Why you need to attend the Chicago Blues Festival

by W. Andrew Powell
Chicago Blues Festival

Chicago has lots of incredible events and festivals every year, and one standout is the Chicago Blues Festival. Running this year from June 6 to 9, and featuring the legendary Buddy Guy for one of his final Chicago performances, it’s an event you just can’t miss.

Chicago stands out as one of the best cities in the United States. The iconic city boasts some of the best architecture in the country, award-winning restaurants, art and sculptures around every corner, and at the heart of it all, a music scene that hits on lots of genres.

Then there’s the Chicago Blues. Bands are often performing right outside Millennium Park, you can find performers in the train stations, and in the string of legendary clubs, and it’s part of the musical life that makes the city shine.

And every June you’ll find the blues taking over Jay Pritzker Pavilion, with some of the best musicians around.

So why do you need to attend the Chicago Blues Festival?

Chicago Blues Festival

First and foremost, it’s all about the scene. The Chicago Blues Festival is completely free, it’s central and easy to get to, and it’s held inside one of the great public spaces of the United States: Millennium Park.

Millennium Park celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and hosts the festival at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which was designed by Frank Gehry.

The pavilion looks amazing, with incredible acoustics, and it’s big and comfortable, with lots of seating. For more relaxed seating you can sit down on the lawn and bring your own food and drinks to the festival as well. Or you can buy from some of the excellent vendors on site, including the popular Wally’s BBQ Pit in the North Promenade Tent.

Around the venue you’ll find craft beer, a variety of food, and it’s easy to step away for a bite at places like the nearby Millennium Hall right beside Cloud Gate.

And then there’s the music, and the amazing artists on stage.

Last year I was lucky to catch the Blind Boys of Alabama with Bobby Rush, and a remarkable lineup of artists throughout the festival. This year’s festival will celebrate exceptional blues music on three stages across Millennium Park, with 35 performances and more than 250 artists.

Music lovers can see Buddy Guy on stage, as part of his Damn Right Farewell tour, and other headliners include Shemekia Copeland, Mr. Sipp, Southern Avenue, with tributes to Jimmy Rogers, Dinah Washington, and Otis Spann.

Seeing Buddy Guy performing on stage is going to be something special. Guy is one of the prolific and influential artists of the last several decades, and he’s influences the Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, and John Mayer. To date he’s earned 8 Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

You can easily drop in for a couple of hours, or the entire afternoon and evening, with shows usually starting mid-day and running into the early part of the night. I also love the lively but family-friendly party atmosphere, with people dancing, singing along, or just vibing along from their seats.

Finally, whether you want to plan your trip to Chicago around the event, or you’re just looking to check out a unique festival for a few hours, it’s a great addition to enjoying everything that the city has to offer.

Some of Chicago’s top highlights that you should check out while you’re in town include: Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower, to get a bird’s eye view of the city; The Art Institute of Chicago, one of the country’s best art museums; Shedd Aquarium, for a look at all sorts of sea creatures and animals; Wrigley Field to catch a game; just to name a few.

To learn more about the festival, visit ChicagoBluesFestival.us, and watch some highlights from last year’s festival in my video below. Discover more things to do in the city at Choose Chicago.

Find the perfect hotel in Chicago

If you’re looking for the perfect place to stay while you’re visiting Chicago, there are dozens of amazing hotels in the heart of the city, especially in the Loop, right near Millennium Park. Use the map below to find a hotel, or search the map.

A few of my favourite hotels include the Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile, Loews Chicago Hotel, and the Virgin Hotel Chicago.

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