The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is pleased to announce the complete line-up for the 31st Annual Chicago Blues Festival set for June 13 through June 15 in Grant Park. This year the festival theme celebrates “Blues by the Lake,” with three days of the finest blues music featuring headliners Carolina Chocolate Drops, Otis Taylor Band and a special celebration commemorating the centennial of John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson featuring Billy Boy Arnold and The Siegel-Schwall Blues Band with Sam Lay. Also headlining, Theo Huff, Willie Clayton, Bettye LaVette Nikki Hill, Aaron Neville and Dr. John.
The FREE admission Chicago Blues Festival is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. The Petrillo Music Shell will feature 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.
The Petrillo Music Shell will open on Friday, June 13 at 6 p.m. with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Originating from Durham, North Carolina, the trio is deeply rooted in the old-time, fiddle and banjo-based music which won them the Grammy® Award for best traditional folk album in 2010 for Genuine Negro Jig. As the evening continues, blues fans will be treated to a ground-breaking performance from the Otis Taylor Band at 7:05 p.m. followed by a special tribute and centennial celebration honoring John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson at 8:25 p.m. performed by a group of musicians influenced by his harmonica “crossed-harp” style led by renowned harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold, who played with “Sonny Boy.” Artists joining Arnold include the Siegal-Schwall Blues Band with bassist Rolo Radford and drummer Sam Lay, Marcella Detroit, Billy Branch and Omar Coleman.
Blues singer extraordinaire Bettye LaVette headlines the Petrillo stage on Saturday, June 14, taking the stage at 8:15 p.m. By the age of sixteen, American soul singer Bettye LaVette started her rise to fame with her first single “My Man, He’s a Loving Man,” which quickly created a national buzz. Throughout her more than 50-year career, LaVette has recorded multiple hit songs establishing her as one of the genre’s great vocalists.
Also performing at the Petrillo Music Shell on Saturday, June 14 is vocalist Theo Huff at 6 p.m. With over 20 years of dedication to the rhythm and blues, Huff has graced the stage with some of the greatest Soul and R&B singers of today including, Koko Taylor, Millie Jackson, Albertina Walker and many more. Following Theo Huff is a star- singer-songwriter and producer, Willie Clayton at 6:55 p.m. Considered by critics and fans to be one of the last great “Soul” men, fans at the Petrillo Music Shell are in for a treat.
Opening the evening on Sunday, June 15 at 5:45 p.m. is vocalist Nikki Hill. Hill and her band of enthused musicians known as the “Pirate Crew” are quickly claiming a large following. With husband Matt Hill as lead guitarist and Ed Strohsahl and Joe Meyer manning the rhythm section, Hills passion for roots and rock-n-roll shines through. Having been called the “Southern Fireball,” Hill will get festivalgoers up and out of their seats.
Dr. John and Aaron Neville will close the Chicago Blues Festival on Sunday, June 15 with the sound of the “Big Easy.” Music legend Aaron Neville is back in the spotlight with the recent release of his new album, My True Story. Neville revisits the doo-wop music he grew up with and created throughout his incredible career as a solo artist – and his role in the first family of New Orleans, Louisiana, music: the Neville Brothers. Neville will take the stage at 6:45 p.m.
Since the 1970s, Malcolm John Rebennack has been known to boogie and blues enthusiasts as Dr. John. Hailing from New Orleans, Louisiana, Dr. John’s music is influenced by his southern roots resulting in the unconscious creation of his own brand of “voodoo” music, which made him a musical icon. Dr. John will close the evening at 8:15 p.m.
The popular day stages contribute to the festival’s reputation as an internationally acclaimed event. Each stage features local and national blues musicians celebrating the genres rich tradition and heritage. Stages and performance times are: Bud Light Crossroads Stage, 11:15 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; The Jackson Rhythm and Blues Stage, 11:30 a.m. –7:30 p.m. and Pepsi Front Porch Stage, noon – 5:30 p.m.
