notes from a journey through Chicago's cultural landscape...

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

...this is not about me, this is about my city - a living document of Chicago's art's scene, a memoir of concerts I've been to & performances I've seen, a jaded scribe's small sampling of the many offerings of this vibrant cosmopolitan city that I'm lucky enough to call home. I work the city as the city works me, all of us connected in varying degrees, here i pay tribute to our evolving soundtrack, I plug praiseworthy endeavors & try to give a little back... Together with my peers we paint this crossroads with every shade we can find, in your mediums & mine, i run with deep house deviants & wrinkled blues cats, youngun' b-boy crews & quirky circus brats, snobby eclectic DJs & electric painters laboring on projected displays, film makers armed with mini-DVs & picky chefs sculpting tricky masterpieces out of vegan grease... i kick it with slam poets & theater geeks, powerbook producers & fashionista freaks, photoshop fellowships & choreographer hips, while jazz cats blow digital epics through pursed bebop lips... i'm at the nexus of the next wave of Chicago sound - this is where i share the stories of all the beauty I've found...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

BluesFest - Day 1

Picked up some flyers at Hot House and since I was right next door I swung through Grant Park for the first evening of BluesFest... This is now my 8th year of catching Bluesfest, in 1998 it was the singlemost important factor in making me decide to spend the summer in Chicago... Since that first encounter with the city's muddy electric soul, I've never really left... Every Delta guitarist eventually finds their way to Chicago, seeking to plug in and wail out a magnified testimony of the polluted streams from which we've emerged... My blues-singer dreams, however, have been deferred, re-routed through turntables till they no longer resemble the initial impetus... I come from the blues, but all shades find their way into the mix, a growing motley tapestry of cultures, rhythms, and methods lifted from every tongue i've ever encountered. I wouldn't have it any other way...

My experience of the sun-drenched arrival of summer each year is marked by BluesFest, but it's meaning has changed to me. The sound that once felt like a revelation has grown increasingly familiar, bringing with it a banality that taints my appreciation of this form. But regardless of how many times I've heard Muddy Waters covers, the spectacle of BluesFest, the sight of the Petrillo Shell against the skyline, the intimacy of the Front Porch stage, the raw gritty feel of the Juke Joint stage, these are signature Chicago moments, musical snapshots that are fundamental to my aesthetic and identity. I saw Chris Thomas King, the actor who played Robert Johnson in "O Brother Where Art Thou" on the CrossRoads Stage a few years before he was really famous, and the litany of artists I've encountered through BluesFest makes for quite a list... Every year I am reborn in Grant Park, listening to old wrinkled guys from Fat Possum Records and young upstarts like Jonny Lang or veterans aces like Larry McCray. These guys don't play...this is not a game, this is the infinite pain of the transplanted plugged in and bent till it trembles like a breaking human voice...
Today I trudged through the park with a 30 lb bag full of flyers, doffed the shirt and lay half-naked amongst the masses while drinking in the June sun, sitting in the grass and soaking in summer. Moved from the Front Porch stage to the Petrillo shell, where they just recently added a huge live video screen to magnify the happenings onstage for all the folks lounging in the field... Talk about a fantastic addition... I lay down in the far fringes and napped while people-watching... 86 degrees and sunny, tank-tops, tattoos, skirts & sculpted bodies out in force... God I love this city... I forget sometimes, but once BluesFest comes around and summer in Chicago calls its beautiful children out to play, it all becomes clear...
come on
baby don'tcha wanna go
come on
baby don'tcha wanna go
to the land of california
my sweet home

Related Links:
For a complete line-up of the 4 day festival's 5 stages & highlights:


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