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Where to hear blues outside of Grant Park

We’ve been waiting patiently all year for the warm weather that finally has arrived and now it’s onto the biggest free blues festival in the world! The Chicago Blues Festival  takes place in Grant Park from June 13 through June 15.

 Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. The blues clubs haven’t even begun to heat up when the fest closes for the night. There are events before, during, and after the fest all over town.

Here are some suggestions for places to go hear live blues “Beyond the Blues Fest.”  (Scroll down for story.)

For a complete list of Chicago area blues clubs, see our club directory in The Guide section.

To see the Chicago Blues Fest schedule, click HERE. 

See you in Grant Park and all over town!

Chicago Blues Fest Preview Shows: FREE!!!

Navy Pier

600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago

Thursday, June 12– Theo Huff at 5 - 6:30 p.m.

Nellie “Tiger” Travis at 7:30 – 9 p.m.


Chicago Cultural Center/ Claudia Cassidy Theatre

78 E. Washington, Chicago

Thursday, June 12 – “Big Bill Broonzy: The Man Who Brought the Blues to Britain” a blues documentary at 6 pm.  At 5:30 pm Billy Boy Arnold and Eric Noden will perform.

Blues Book Signing

After-Words Books

23 E. Illinois St., Chicago

Thursday, June 12 -- Author Rosalind Cummings-Yeates will speak and sign her new book, Exploring Chicago Blues. A wine reception will follow. Time: 6:30 p.m.


Joliet Area Historical Museum

204 Ottawa St., Joliet, IL

Phone: 815-723-5201

Thursday, June 12 – Shawn Holt (son of late blues legend Magic Slim) and his band The Teardrops will perform at 7:30 p.m. $10 tickets.


Trickster Art Gallery

190 S. Roselle Rd., Schaumburg, IL

Phone: 847-301-2090

Saturday, June 14Blues & BBQ in the Burbs Fest w/ J.B. Ritchie Blues Band, Dawn O’Keefe Williams Trio, B.K. Read Duo,  Bandito Blues, Willie “The Touch” Hayes and special guests. Special photo art exhibit opening: Maxwell Street Blues by photographer Tom Smith. Time: 4-6 p.m. Tickets $2-$10


Blues Fest Kickoff Events at Buddy Guy’s


Lonnie, Wayne, Ronnie
Wayne Baker Brooks, Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks
photo: Jennifer Noble

Chicago Blues Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony & Show

Chicago Blues Guide is being inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame, along with a bevy of blues greats and industry professionals. Musical inductees, many of whom will perform, include Lonnie Brooks, Wayne & Ronnie Baker Brooks, Bob Stroger, Linsey Alexander, Holle Thee Maxwell, Mike Wheeler, Johnny Drummer, Bobby Slim James, Willie “The Touch” Hayes, Nellie “Tiger” Travis, E.G. McDaniel, Anthony Palmer, Tim Austin and many more. Time: 2 – 8 p.m. $20 cover.

At 8:15 there will be a live interview and performance with ex-patriot Chicago bluesman Guy King.

Later that night, the Windy City Blues Society will host its annual Chicago Blues Challenge/ Round One, a battle of the blues bands to see who will represent Chicago in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis next year. Time: 9:30 p.m – midnight. $15 cover. Money goes to help send the winning band to Memphis.


johnny Winter
Johnny Winter/ photo: Jennifer Noble

WXRT radio (93.1 FM) will broadcast live from Buddy Guy’s Legends for a FREE concert on June 12, the Thursday before Chicago Blues Fest. There will be performances by Johnny Winter, Shemekia Copeland, Ronnie Baker Brooks and “Big Head” Todd Park Mohr. The annual show, which is in its 16th year, will be emceed by DJ Tom Marker and Shemekia. The event is from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Get there early!


Before the WXRT show, BluesToday will host a FREE Health Screening and Affordable Care Act Insurance Seminar from 2 – 5 p.m. Dr. Dan Ivankovich a.k.a. Chicago Slim (bandleader of Chicago Blues All-Stars) and his partner Cara Karwile will offer on-site medical services such as blood pressure and diabetes screenings, along with speakers who will address a variety of health topics. Alligator Records President Bruce Iglauer and other speakers will join in on the seminar. Matt Hendricks will perform solo acoustic blues in between.

