One of Chicago's most treasured music festivals is set to return this summer with a trio of legendary soulful singers as the main attractions: the festival is none other than the 31st Annual Chicago Blues Festival. Bettye LaVette, Aaron Neville and Dr. John will all headline Chicago Blues Fest, 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. A complete line-up of performers and schedule for all stages, as well as preview events, will be released later this spring.
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, bassist Rolo Radford and drummer Sam Lay, Marcella Detroit and others 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.
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.
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, May is "Blues Month" in Chicago, featuring a number for 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).