All that anticipation and it's already over for another year. Before I do a little whining, let me say that the Chicago Blues Festival is my all-time favorite weekend of the year and has been for most years of my adult life. We owe a BIG THANK YOU to Carlos and the Blues Fest committee members who gave us another great weekend of blues. Even the weather cooperated for most of the fest. This year, I didn't even try to see everything...instead I focused more on bands I don't often get to see regularly around town.
I worked until my fingers were bloody, my back was almost broken and I was just about blind, but I am not quite done posting images. There could be too many...maybe. More Blues Fest stuff to come next week plus photos from two nights at Legends. HERE'S WHAT WE HAVE SO FAR
This year's lineup was a particularly good one with lots of great music.
The Mississippi Juke Joint tent is absolutely wonderful. If only Crossroads could have a tent, too.
The photo pit for Crossroads was much improved over last year (not that you care).
Hard to pick a favorite performance this year...there were many standouts, including Benny Turner & Real Blues, Thornetta Davis, Guy King with Chris Cain, Super Chikan and the Fighting Cocks, Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore with the Guilty Ones, and RL Boyce.
It seemed like everywhere I looked, I saw Kenny Smith (nothing has changed here), Ari Seder or Oscar Wilson–and that was a good thing.
A few more benches/picnic tables would be welcomed by all...especially those juggling their food.
NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT IN CASE YOU WONDERED....
Here's a few observations:
So great and popular that in 2020 it might be time for Rosa's to get a raised stage. The crowds were so thick throughout the fest that I never could get near the stage. From afar, though, I did get a good shot of Thornetta Davis' pin-encrusted hat.
THE MISSISSIPPI JUKE JOINT STAGE
Why were John Primer and Jimmy Burns on this stage? Shouldn't it be just Mississippi acts with maybe a few other Delta adjacent acts from down South? Primer and Burns could play any of the other stages.
I missed the annual Blues Fest preview shows, particularly the one in Daley Plaza the week of Blues Fest. It would also have been nice to have some films running at the Cultural Center and maybe even a photo exhibit with photos from past festivals. I know where some recent photos could be found.
OUR NEW MAYOR
Yes, I know Lori Lightfoot has a very full plate right now, but I do believe that Rahm showed up for the Otis Rush Tribute. Seems like Mayor Lightfoot could have found a millisecond or two in her schedule to show up on the main stage to honor Jimmy Johnson and say hi to the festival crowd.
THE CONNECTION: Mike Welch and Friends
Mike Welch was great as usual, but I thought the and Friends part of The Connection meant that we would see a large parade of musicians who had played with Mike Ledbetter come and play a song or two. I was particularly surprised not to see Dan Carelli on the stage since he played with Ledbetter so often in Chicago.
AND THEN THERE WAS LARKIN POE.
Lots of gushing going on about Larkin Poe, but they weren't the greatest thing I've ever seen–and definitely were not what I want to see at a blues festival in Chicago (not quite as annoying, though, as Fantastic youknowwho). Yes, they are talented, Rebecca Lovell has a wonderful voice and they are a photographer's dream–especially with all that flying hair. But couldn't they have showcased their blues chops a little more and just played a couple of their other songs at the end of their set? I also wish they had mentioned Lead Belly when they introduced the song, Black Betty, rather than the reference to that band that basically had their only hit with Black Betty. And asking the audience at a Chicago blues fest if they know who Robert Johnson is....HMMM. Did they take a close look at the audience they were addressing?
ONWARD TO 2020
The city of Chicago will be starting to plan the 2020 festival season in the fall of 2019 so musicians take note: If you want to play blues fest or one of the other summer fests, keep an eye on this page, where you can also subscribe to the DCASE monthly opportunities newsletter.
An educated guess would place the 2020 Chicago Blues Festival on June 12–14. That means, it is 364 days 'til Blues Fest 2020. I should be recovered by then.
R.I.P. Dr. John
Malcolm John Rebennack Jr. (aka Dr. John) died of a heart attack on June 6. He was 77. During his long career, he won six Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. In May 2013, he also received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Tulane University in New Orleans. Something about his whole voodoo night tripper persona made me think he was the one person that actually wouldn't die. READ THE NY TIMES OBIT
OR JUST SIT AND LISTEN. For those of us who just listen enthusiastically and don't play even one accurate note, Donna, Mark and Jon will be playing at Wishbone North (3300 N. Lincoln) at 7pm on Friday, June 21. Reservations recommended.
FYI: Jon Shain (representing the Triangle Blues Society in North Carolina) took 1st place in the SOLO/DUO category in the 2019 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. So, you can probably assume he has some talent.
DEAD–AT LEAST FOR NOW. Apparently both the Maxwell Street Blues Festival and the Windy City Blues Festival are dead for 2019. Ironically, this year they were both planned for the same weekend (SEPT 6–8). Stay tuned.
SAVE YOUR PENNIES.Earwig Records is releasing Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records: The Definitive Collection on July 19. There will be 101 tracks on four CDs plus a 128-page book that has many archival documents and photos. In addition, there will be an additional 10 downloadable tracks by Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon that were previously unreleased. The collection features early tracks from legendary musicians that include Sunnyland Slim, James Cotton, Hound Dog Taylor, Sleepy John Estes, Earl Hooker and Andre Williams. Bea & Baby Records recorded blues, gospel, doo-wop, soul and comedy between 1959 and 1989. The company was founded by the late "ever-colorful" Chicago entrepreneur Narvel “Cadillac Baby” Eatmon. The price has not been released yet, but assume it will be $100+. CHECK OUT THE TRACK LIST
DECISIONS, DECISIONS. There are hot blues shows at opposite ends of the Chicago metro area this weekend. On FRI, JUNE 14, Buddy Guy will be joined by the North Mississippi Allstars and Shemekia Copeland at Ravinia in Highland Park. Or, if you prefer to go West, the annual Blues on the Fox Festival at RiverEdge Park in Aurora has two days of blues: FRI: Taj Mahal Quintet (not to be confused with the Phantom Blues Band) and Ana Popovic SAT: Jamiah Rogers, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Coco Montoya and Robert Randolph and the Family Band
If money is a concern, Blues on the Fox is relatively cheap ($20/day). And, The Venue in Aurora is hosting after parties on both nights.
My computer, my back, my needy cats, my disheveled closet, my cluttered office and my foggy brain are telling me (screaming, really) that it is time for a little break. So...next week's newsletter will have a summer schedule, which could simply say, See You in September. Not sure yet, but that is definitely tempting.
OUT AND ABOUT
Hard to believe, but we went OUT AND ABOUT WITHOUT CAMERASto the House of Blues on Tuesday night to see Rockin' Johnny in his last local appearance before he went off to Madrid. Don't worry...he will be back in the area in late July, playing a number of dates, including the Merchant St. Music Festival in Kankakee on July 27. Yes, we had our iPhones, but those are only for taking photos of our cats.
Hard to believe, but we went OUT AND ABOUT WITHOUT CAMERAS to the House of Blues on Tuesday night to see Rockin' Johnny in his last local appearance before he went off to Madrid. Don't worry...he will be back in the area in late July, playing a number of dates, including the Merchant St. Music Festival in Kankakee on July 27. Yes, we had our iPhones, but those are only for taking photos of our cats.
So many choices, so little time. Know about a show I don't? Tell Me About It...please.
ONE MORE THING: Always call before you go if you have your heart set on a particular show...things can change.