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Experience Chicago’s blues music legacy at the 35th Annual Chicago Blues Festival happening June 8–10 in Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph St.). 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, the city’s premier outdoor music venue. 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 the birthplace of the urban blues, gospel music, house music and more. In 2018 over three consecutive weekends, DCASE will celebrate the city’s music legacy at the Chicago House Music Festival (May 26), the Chicago Gospel Music Festival (June 1–2) and the Chicago Blues Festival (June 8–10) on stage in Millennium Park, at the Chicago Cultural Center as well as in music venues and clubs throughout the city. Chicago is an arts powerhouse and a global destination for music lovers.
Headliners on the Jay Pritzker Pavilion stage will perform from 5:30 to 9:30pm each evening. Music and entertainment throughout the park will begin at 11am each day.
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.
In addition to the main Jay Pritzker Pavilion, local and national blues musicians celebrating the genre’s rich tradition and heritage will perform throughout the day and evening at:
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 12:15pm and fans won’t want to miss Blues Hall of Fame member and guitarist Linsey Alexander closing the day at 4pm. On Saturday, June 9, the Chicago R&B Kings will honor saxophonist, music producer and song writer Gene Barge at 1:30pm. From Lafayette, Louisiana, virtuoso slide guitarist and bandleader, Sonny Landreth will take the stage at 4pm. On Sunday, June 10, opening the day at 11am 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 12:15pm and young delta blues artist with a gospel background Christone “Kingfish” Ingram at 1:30pm.
The Visit Mississippi Juke Joint stage kicks-off on Friday, June 8, with a Panel Discussion featuring Bob Koester of Delmark Records at 11:15am. Performances on opening day include the great Mississippi blues artist Mr. Sipp at 3pm followed by a one-of-a-kind jam session with Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith at 4:15pm. On Saturday, June 9, the day will start with a Panel Discussion and Tribute to Little Water and end with Eddie Cotton, Jr. at 3pm followed by a jam session led by Cotton at 4:15pm. On Sunday, June 10, at 11:15am 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 11am. At 2:45pm Lurrie Bell and Eddie Taylor, Jr. with The Bell Dynasty will perform followed by the smooth guitar of Guy King at 4pm. Highlights for Saturday, June 9 include Alvin Youngblood Hart at 12:15pm and Jontavious Willis at 1:30pm. At 4pm there will be a special Bridges to the Blues set featuring young musicians selected by Donda’s House performing at 4pm 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 11am with his Chicago boogie-woogie style. At 2:45pm, 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 3pm.
Bridges to the Blues Showcase
2018 is the Year of Creative Youth in Chicago and on Monday, June 4, from 5 to 9pm in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater, young musicians will take part in the Bridges to the Blues Showcase presented by Donda’s House. Multigenerational artists will create original music – inspired by the Blues – for a chance to perform at the Chicago Blues Festival on Saturday, June 9, at the Front Porch Stage with Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith. For details, visit dondashouseinc.org.
Blues Festival Preview Performances
Leading up to the Chicago Blues Festival, during May and June, there will be several preview events throughout the city to celebrate one Chicago’s great music legacies. Admission is free to all programs. For complete details, visit chicagobluesfestival.us.
Saturday, May 12, noon–1pm
Joe Filisko and Eric Noden
Conrad Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln Ave.
Saturday, May 19, noon–1pm
Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted St.
Sunday, May 20, 11am– 2pm
Low-Reen and the Maxwell Street Blues Band
Chicago City Market at Maxwell Street Market, 800 S. Desplaines St.
Friday, May 25, 8pm
Eddie Shaw Tribute: Brass in the Blues
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.
University of Chicago,
Monday, June 4, noon–1pm
Richard J. Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St.
The 35th Annual Chicago Blues Festival is presented by the City of Chicago and produced by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events along with the following sponsors: Budweiser, Chicago Jazz Magazine, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Tribune, CLTV-ChicagoLand Television, Communication’s Direct, Visit Mississippi, Southwest Airlines, WGN Television and 93XRT.
For more information, please visit chicagobluesfestival.us. To plan your trip to Chicago for the Blues Festival, visit choosechicago.com. Join the conversation on Facebook (Chicago Blues Festival) and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @ChicagoDCASE (#ChiBluesFest).
For the Chicago Blues Festival in Millennium Park, some important changes are coming to improve security and the visitor experience at the park. The City of Chicago will implement a security perimeter and bag check for all concerts and events that take place in the park. As in the past, outside alcohol will be prohibited in the park during the Chicago Blues Festival. Visitors will have additional food and beverage options at various price points available for purchase inside the venue. Subject to bag search at the security perimeter, guests will continue to be allowed to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages to all events at Millennium Park.
Note to Media: Media credential requests for the Chicago Blues Festival must be submitted by email to DCASEPR@cityofchicago.org, by Friday, June 1, 2018, and acceptance notifications will be sent accordingly. Submission of a request does not guarantee admission. Credentials only provide working media access to media seating, photo pit and media lounge; they do not include back stage access. Each media outlet is limited to one press and one photography credential as space is very limited. Visit the pressroom on the website at this link for details – Chicago Blues Festival Press Room.
Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future
cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors. For more information, visit cityofchicago.org/dcase.
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