Delmark’s Annual Blues Brunch at the Jazz Record Mart

Tail Dragger
Tail Dragger/ photo: Connie Kenny


27 E. Illinois (at Wabash), Chicago, IL

Phone: 312- 222-1467 

Sunday, June 15

10 a.m. - Noon

Delmark Records’ annual Blues Brunch at the Mart is always FREE to early risers. This year don’t miss Eddie C. Campbell, Tail Dragger, Rockin’ Johnny, Toronzo Cannon, Dave Weld, Kate Moss, Sharon Lewis, Linsey Alexander, Dave Specter, Mike Wheeler and more. Free refreshments.

Blues Heaven Foundation/Chess Records

2120 S. Michigan, Chicago

Phone: 312-808-1286

This historic blues shrine kicks off its FREE outdoor summer garden concert series, which runs from June through August. Showtime: 6-7 p.m.

June 12 – Debra Jackson & The Firestarters

June 14 – Johnny Drummer 


The Blues Clubs



11 E. Hubbard, Chicago, IL

Phone 312-642-6805

Guy King
Guy King/ photo: Jennifer Noble

Andy’s bar and restaurant has been the home for all styles of jazz – Trad, Swing, Bop, Fusion, Latin, Afro-Pop – since 1977. And sometimes you will see blues acts on the menu, especially during Chicago Blues Fest.

June 12, 13, 14 – Guy King Band



536 N. Clark (at Ohio), Chicago, IL

Phone: 312-661-0100

This cozy River North club is very tourist friendly and provides a warm atmosphere with female vocalists belting out good-time blues.

Thursday June 12 – Shirley Johnson Blues Band

Friday, Saturday June 13-14 – J.W. Williams & the Chi-Town Hustlers w/ Demetria Taylor

Sunday, June 15 – Peaches Staten & the Grooveshakers



2519 N. Halsted, Chicago

Phone: 773-528-1012

This famous little club, known as “Blues on Halsted,” on the North Side has a great atmosphere where the blues drips off the walls seven days a week.

Thursday June 12 – Toronzo Cannon & The Cannonball Express

Friday June 13 – Jimmy Johnson Blues Band w/ Mike Wheeler

Saturday June 14 – Jimmy Johnson Blues Band w/ Mike Wheeler

Sunday June 15 – Ronnie Hicks & Masheen Co.



700 S. Wabash, Chicago

Phone: 312-427-1190

The music runs all day.  A short walk from Grant Park, this is always a nice option to catch blues either during or after the Blues Festival.  Tasty authentic Louisiana cuisine will keep your stomach happy, and the blues music will feed your soul.

Fri., June 13 –11 am: Austin “Walkin’” Cane (acoustic), all ages

                     2 pm: Smiley Tilmon w/ Kate Moss, all ages

                    5 pm: Special 20s

                     8:30 pm: Eden Brent

                     10:30 pm: Nellie “Tiger” Travis


Sat., June 14 – 11 am: Blues Brunch w/ Nicholas Barron, all ages

                    1 pm: Rob Blaine, all ages

                     3 pm: Anthony Moser

                     5 pm: NuBlu Band w/ Carlise Guy

                     7 pm: Linsey Alexander

                     9 pm: Big James & The Chicago Playboys

                     11 pm: Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater


Sun., June 15 – 11am: Blues Brunch w/ Harmonica Hinds, all ages

                     12:30 pm: Breezy Rodio Band, all ages

                     2:30 pm: Homemade Jamz

                     4:30 pm: Vino Louden

                     6:30 pm: Matthew Skoller

                     8:30 pm: Grana’ Louise

                     10:30 pm: Carlos Johnson



1200 W. Randolph, Chicago

Phone: 312-733-WINE

The City Winery in the West Loop is an impressive place to hear live music (both local and national acts), wine and dine. Wine casks and corks decorate the 300 plus seat performance space, which is surrounded by rooms where wine is made and stored.

June 16-17: Carolina Chocolate Drops



3701 S. Harlem Ave, Berwyn, IL

Phone: 708-484-3610

The cozy and casual west suburban Harlem Avenue Lounge has very special lineup this weekend. 

Friday June 13 – Frank Bang & Secret Stash

Saturday June 14 – J.C. Smith Blues band w/ Toronzo Cannon



329 N. Dearborn (at Marina City), Chicago

Phone: 312-923-2000

The Back Porch Stage at HOB is on the ground floor of the Marina City multi-storied venue and offers dinner and a late night menu plus live blues acts and more seven days a week. Sundays feature the venue’s famous gospel brunch.

