The 34th Annual Chicago Blues Festival brings Grammy Award winners to the masses for the largest free Blues festival in the world.

This festival is usually hosted at Grant Park. This year, however, the location is changed to Millenium Park. It may be a new venue, but you can still expect to see four stages celebrating the urban blues. The change in location doesn’t seem to hinder the event as music fans flock from around the world to witness the annual event.

This year’s festival brings performances from artists of all the influencing genres of music – traditional blues, soul, R&B and hip-hop. 

The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is the main stage for the weekend and is packed with fans out to enjoy the live music on such a beautiful, sunny evening. John Primer and the Real Deal start off the Friday evening festivities. Primer was the bandleader and guitarist for Blues greats such as Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon and is one of the many Grammy Award winners to grace the stage over the weekend.

Next up is Chicago’s very own Rhymefest. His performance includes songs such as “Jesus Walks” which he co-wrote with his childhood friend, Kanye West. The impressive ten-piece band certainly livened up the Pavilion with their impassioned performance. The greatest reaction they receive is for “Glory”, the famous award winning song from the movie Selma which he co-wrote with John Legend and Common. 

Rounding out the first night is a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues. The blues harpist brought out several artists who have been members of the band such as Lurrie Bell, Freddie Dixon, J.W. Williams and Carl Weathersby. Not letting a little rain shower put dampers on the night, the all-star line-up is the perfect end to the first night of the festival.

Saturday night is Soul & R&B night on the Pavilion stage. Nellie “Tiger” Travis jump-started the evening, including songs such as “Mr Sexy Man”. The stage isn’t big enough to contain Nellie, as she jumps down to walk through the crowd, taking selfies with the fans, all the while still singing. 

Bringing a bit of funk to proceedings is Theo Huff and the New Agenda Band. With most of the crowd on their feet dancing, Huff is clearly feeding on their energy, joining in with his own hip-thrusting moves.

William Bell rounds out the Saturday evening. The Stax Record artist puts in heart and soul into his performances, and can clearly still hold the attention of a large crowd after all of these years. 

Whilst this year’s Festival has an impressive array of performers as always, Sunday night’s lineup stands out. Ronnie Baker Brooks starts out, bringing a bit of rock n’ roll to the stage. Ronnie is joined on stage by his brother, Wayne Baker Brooks where they pay a touching homage to their late father Lonnie Baker Brooks, with both of them playing his guitars.

Rhiannon Giddens in next up and steals the weekend with her breathtaking performance. This is an emotional, heartfelt performance that can’t help but touch everyone in the audience. Her voice is nothing less than outstanding and manages to silence the whole Pavilion as they stand and watch in awe.

Gary Clark Jr rounds out the 34th Chicago Blues Festival, with his blend of blues rock which has clearly drawn in the younger crowd members.  He doesn’t disappoint, delivering a great set before the curtain comes down on the festival for another year. 

It is astounding to think you can walk straight off Michigan Avenue, into a free festival housing so many talented and renowned musicians. The fact that the festival is still going strong 34 years on is testament to the fact that Blues is still alive, and has a spiritual home in Chicago.

34th Annual Chicago Blues Festival
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Event Date: 09-11-JUN-2017