Blues music was born in the Deep South but it took on a life of its own when it reached Chicago. If the dozens of destination blues clubs that dot the city aren't a sign of our city’s affinity for the genre, the 30-year-old Chicago Blues Festival is.
Are You Ready?
As far as cheap weekends go, the Chicago Blues Festival is three days of nicely priced family fun. “Nicely priced,” in this case, means free for all ages. Long afternoons on your feet under the hot sun not sounding ideal? Lawn chairs are happily welcomed into the fest! The only thing you’ll need is food and drink, which you can obtain from one of the savory food trucks lined up to appear at the festival grounds including Giordano’s, Porkchop and The Fat Shallot.
Friday, June 13:
The Chicago Blues Festival starts the weekend early, kicking off at 11 a.m. on Friday morning. Day one of the festival features local all stars like Billy Branch (1 p.m., “Meet Me In Memphis” Blues Pavilion) and performances showcasing blues’ unique musical arrangements (Mark Hummel’s Harmonica Blow Out with Billy Boy Arnold at 4:30 p.m on the Pepsi Front Porch Stage and a Slide Guitar Shootout at 3:15 p.m. on the Windy City Blues Society Stage). Friday wraps up with a jam-packed centennial celebration of Chicago blues pioneer John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson featuring The Siegel-Schwall Blues Band with Sam Lay, Billy Boy Arnold, Marcella Detroit, Billy Branch, Omar Coleman, Mark Hummel, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, Billy Flynn and Johnny Iguana. For a full schedule of the day's events, click here.
Saturday, June 14:
Saturday is “Lady’s Night” at the Chicago Blues Festival this year! First, catch a tribute to Chicago’s blues divas with Peaches Staten, Deitra Farr and Nellie “Tiger” Travis at 4:15 p.m. on the Bud Light Crossroads Stage. Then end your evening with a performance from Bettye LaVette, celebrating more than 50 years as a singer/songwriter in blues and soul music. Click here to see the full performance schedule for Saturday.
Sunday, June 15:
We could argue that the festival is saving the best for last this year. Sunday will host a show from the Chicago Delta Blues Band with Bob Stroger, Barrelhouse Chuck, Billy Flynn, Lil’ Frank and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith (3 p.m. on the Pepsi Front Porch Stage) and will close out with back-to-back performances from New Orleans legends Aaron Neville (of The Neville Brothers) and Dr. John. See Sunday's full lineup here.
Get A History Lesson!
If you need some time to cool off indoors, take a detour and stop by the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington) where a photography exhibit entitled Chicago’s Front Porch: Blues Fest Through The Years is being housed until June 22.
Prepare yourself! Get familar with Grant Park before you arrive with the official Blues Festival map, located here.