As the city's largest music festival and the largest blues festival in the world, the FREE Chicago Blues Festival supplies a mind-boggling array of the genre in all of its forms. From June 10-12, the city, dubbed "The Blues Capital of the World", will celebrate its significant heritage, attracting an expected 500,000 blues fans to Grant Park over the course of 3 days. With 4 stages, plus a dedicated "street stage", its easy to get overwhelmed with all of the choices. Here's a breakdown of highlights not to miss:


Friday, June 10:

The opening day kicks off with a celebration of the 45th anniversary of the landmark Chicago blues label, Alligator Records. Don't miss Petrillo Music Shell headliner and contemporary blues queen, Shemekia Copeland, who also delivers a flawless preformance of spirited blues originals. Also catch young blues hotshot Jamiah "On Fire" Rogers and the Red Machine at the Windy City Blues Society Stage at 11 a.m., blues powerhouse Peaches Staten at the Bud Light Cross Roads Stage from 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m., legendary blues sax player Eddie Shaw & the Wolfgang at the Mississippi Rhythm & Blues stage at 4 p.m. and up and coming contemporary blues musician Omar Coleman at the Pepsi Front Porch Stage at 3 p.m.


Saturday, June 11:

It's all about showcasing the soul and R&B aspects of the blues on Saturday. At the Crossroads stage, catch polished showman Theo Huff at 12:45 p.m. and outstanding blues and soul belter Nora Jean at 2:30 p.m. Check out Petrillo headliners the "Soul Queen of New Orleans", Grammy winner Irma Thomas at 6:30 p.m. and trombonist Fred Wesley, who played with James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic, at 8:05 p.m.


Sunday, June 12:

The Chicago blues fest pulls out all the stops on closing day, with what promises to be a sizzling tribute to legendary Chicago blues guitarist and singer, Otis Rush, at the Petrillo. Blues icon, Eddie "The Chief" Clearwater lights up the stage during the tribute and a solo show at 6:30 p.m. Other essential performances include The Kinsey Report with lead singer/guitarist and former Boby Marley guitarist, Don Kinsey, at the Crossroads at 2:30 p.m. Southern, blues queen Nellie "Tiger" Travis roars through the Mississippi Rhythm & Blues stage at 4 p.m. and gifted blues artist Lurrie Bell at 4:30 p.m. on the Pepsi Front Porch stage.


Woman of The Blues Photo Exhibit

blues exhibit

During the blues fest and until June 18, an exhibit featuring 60 photos of blues women from across the country, with the focus mainly on Chicago blues women, will be on display at Firecat Projects. A Blues Fest reception opens on June 8, from 7-10 p.m.  The show highlights legends like the late Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor and soul-blues chanteuse Bettye Lavette. Many of the performers at the 2016 blues fest are displayed in the exhibit, including Irma Thomas, Shemekia Copeland, Peaches Staten, Nora Jean and Nellie "Tiger" Travis, who will also attend the reception. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Monday - Saturday at 2124 N. Damen.


The Essentials:

Chicago Blues Festival 2016
Location: Grant Park (Jackson and Columbus Streets)
Dates: June 10-12
Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Admission: FREE

Please visit for the more information on Chicago Blues Festival's events and complete line-up.


Photo courtesy of Rosalind Cummings-Yeates. Poster courtesy of Lynn Orman.