The Bud Light Crossroads Stage will be swinging when rising star, Guy King performs at 12:45 p.m. on Friday, June 13. The vocalist has performed in various venues and festivals throughout Chicago and internationally, such as the Basel Blues Festival in Switzerland and the Montreal Blues Festival. Following his performance is guitarist James Armstrong at 2:30 p.m. Born to a blues singer and jazz guitarist, the Louisiana native was born to play the blues and today, Armstrong travels the world performing at different venues and festivals serenading blues fans with his unique fusion of vocals and seasoned guitar playing.
On Saturday, June 14 a high energy performance by Selwyn Birchwood at 2:30 p.m. will win over the crowd of eager blues fans. Highlights during the day on Sunday, June 15 include a stellar performance by the blues siblings and Mississippi natives, Homemade Jamz Blues Band at 11:15 a.m. Later that evening, the Smiley Tillmon Band will close out the Bud Light Crossroads stage at 4:15 p.m. with their funky jams and raw improvisational intensity leaving spectators with no choice, but to dance and sing along.
Fans will travel to the southland at the Jackson Rhythm and Blues Stage as Mississippi natives Ben Payton, Mr. Sipp “the Mississippi Blues Child” and Vick Allen take the stage back-to-back on Friday, June 13 beginning at 1p.m . Through Peyton’s unique styling on the acoustic guitar, the vocals of the “Mississippi Blues Child” and the velvet voice of soul from Allen, blues enthusiasts at the Jackson Rhythm and Blues are in-store for an earful of outright great music.
On Saturday, June 14, stage will be filled with blues, soul, funk and a “whole lotta” rhythm with the Southern Komfort Brass Band performs at 2:30 p.m. and Mississippi native and vocalist Dexter Allen takes the stage at 4 p.m. The day closes with a jam session featuring Grammy® award winning drummer, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith. The music continues with the ladies on Sunday, June 16 for the final day with back-to-back performances from three dynamic vocalists Lady L, Pat Brown and Dorothy Moore from 1– 4 p.m.
The festivities kick off at the Pepsi Front Porch on Friday, June 13 featuring Harmonica Hinds at 1:30 p.m. and Cicero Blake at 3 p.m. and continuing on Saturday, June 14 with the Matthew Skoller Band at 1:30 p.m. At 3 p.m. an international collaboration of artists from Chicago and Italy will perform a special Tribute to blues guitarist Phil Guy, featuring Dario Lombardo, Deloris Scott and Friends of the Phil Guy Band. Guy is the younger brother of Chicago blues guitarist Buddy Guy.
Starting at noon on Sunday, June 15, the Pepsi Front Porch stage will kick off with Chicago native and harmonica great, Diamond Jim Greene. Audience members will get a second chance to see Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith when he performs as a part of the Chicago Delta Blues Band with Bob Stroger, Barrelhouse Chuck and Billy Flynn at 3 p.m.
New this year, blues fans can enjoy the “Meet Me in Memphis Blues Pavilion” sponsored by the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau. The dining pavilion will feature live music from 11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. daily.
Leading up to the Chicago Blues Festival, May is “Blues Month” in Chicago featuring a number of preview performances at various Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Library locations throughout the city. Blues music will also fill the halls of the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) during May on select Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon – and a Blues Festival preview on Daley Plaza is set for Monday, June 9. The full schedule of preview events will be announced later this month.
The 31st Annual Chicago Blues Festival is presented by the City of Chicago and produced by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events with the following sponsors: Aquafina, Bud Light, Chicago Jazz Magazine, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Tribune, CLTV-Chicagoland’s Television, Communications Direct, Florastor® Probiotics, LaGrou Distribution System, Louisiana Tourism, Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, Millennium Garages, Pepsi, Southwest Airlines, St. Louis CVB, VISITJACKSON.COM, 90.9fm WDCB Public Radio, WGN-Television, Windy City Blues Society and 93XRT.
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).