Thursday, February 21, 2008

The State of The 2008 Chicago Bluesfest (As of February)

                                             Photo Credit: how stuff works
With the fourth night of the Chicago Blues Festival announced, with none other than B.B. King set to cap this year's proceedings, the folks running the Chicago Blues Festival have given us a pretty decent amount of the festival's lineup (though it will eventually get up to 90 performances, according to the organizers). With a fairly diverse lineup so far-- from the acoustic subtelty of David "Honeyboy" Edwards to the vocal pyromania of Koko Taylor, it would be interesting to see how this range stacks up with that of past lineups.

As it turns out, the Chicago Bluesfest has been dealing in musicians from throughout the blues stylistic spectrum (as opposed to focusing solely on the host city's bread-and-butter electric style) since the first 1984 run; indeed, during those first three days, some of the same performers playing this year, such as Pinetop Perkins and Buckwheat Zydeco, could be found on stage.

During the late '80s, with themed stages first being introduced in 1986, the festival's ranks were filled with decidedly un-blues performers, such as Zydeco, Solomon Burke, and Keith Richards (local r&b crooner Cicero Blake, who performs this year, could also be included on this list). The trend is also reflected this year in the addition of soul divas Jackie Ross and Ruby Andrews to the lineup.

Sadly for those who are going this year and have never gone before, they will miss out on a fair amount of legends that frequented the festival in the past that won't be present in 2008. Buddy Guy, the most glaring example, has already played the festival five times but will not be in Grant Park this year. To be fair, the aformentioned Edwards and Taylor came back this year, and Guy can always be confirmed later this spring.

One thing that festivalgoers won't have to worry about this year is a lack of guitar fireworks. With players like Johnny Winter, Bobby Parker and Lurrie Bell already set, the festival's working out to be quite rigorous in terms of fretboard shredding and mean string bends.

While it's not confirmed to continue this year, the festival has demonstrated a trend of branching out lately, not in terms of artists so much as the very nature and type of its attractions. In 2002, one of the stages, the Route 66 Stage, began hosting everything from panel discussions to a Langston Hughes 100th year retrospective, and the stage has shown signs of this type of programmatic experimentation every year since, up to 2007. However, exactly what sorts of presentations on that stage that are in store for blues fans this year are still up in the air.

So what we have so far is a decent helping each of guitar heroes, soulful vocalists and blues megastars, though the latter category may not be as voluminous as some might hope. Keep those fingers crossed, though-- there may be plenty upstart performers about to tear King, Winter and Cotton a new one in June.

-- By Ross Moody

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

and it was magic

Tony H. U.K.