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Chicago Bluegrass And Blues Festival Gets Better With Age

By Sarah Cobarrubias in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 1, 2010 5:20PM

The Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival started out in 2008 as a modest 1-day event at Congress Theater, but now in its third year, the fest has nearly tripled in size. This year’s fest will span three days, December 3-5, and feature 35+ performances spread across three separate venues: the Double Door, Congress Theater, and Lincoln Hall. It will feature mostly local blues, soul, folk, and Americana acts celebrating the role of roots music and culture in Chicago.

The fest kicks off Friday, December 3 at the Double door with a strong line-up featuring folk-rock headliners Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons, as well as a handful of local acts including soul-pop outfit The Right Now and How Far to Austin. But Saturday is the festival's main event, fitting 23 acts into Congress Theater from 1 p.m. to Midnight. Headlining will be psych-folk band Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Notable locals include The Giving Tree Band, The Future Laureates, Van Ghost, and a whole slew of others. But the act that makes this night worth the big bucks is living legend David "Honeyboy" Edwards. At age 95 he’s the oldest Delta blues musician still actively touring and claims to have written "Sweet Home Chicago," not his long-time friend the late Robert Johnson who is credited for the song. The fest comes to a close Sunday with a line-up featuring headliners The Skatalites, one of the first ska band originating in Jamaica. The rest of the acts are purely local, including Daphne Willis, The O’My’s, and Jamie Lono.

Along with the bountiful line-up, the fest will feature Last Banjo Standing, a contest that works in much the same way as Lolla’s Last Band Standing contest. Today is the last day for bands to register for the contest (bands don't actually have to incorporate a banjo), and voting will take place November 2-13. The ten bands with the most votes will compete in a battle November 15 at Kinetic Playground, and two winners will receive $250 each and a spot in Saturday’s line-up at Congress Theater.

Other festivities include a charity raffle, pickin’ circle, art gallery and live-art exhibition, film screenings, and performance art in the form of a marching band by Environmental Encroachment. You can purchase single-day tickets or two-day tickets at their varying prices, or go all in and buy 3-day passes for $45. Because Saturday’s show is the only one open to all ages, 3-day passes are only available to customers age 21 and over. Check out the full line-up at CBBF’s site, and pick up your tickets before they sell out.

The Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival takes place:
Friday, December 3 at the Double Door, 1572 N Milwaukee, 7 p.m., $12, 21+
Saturday, December 4 at Congress Theater, 2135 N Milwaukee, 1p.m., $35, All Ages
Sunday, December 5 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N Lincoln, 5 p.m., $15, 21+