As the largest blues festival in the world, the annual three-day Chicago Blues Festival attracts over 500,000 music lovers and listeners from around the globe each June to hang out, relax, and sway to the tunes in Grant Park.
Produced by the Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, the Chicago Blues Festival has been bringing the blues to countless fans since 1984. Arguably the Blues capital of the world, the City of Chicago works each year to present this FREE, three-day extravaganza and uniquely Chicago musical experience.
The first festival was held a year after the death of Blues legend Muddy Waters (1915-1983), and it began as a tribute to his memory and influence on the genre. Waters, originally from Mississippi, moved to Chicago in 1943 and began his career playing guitar and singing at house parties and bars on Chicago’s West and South sides. His first single, “I Can’t Be Satisfied/I Feel Like Going Home,” sparked the beginning of modern Chicago Blues and firmly planted Waters as one of the most influential Blues musicians ever. He went on to collaborate with other iconic Bluesmen and performed on stages big and small, locally and internationally. The first Chicago Blues Festival featured such well-known artists and staples of the Blues as Eddie Taylor, Estella Yancey, and Jr. Wells, who played in memory of this Chicago-based music icon and firmly planted the festival in Chicago history and tradition.
As the first and largest music festival of the summer season, the festival paves the way for the months to come, drawing large crowds and big names. The full lineup is announced each spring on the Chicago Tourism website. This year’s (2011) festival took place June 10-12 and featured several well-known artists including the following headliners: Rick Sherry, Rocky Lawrence and Duwayne Burnside Band on Friday night, Billy Branch and The Sons of Blues with Magic Slim on Saturday night, and Lonnie Brooks with Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Michael “Iron Man” Burks, and Rick Estrin on Sunday.
Before grabbing a blanket, your friends, and a couple bottles of water and heading down to Grant Park for the festival, be sure to read the Chicago Blues Festival FAQ page for a list of festival do’s and don’t’s.
The festival officially ends at 9:30pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, but why stop the fun there? Check out our Loop Neighborhood Guide (http://www.upchicago.com/chicago-neighborhood-guide/downtown-neighborhoods/the-loop-neighborhood-guide) to find the perfect post-festival bar or restaurant to sit and reminisce about the day’s back-to-back programming.
As festival fanatics here at UPchicago, we couldn’t give a bigger thumbs-up to the Blues Fest. Not only is it free, but it also offers great music, a great venue for hanging out, dancing, and checking out the Chicago skyline and a whole weekend of fun for all ages. Even though the festival has already come and gone for this summer, we suggest adding the Chicago Blues Festival to your Summer Bucket List. Start each Chicago summer off to the right track and get crackin’ on that bucket list the second weekend of June!
Save the Dates: Second weekend of June annually
Location: All events located in Grant Park
L: Red Line Lake, Monroe, and Jackson stops; Brown, Purple, Green, Pink, and Orange Lines Randolph, Madison, and Adams stops; Blue Line Washington, Monroe, and Jackson stops
Bus: #1, #3, #4, #6, #7, #14, #26, #X28, #126, #143, #145, #146, #147, #148, #151
Driving: Park in the Millenium Garages
Bike: The festival provides a free Bike Valet and other bike parking is available along the perimeter of Grant and Millenium Parks