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops, hailing from Durham, N.C., will open the Petrillo stage on Friday. Rooted in old-time fiddle and banjo-based music, the band won the 2010 Grammy® Award for best traditional folk album. The Otis Taylor Band follows the Carolina Chocolate Drops with his raw musical style, which discusses serious issues like murder, homelessness, tyranny and injustice. Though his music focuses on dark topics, Taylor himself is of an optimistic, lighthearted character.
On Saturday, blues singer extraordinaire and "Great Lady of Soul" Bettye LaVette headlines the Petrillo stage. LaVatte made her first record at the age of 16, starting her rise to fame with the single "My Man, He's a Loving Man." Throughout her more than 50-year career, LaVette has recorded multiple hit songs, establishing her as one of the genre's great vocalists.
Opening for LaVette on Saturday are Theo Huff (performing at 6 p.m.) and Willie Clayton (6:55 p.m.). Born in Chicago, Huff had a tremendous love and respect for the "Soul Masters," like Same Cooke, Johnny Taylor and Otis Redding, instilled in him at an early age. Since, Huff has crafted an incredible stage presence to complement his remarkable vocal ability.
Clayton, a singer-songwriter and producer, began performing gospel music in church before starting his career that has spanned nearly 40 years. His repertoire consists of styles of R&B, soul and gospel, and remains one of the few working artists of his contemporaries.
Aaron Neville and Dr. John close the Chicago Blues Festival on Sunday, showcasing their distinctive New Orleans sound. Neville returns to the spotlight with the recent release of his new album, "My True Story," revisiting the doo-wop music he grew up with and created throughout his storied career as a solo artist and member of family group, the Neville Brothers.
Malcolm John Rebennack, known to boogie and blues enthusiasts as Dr. John, has become a musical icon through his creation of a signature brand of "voodoo" music, staying true to his Big Easy roots. He joins Neville for a night of soulful reverie. Opening for Neville and Dr. John is Nikki Hill, joined by her band the "Pirate Crew."
Leading up to the Chicago Blues Festival, June is a "Blues Month" in Chicago, featuring a number of preview performances at various Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Library locations throughout the city. The Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) will have blues performances on select Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon during May. A Blue Festival preview at Daley Plaza is scheduled on Monday, June 9.
For more information, please visit chicagobluesfestival.us. To plan your trip to Chicago for the Blues Festival this June 13-15, visit choosechicago.com. Join the conversation on Facebook (Chicago Blues Festival) and follow us on Twitter, @ChicagoDCASE (#ChiBluesFest).