Put it on record, the 32nd annual Chicago Blues Fest was another successful year for blues fans and performers across the nation. This past weekend, June 10th through the 12th, marks my first time attending this event and I was anything but disappointed. The festival’s location in Grant Park provided a great environment for the diverse crowd of attendees and mirrored a fusion of the outdoor music festival’s open air and big stage experience with the communal atmosphere of a Rhythm & Blues block party.
The Bud Light Crossroads Stage and Pepsi Front Porch Stage acted as the festival’s main stages and drew the largest crowds who quartered little plots of land with quilts and lawn chairs. Conveniently placed at the south end of the grounds, the Jackson Mississippi Rhythm & Blues Stage brought a Southern flare with big brass sounds to the Northern celebration. Sandwiched between vendors, the Petrillo Music Shell and Windy City Blues Society’s “Street Stage” hosted a majority of local acts. These were the dusky jewels and hidden gems of the weekend. The most notable act among them, Queen Beautiful & Sweet Sole, could be seen performing from 11:00-11:45 on Saturday morning at the Windy City Street Stage.
Upon entering the North gates I found myself immediately compelled to dance as I moved closer to the music; it was vibrant, energetic, tight, and soulful. Talent emanated from each musician with equal intensity and purpose. In honor of the late Prince, Queen Beautiful had donned his “third eye” sunglasses which added to the performance and introduced a new kind of theatrical element to the show. A crowd gathered, grew and continued to grow. No one sat and few stood still; as if the music induced an intoxicating toe-tapping effect on everyone who was lucky enough to be within earshot.
The set was a tribute to the Chicago Blues. It was the way a tribute ought to be: with soul and influences spanning across a wide range of genres including verses by LL Cool J and MC Lyte incorporated into ZZ Top’s “I Need You Tonight”. It was an exciting thing to witness. I was seeing the Blues as I knew it evolve into a new generation. There is nothing wrong with entertainers in suit and tie, but those days are fading. Instead of viewing this as a tragedy, I think we can be excited for what the future will bring. Queen Beautiful & Sweet Sole should be seen as pioneers for what could prove to be a revival of Blues as a popular genre with this next generation of listeners.
A special thanks to the gracious Queen Beautiful for providing the full setlist from the show and for an incredible performance.
The Set List:
1 Voodoo Woman – Koko Taylor
2. Got my Mojo Working – Muddy Waters
3. I’m a Woman – Koko Taylor
4. Old Man, with Young Ideas – Ann Peebles
5. I Need You Tonight (Featuring raps by MC Lyte, LL Cool J, and MJ’S ‘I’m Bad’) – Originally by ZZ Top & Covered by Buddy Guy
6.Come Together – The Beatles
7. Since I’ve Been Loving You (Otis Clay Tribute of Led Zeppelin)
Spotify Playlist based on their set.
Queen Beautiful on Facebook.