The Chicago Blues Festival—the largest free blues fest in the world—takes over Grant Park June 5–8, boasting a schedule packed with must-sees like Texas guitar slinger Johnny Winter and harmonica master James Cotton, two disciples of Muddy Waters. This summer, celebrations of this American art form are popping up all over the Midwest—road trip, anyone?
BLUES ON THE FOX
The Destination A park setting along the Fox River in downtown Aurora. bluesonthefoxaurora.com Shade of Blue From modern rocker Kenny Wayne Shepherd to the Texas piano boogie of Marcia Ball to the eclectic acoustic blues of Corey Harris Gas Up 43 miles from downtown Chicago Pit Stop It’s now an apartment building, but in the 1930s, Aurora’s
Leland Hotel (7 S. Stolp Ave.) was where legends Sonny Boy Williamson, Tampa Red, and Big Bill Broonzy recorded albums for RCA Bluebird. Don’t Miss Elvin Bishop of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Detroit soul singer Bettye LaVette
LAZY RIVER MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL
The Destination A brand-new camping festival along the Fox River in Vasa Park, South Elgin, that promises to be a boutique version of Bonnaroo, the granddaddy rock and camping festival in Tennessee. lazyrivermusic.com Shade of Blue Jam bands and Southern blues-rock, plus riffs and slide guitar from Rusted Root, Cross Canadian Ragweed, alt-country pioneers Son Volt, and Chicago’s psychedelic The Bon Mots Gas Up 46 miles from downtown Chicago Pit Stop Live jousting and Middle Ages kitsch at Medieval Times (2001 N. Roselle Rd., Schaumburg)—you know, that castle just off I-90 Don’t Miss Banyan, a new band featuring former Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins
BELLEVILLE AMERICAN MUSIC FESTIVAL (BAMFEST ‘08)
The Destination This local blues festival in Belleville, Wisconsin, just outside Madison, will likely draw a crowd in just its third year. bamfest.net Shade of Blue From the Louisiana slide guitar great Sonny Landreth to Chicago’s Wayne Baker Brooks Gas Up 145 miles from downtown Chicago Pit Stop Swiss Historical Village, nine miles away in New Glarus, is a 14-building compound from 1845, redesigned to tell the story of dairy farming in the area. swisshistoricalvillage.org Don’t Miss Slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer, a founder of Fleetwood Mac, who closes out the festival Saturday at 10 p.m.
SECOND ANNUAL DEEP BLUES FESTIVAL
The Destination A fairgrounds festival in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, which features country blues heroes from the Southern juke-joint circuit and other primitive-minded rock bands. deepbluesfestival.com Shade of Blue Mississippi hill country’s heavy distortion, stomping beats, and raw instrumentation Gas Up 392 miles from downtown Chicago Pit Stop Chill out with the World’s Largest Snowman—54 vertical feet of solid concrete located at the corner of Highway 36 and Margaret Street in North St. Paul. Don’t Miss Blues-punk band Black-Eyed Snakes, female rock duo The Moaners, and Mississippi elders Hezekiah Early and Elmo Williams
Photoillustration: Charles Wilkin