BEYOND THE BLUES FESTIVAL:
Chicago Blues Guide’s Top Choices
Here are some staff suggestions on where to go to catch more great blues acts outside of the huge Grant Park festivities, in some unexpected venues.
For a complete list of Chicago area blues clubs, see our blues club directory in The Guide section.
Lonnie Brooks/photo by: Jennifer Wheeler
REDHEAD PIANO BAR www.redheadpianobar.com
16 W. Ontario, Chicago
Tuesday, 6/3 (every Tuesday, 11:45 p.m. – 3:15 a.m.)
This cozy River North piano bar is not a place you’d expect to hear Chicago blues. Instead of singing along to Billy Joel’s hits, you can hear three of Chi-town’s top players, all highly respected in their own right, perform together. Ruby Harris (“king of the blues violin”), barrelhouse pianist Phil Baron and guitarist Wil Crosby (longtime Mavis Staples bandmate). (Sometimes it’s a duo, as they alternate.)
HOUSE OF BLUES
329 N. Dearborn (at Marina City), Chicago
312-923-2000 (box office)
Thursday, 6/5 -- Doors open 7 pm, show at 8 pm
Lonnie Brooks, Wayne Baker Brooks, Pinetop Perkins, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Lil’ Ed and special guest Todd Park Mohr (of Big Head Todd & The Monsters). The cream of Chicago’s blues crop together on one stage, with a rare appearance by venerable piano legend Pinetop; plus blues-rocker Todd (who moved to Chicago for a spell to soak up our blues music).
$24.50; ages 17 and over.
BUDDY GUY’S LEGENDS www.buddyguys.com
754 S. Wabash, Chicago
Thursday, 6/5 – 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. There is no cover; first come first serve. Doors open 11 a.m. After the broadcast, at about 7 p.m, there is a $15 cover.
Buddy Guy, Otis Taylor and Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater perform for WXRT (93.1 FM) Radio’s 11th Annual live broadcast to kick off the Chicago Blues Festival. DJ Tom Marker, host of the BluesBreakers show, emcees. Buddy Guy will co-host. When the radio show is over, Louisiana Red takes the stage at 7 p.m. backed by special guests Bob Corritore, Patrick Ryan and Eddie Kobek. At 10 p.m. guitarist Larry McCray performs. Legends serves tasty authentic Louisiana cuisine and other fare, so marathon blues fans won’t starve.
1245 Chicago Ave. (at Dempster), Evanston, IL
This new performance space/recording studio and restaurant in Evanston offers exciting line-ups throughout the week.
Wednesday 6/4 -- 92-year-old blues legend Honeyboy Edwards, Dave Specter, Barrelhouse Chuck, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater and host Katherine Davis
Thursday 6/5 -- Jimmy Johnson joins Dave Specter.
Friday 6/6 -- Jimmy Burns brings his soulful voice and guitar to the stage.
Saturday 6/7 -- Syl Johnson (brother of Jimmy Johnson) makes a rare appearance. This would be an opportune time to hear soul legend live.
BLUE CHICAGO (two clubs) www.bluechicago.com
These River North sister clubs, only two blocks apart, offer blues fans a great deal: two clubs with two bands on the weekend for only one cover charge. Make sure the doorman stamps your hand for admission to both places. Blue Chicago is known for its female vocalists.
536 N. Clark (at Ohio)
Wednesday 6/4 – J.W. Williams Blues Band with Patricia Scott
Thursday 6/5 – Shirley Johnson Blues Band
Friday 6/6 & Saturday 6/7 – Charlie Love Blues Band with Nellie Travis
Sunday 6/8 – Shirley Johnson Blues Band
736 N. Clark (at Superior)
(Closed Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday)
Friday 6/6 & Saturday 6/7 – Grana Louise & the Troublemakers
REGGIE’S MUSIC JOINT www.reggieslive.com
2105 S. State Street, Chicago
Reggie’s is not the usual stop on the blues pub crawl, but they have booked some exciting acts for Blues Fest weekend and there is a free bus from Monroe Street to the club that picks up on the hour from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m.
Friday 6/6 -- blues legends Jody Williams and Eddie C. Campbell perform.
Saturday 6/7 -- Eddie C. Campbell returns along with Cadillac Zack and Elmore James Jr. (who celebrates his new CD release). A “get-well-soon” will go out to the ailing Little Arthur Duncan with a set featuring Taildragger. Byther Smith goes on at 12 a.m., followed by an All-Star Jam Session with many special guests including Scott Dirks, Eddie Taylor, Jr., Twist Turner, Bob Corritore, Dona Oxford, Smilin’ Bobby, Jesse Fortune, Pee Wee Hayes, Jimmy Dawkins and more.
Sunday 6/8 -- Carlos Johnson
ROSA’S BLUES LOUNGE www.rosaslounge.com
3420 West Armitage, Chicago
2519 N. Halsted, Chicago
Neighboring clubs B.L.U.E.S. and Kingston Mines have a great deal going on Sundays. Pay your cover at B.L.U.E.S. and get in free at Kingston Mines.
Friday 6/6 & Saturday 6/7 – Jimmy Johnson with Chico Banks
Sunday 6/8 – Rodney Brown & the Hot Rods
KINGSTON MINES www.kingstonmines.com
2548 N. Halsted, Chicago
Chicago’s longest running blues club, The Mines is the place where guitar goddess Joanna Connor got her start. Catch her this weekend with ex-Chicagoan Magic Slim (now a Nebraska resident). Two stages, so the music never stops.
Friday 6/6 – Magic Slim, Joanna Connor
Saturday 6/7 – Big James Montgomery, Joanna Connor
Sunday 6/8 – Charlie Love & the Silky Smooth Blues Band, Linsey Alexander
HARLEM AVENUE LOUNGE
3701 S. Harlem, Berwyn, IL
The cozy and casual Harlem Avenue Lounge presents two young turks of the blues: on Friday 6/6 catch the dynamic Toronzo Cannon and the Cannonball Express and Saturday 6/7 it’s Joe Moss Blues Band.
BILL’S BLUES BAR www.billsbluesbar.com
1029 Davis, Evanston, IL
Saturday 6/7 -- Don’t miss this intimate club show by Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater (who is busy headlining huge festivals) in Bill’s cozy bar.