The weekend’s best blues beyond the fest | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

The weekend’s best blues beyond the fest 

Your options outside Millennium Park include Shemekia Copeland, John Primer, and Selwyn Birchwood.

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Shemekia Copeland performs at FitzGerald’s on Thursday night. - ERIC Y. EXIT
  • Shemekia Copeland performs at FitzGerald’s on Thursday night.
  • Eric Y. Exit

This year Chicago seems to be hosting fewer extracurricular blues events during Blues Festival week than it has in the past. It's too soon to decide that audiences have gotten complacent, though—and you can still find plenty of worthwhile shows. The city's blues clubs kick into overdrive during the fest, of course (see the Reader's listings for more on them). But this weekend several spaces that don't routinely host big blues concerts also get into the act—as do less publicized neighborhood venues, which do their best to make special occasions out of their shows. This roundup focuses on the latter two categories.

The Blues Heaven Foundation, in the iconic Chess Records building at 2120 S. Michigan, will stay busy all weekend: Vocalist-harpist Lamont Harris performs Thursday afternoon, former Muddy Waters guitarist John Primer on Friday evening, and Wayne Baker Brooks, son of late guitarist-vocalist Lonnie Brooks, on Saturday night. On Sunday afternoon, multi-instrumentalist Johnny Drummer hosts a benefit for esteemed musician, songwriter, and producer Cash McCall. On Thursday evening, Motor Row Brewing presents a revue billed as "Chicago Queens of Rhythm & Blues," whose lineup includes Mzz Reese, Tracee Adams, and Brenda Taylor (daughter of late guitar legend Eddie Taylor). Motor Row also hosts a series of shows Friday through Sunday, including drummer Doc Payne (son of drummer Odie Payne Jr.) and his Payne Relief Smooth Blues Band paying tribute to the late Eddie Shaw, former Howlin' Wolf saxophonist and longtime leader of his own band, the Wolf Gang. On Saturday guitarist Fernando Jones leads a benefit concert for his nonprofit Blues Kids Foundation, and on Sunday Motor Row regulars the Original Chicago Blues All Stars (formerly Willie Dixon's band) put the festival weekend to bed.

SPACE in Evanston throws the official Delmark Records 65th Anniversary Birthday Bash on Thursday night, and on Sunday it's booked an afterparty with two Blues Festival artists, Selwyn Birchwood from Florida and Kevin "B.F." Burt from Iowa. Thursday at FitzGerald's you can see Chicago-based singer Shemekia Copeland, who's blossomed into a gifted and versatile roots-music stylist without losing her essential bluesiness.

Among the clubs that don't advertise nearly as widely as those two, several deserve a mention: At the Odyssey East, vocalist New Orleans Beau and guitarist-vocalist Jo Jo Murray play Friday and Sunday, backed by the Source One Band (with bassist Joe Pratt and esteemed guitarist Sir Walter Scott). Lemelle's Luxury Lounge features Vance Kelly & the Backstreet Band on Saturday afternoon. The Water Hole brings in reggae group Hurricane on Thursday, Paul Kaye & the Blues Cartel hold forth on Friday, and jazz pianist Vince Willis on Sunday. Also on Sunday night, Rooster's Palace showcases vocalist Cyrus Hayes on solo keyboard along with singer Lady Lee. For those of you still in town Monday, the Fantastic L'Roy appears at Linda's Lounge that night. As always, call ahead if possible to make sure the show is happening.

Thursday, June 7

Chicago Queens of Rhythm & Blues featuring Mzz Reese, Tracee Adams, Brenda Taylor, Ms. Trysh, Mz. Joy, Laretha Weathersby, and Gail Redd
7:30 PM, Motor Row Brewing, 2337 S. Michigan, $20

Shemekia Copeland
8:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn, $25, $20 in advance, 21+

Delmark Records 65th Anniversary Bash
8 PM, SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston, $15-$25, all-ages

Lamont Harris
6 PM, Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation, 2120 S. Michigan, free, all-ages

Hurricane
9 PM, the Water Hole, 1400 S. Western, 312-243-7988, free, 21+

Friday, June 8

Doc Payne & the Payne Relief Smooth Blues Band with special guests
A tribute to late Howlin' Wolf saxophonist and Wolf Gang bandleader Eddie Shaw. 7:30 PM, Motor Row Brewing, 2337 S. Michigan, 312-624-8129, $25, $20 in advance

Paul Kaye & the Blues Cartel
9 PM, the Water Hole, 1400 S. Western, 312-243-7988, free, 21+

John Primer
9 PM, Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation, 2120 S. Michigan, $25, all-ages

Source One Band featuring New Orleans Beau and Jo Jo Murray
9 PM, Odyssey East, 9942 S. Torrence, 773-530-7543, free, 21+

Saturday, June 9

Altruistic Music Fest with Fernando Jones and friends
A benefit for the Blues Kids Foundation's Blues Camp. 7:30 PM, Motor Row Brewing, 2337 S. Michigan, 312-624-8129, donation requested

Selwyn Birchwood, Kevin "B.F." Burt
10 PM, SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston, $15-$25, all-ages

Wayne Baker Brooks
9 PM, Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation, 2120 S. Michigan, $25, all-ages

Vance Kelly & the Backstreet Band
3 PM, Lemelle's Luxury Lounge, 1801 W. 87th, 773-614-8577, free, 21+

Sunday, June 10

Johnny Drummer hosts a blues benefit for Cash McCall
3 PM, Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation, 2120 S. Michigan, $25, all-ages

Cyrus Hayes, Lady Lee
9:30 PM, Rooster's Palace, 600 N. Kedzie, 312-342-0179, free, 21+

Original Chicago Blues All Stars with special guests
7:30 PM, Motor Row Brewing, 2337 S. Michigan, 312-624-8129, $25, $20 in advance

Source One Band featuring New Orleans Beau and Jo Jo Murray
8 PM, Odyssey East, 9942 S. Torrence, 773-530-7543, free, 21+

Vince Willis
9 PM, the Water Hole, 1400 S. Western, 312-243-7988, $5, 21+

Monday, June 11

The Fantastic L'Roy
9:30 PM, Linda's Lounge, 1044 W. 51st, 773-373-2351, free, 21+

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