Despite some weather hiccups, the 21st annual Blues on the Fox festival at RiverEdge Park in Aurora on June 16 and 17 provided many lasting memories.
The weekend started off on a soaring note with two goddesses of the Chicago music scene – blues belter Shemekia Copeland and the legendary Mavis Staples.
Copeland is rightly called the Queen of the Blues these days, although she rejects the title, arguing that it should stay with the late Koko Taylor.
Although she took the stage with a cold, she shook it off in commanding fashion, tearing through songs such as "Pie in the Sky," along with delivering a passionate version of her father Johnny Copeland's signature song, "Ghetto Child."
As fiery as her performance was, it couldn't match the one delivered by Staples, whose energy belies the fact that she is about to turn 78. She brought fresh energy to The Staples Singers' classics like "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There," along with conveying a joyful exuberance that lifted the crowd.
Chicago musicians again ruled the day during the second day of Blues on the Fox as Guy King brought his soulful blues to the stage, providing some electrifying guitar licks alongside his band's tight horn section.
Unfortunately, an approaching storm cut Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist/songwriter Elvin Bishop's set short, but Bishop and his band made the most of their abbreviated time on stage. Bishop also has a Chicago connection, as he was schooled in the Chicago blues while attending the University of Chicago.
Bishop and his band played with the looseness of a group of people just hanging out to jam together. Because of their limited time on stage, they could only choose a few crowd favorites, such as the song "Got To Be New Orleans" and his hit single "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," brought to new life by the uplifting vocals of Willy Jordan.
Blues on the Fox has become a cultural treasure in the Chicagoland area. And hopefully those who came out to this year's festival treasured the musical gifts that were provided.
• Eric Schelkopf writes about the arts and entertainment scene in Chicago at thetotalscene.blogspot.com. He also is an employee of Shaw Media.