The 35th Annual Chicago Blues Festival comes to Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph St.) June 8 through June 10. The Blues Festival will spotlight the great Chicago-born music tradition with live performances by the genre’s leading artists at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
Headliners on the Jay Pritzker Pavilion stage will perform from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. each evening. Music and entertainment throughout the park will begin at 11 a.m. each day.
The previously announced headliners include: Corey Dennison Band; Mississippi Heat with Billy Flynn and Giles Corey; Special Tribute to Bob Koester and the 65th Anniversary of Delmark Records; Selwyn Birchwood; Willie Clayton; Little Walter Tribute; Fantastic Negrito, Kenny Neal and Mavis Staples.
Chicago is proud to be the birthplace of the urban blues, gospel music, house music and more. Here’s the line-up:
Friday, June 8 – Jay Pritker Pavilion
Throughout the day on June 8, the Chicago Blues Festival will celebrate the 65th Anniversary of Delmark Records and the independent label’s founder, Bob Koester. The festival will offer a lineup honoring 65 years of Delmark Record’s current and legendary blues artists with a tribute to Bob Koester and performances in honor of legendary Delmark artists that include: Sleepy John Estes by Corey Dennison and Gerry Hundt, Big Joe Williams by Jimmy Burns, Roosevelt Sykes by Ken Saydak, Bonnie Lee by Shirley Johnson, Willie Kent by Guy King, Jimmy Dawkins by Billy Flynn and Linsey Alexander, J.B.Hutto by Lil’ Ed and Dave Weld, Big Time Sarah by Demetria Taylor and Tomiko Dixon, Carey Bell by Lurrie Bell and Steve Bell, Magic Sam by Jimmy Johnson and Dave Specter, Junior Wells by Omar Coleman.
Delmark Record’s recording artists, Mississippi Heat is a Chicago Blues band led by harmonica master and songwriter Pierre Lacocque, they will be joined by blues guitarists and Delmark recording artists Billy Flynn and Giles Corey. Also part of the Delmark Records family, the Corey Dennison Band will open the evening’s performances. Dennison honed his guitar skills for 12 years as a sideman to Carl Weathersby.
Saturday, June 9 – Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Marion Walter Jacobs, otherwise known as the legendary blues harpist Little Walter, arrived in Chicago in 1946 and played a huge role in shaping the city as the blues capitol of the world. Little Walter’s influence is inescapable in the music delivered by today’s blues harpists. In fitting tribute, many of these great harp players will gather for the evening’s final set, a Little Walter Tribute, featuring: Billy Branch, Corky Siegel, Rick Estrin, Sugar Blue, Magic Dick and The Sons of Blues featuring Billy Flynn and Sam Lay.
Willie Clayton began performing gospel music in church settings as a youngster and since the 1970s has become one of the greatest, gritty R&B and soul artists of his generation with a career spanning more than 40 years. Selwyn Birchwood will start the evening with his fiery guitar and gritty, unvarnished vocals. Birchwood is among the top blues artists today.
Sunday, June 10 – Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Grammy Award® winner and longtime friend of the Chicago Blues Festival Mavis Staples will close the festival on the final evening. No stranger to Chicago’s blues and gospel music communities, Staples has been bringing people together across genres and generations throughout her 60-year career. In 2017,Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot’s book I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the Music That Shaped the Civil Rights Era became the most recent One Book, One Chicago selection by the Chicago Public Library.
The “Real Deal” Kenny Neal is a second-generation southern Louisiana bluesman and a modern proponent of Baton Rouge swamp blues. His sizzling guitar work, sturdy harp and gravelly, aged-beyond-his-years vocals deliver the blues like no one else. Before Mavis Staples takes the stage, Fantastic Negrito will start the festival’s final evening of performance. His songs are born from a long, hard life channeled through black roots music and brought back by his musical forefathers, the Blues musicians of the Delta.
Budweiser Crossroads stage on the South Chase Promenade, 11 a.m.–5:15 p.m.
Visit Mississippi Juke Joint stage on the North Chase Promenade, 11:15 a.m.–5:15 p.m.
Front Porch stage in Wrigley Square, 11 a.m.–9 p.m on Friday, June 8, and Saturday, June 9, and 11 a.m. –7:45 p.m. on Sunday, June 10.
Rooftop Lounge on the Harris Theater Rooftop Terrace, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. each day selling BBQ and cocktails among solo and duet performances.
The Budweiser Crossroads stage will feature a lineup of local and national artists. On Friday, June 8, Chicago Blues Diva, Sharon Lewis will hit the stage at 12:15 p.m. and fans won’t want to miss Blues Hall of Fame member and guitarist Linsey Alexander closing the day at 4 p.m. On Saturday, June 9, the Chicago R&B Kings will honor saxophonist, music producer and song writer Gene Barge at 1:30 p.m. From Lafayette, Louisiana, virtuoso slide guitarist and bandleader, Sonny Landreth will take the stage at 4 p.m. On Sunday, June 10, opening the day at 11 a.m. is Jamiah Rogers, a young artist on the rise that will dazzle the crowd with his fast paced electric guitar. Following Rogers, fans will not want to miss Terrance Simien and The Zydeco Experience at 12:15 p.m. and young delta blues artist with a gospel background Christone “Kingfish” Ingram at 1:30 p.m.
The Visit Mississippi Juke Joint stage kicks-off on Friday, June 8, with a Panel Discussion featuring Bob Koester of Delmark Records at 11:15 a.m. Performances on opening day include the great Mississippi blues artist Mr. Sipp at 3 p.m. followed by a one-of-a-kind jam session with Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith at 4:15 p.m. On Saturday, June 9, the day will start with a Panel Discussion and Tribute to Little Water and end with Eddie Cotton, Jr. at 3 p.m. followed by a jam session led by Cotton at 4:15 p.m. On Sunday, June 10, at 11:15 a.m. the Rising Stars Fife and Drum, led by Sharde Thomas, the granddaughter and heir to the late fife and drum master Otha Turnerwill kick off a full day of Delta blues with traditional hill country blues that mixes folk, blues and gospel.
The Front Porch has a new location in Wrigley Square this year. On Friday, June 8, the festival will welcome Blues in the School with Katherine Davis, Tim Gant, Tino Cortes, Alan Burroughs and Stone Academy at 11 a.m. At 2:45 p.m. Lurrie Bell and Eddie Taylor, Jr. with The Bell Dynasty will perform followed by the smooth guitar of Guy King at 4 p.m. Highlights for Saturday, June 9 include Alvin Youngblood Hart at 12:15 p.m. and Jontavious Willis at 1:30 p.m. At 4 p.m. there will be a special Bridges to the Blues set featuring young musicians selected by Donda’s House performing at 4 p.m. as a part of Chicago’s Year of Creative Youth initiative. On Sunday, June 10, blues pianist Erwin Helfer will kick off the final day at 11 a.m. with his Chicago boogie-woogie style. At 2:45 p.m., young blues musician Blind Boy Paxton will not only sing but also play banjo, guitar, piano, fiddle, harmonica, Cajun accordion and the bones (percussion), while bringing the pre-World War II blues to life. Following Paxton are the blues roots duo Valerie and Ben Turner at 3 p.m.
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Filed under: Chicago Festivals