Thursday June 12 – Tweed Funk

Friday June 13 – John Primer CD release party               



2548 N. Halsted, Chicago

Phone: 773-477-4646

Chicago’s longest running blues club, The Mines puts the “unk in funk.”  Two stages, so the music never stops, seven days a week. The club stays open ‘til 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Saturdays.

Eddie Shaw
Eddie Shaw/ photo Michael Kurgansky

Friday June 13 – Byther Smith, Eddie Shaw, Joanna Connor (acoustic)

Saturday June 14 – Byther Smith, Eddie Shaw, Joanna Connor (acoustic)

Sunday June 15Youth Jam w/ Carl Weathersby (3-6 pm); Linsey Alexander hosts adult jam on south stage, with Sharon Lewis on north stage.



7401 South Chicago Ave.

Chicago, IL

Phone: 773-493-3477

June 13 – Super Percy

June 14 – Jeff Dale CD release party



2937 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago

Phone: 773-227-2937

Thursday June 12: Liz Mandeville hosts the Blues Jam



1516 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

Phone: 773-252-1155

Nick’s is Wicker Park’s party central. Never a cover for excellent bands and a vast selection of beer. Need we say more? 

Friday June 13: Chicago Bound Blues Band

Saturday June 14: Brian Carpy & The Rockin’ Bollocks

1335 S. Michigan, Chicago

Thursday, June 12:
WDCB radio will broadcast this live performance by blues pianist Barrelhouse Chuck at 12 Noon. Tickets are FREE with advance registration. Click HERE for details.


2105 S. State Street, Chicago

Phone: 312-949-0120

Thursday, June 12: Johnny Winter autograph meet & greet at 5 p.m.  Steepwater Band opens for Johnny Winter band at 8:30 p.m.

Chicago Women in Blues
Chicago Women in blues/ photo by Airshots

Friday, June 134th Annual Chicago Women in the Blues Festival with Holle Thee Maxwell, Shirley King, Keisha Dixon-Nelson, Nellie “Tiger” Travis, Tracee Adams, Ramblin’ Rose, Dia Madden, Liz Mandeville, Vanessa Davis, Donna Herula, Ellen Miller, TK the Tequila Kid, Sherri Weathersby. Hosted by Joan Gand and the Blue Road Band.  Time: 8 p.m.  Tickets are $10. Purchase advance tix: HERE (highly recommended as this show sells out).

Saturday, June 14 –Chicago Blues Fest After-Party, Harmonica Blowout with Rockin’ Johnny Band, Bob Corritore, Scott Dirks, Big D, Jim Liban, Aki Kumar and surprise guests. Mississippi Gabe Carter opens at 8:30 pm /Doors: 8 p.m. $15 cover.



3420 W. Armitage, Chicago

Phone: 773-342-0452

Rosa’s is a great place on the near West Side to hear the blues.  Chicago’s “friendliest blues bar” has a stellar lineup for the fest weekend: 

Friday, June 13 – Kinsey Report

Saturday, June 14 – Billy Branch & Sons of the Blues

Sunday, June 15: Quique Gomez & Luca Giordano 



1804 W. Division, Chicago, IL

Phone: 773-772-6656

Blues, BBQ and brews, Smoke Daddy offers all three in spades. This Wicker Park bar and eatery smokes its own meats daily, while top live bands “smoke” onstage nightly. 

June 13 -- Billy Flynn & Friends w/ Bob Corritore, James Wheeler

June 14 -- Billy Flynn & Friends w/ Jody Williams & Pee Wee Hayes

June 15 – Morry Sochat & Special 20s Blues Fest Wrap Up Party w/ Bob Corritore & special guests



1245 Chicago Ave (at Dempster)

 Evanston, IL

Phone: 847-492-8860

Otis Clay
Otis Clay/ photo: Harvey Tillis

SPACE is the place to hear live music in the North Shore ‘burbs. Evanston is on Chicago’s north border, so it’s easy to get to by car or on the El. The sound system is top notch, with great sightlines, comfy nightclub seating and standing room in back.

Tuesday, June 10: James Cotton

Wednesday, June 11 – Dave Specter’s Delmark CD release party with Otis Clay, Bob Corritore and Brother John Kattke.

Thursday, June 12 – Otis Taylor, Mississippi Gabe Carter opens

Friday, June 13 – Larry McCray




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Dave Specter CD party w/ Otis Clay
June 11, 2014
at SPACE, Evanston
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