IT’S JUNE! SUMMERTIME! Chicago is in full swing and so are we, friends and brave adventurers! Let’s start right in with my absolute favorite, the Chicago Blues Festival, three days of some of the best music the world has to offer. I will be there when it opens, 11am, Friday, June 7th, in Millennium Park, of course, taking this advice from Elmore Magazine: “You need to check out the string-bending, mind-blowing Joanna Connor.” She is an amazing slide-guitar player and hearing and seeing her live is an excellent way to kick-off the summer.
On the same “Crossroads Stage”, Benny Turner and his band, Real Blues, is up next, so I’ll keep my seat, thank you. Benny was a career bassist, guitarist and vocalist for many of the great Blues artists, including Mighty Joe Young, and Marva Wright, the “Blues Queen of New Orleans.” After her death, Benny finally took center stage, and has received recognition, airplay, and many awards for the music he has released.
My date will join me for a late lunch, and we’ll grab something from one of the many food stands while we drift over to the “Front Porch Stage” to hear Kenny Smith and the House Bumpers rock the place out, warming things up nicely for Mojo Morganfield. Does that name sound familiar? Of course; Mojo is the youngest son of McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, the legendary singer, songwriter, guitarist and band leader who was “the father of modern Chicago blues.”
Do you see why this is my favorite summer Chicago festival? It’s fabulous. We’ll stay tonight for a long while, catching Charlie Musselwhite and then the Jimmy Johnson Blues Band at the Pritzker Pavilion, before heading home. https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_blues_festival.html
Saturday morning, June 8th, we’ll sleep in late, so please, let’s meet a bit later (maybe 11am?) at the Wells Street Arts Festival. This is a respected art fair, with over 225 juried artists, working in traditional as well as modern media. We’ll get to see the works of painters, sculptors, woodcrafters, digital artists and so much more. There’s lots of music, of course, and plenty of food to be had. There is a modest donation for entry, and with the proceeds going to local charities and community groups it’s all good. It’s on Wells, from North Ave. to Division St., and easy to access via CTA trains and bus routes. (Let’s not try parking in the Old Town neighborhood!). Check it out before hand at https://www.wellsstreetartfest.us/.
This Sunday, June 9th, let’s cruise down to the Bronzeville neighborhood and get acquainted with that part of town, shall we? We can, stroll the area, be amazed by the magnificent architecture and check out local stores and establishments. Why? Because Bronzeville is an impressive, and historically important area of Chicago and the US. Bronzeville is where Andrew “Rube” Foster created professional baseball’s Negro League, Louis Armstrong played his legendary trumpet at the Sunset Club, “to keep Al Capone off his back,” I’m told, and where Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks, civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, and many others lived their lives.
Let’s get started! Robert Adams Sr., owner and pitmaster at Honey 1 Barbecue, 773-285-9455, moved his impressive restaurant to 746 E. 43rd Street, partly because the snobby neighbors in Wicker Park didn’t like the smells of genuine, wood-smoke barbecue, and also because the customers didn’t understand that the real thing doesn’t come all slathered up in sauces. Mr. Adams knows barbecue, and especially the disappearing style that was created right here in Chicago. He uses an aquarium smoker, custom built, and cooks up the unique-to-Chicago “rib tips and hot links combo” with fries and a single slice of bread to soak up all the juices.
Remember Springfield, and their “horseshoe sandwich”? Keep it. I’ll take this combo any day. If you want to learn more, please visit https://www.saveur.com/chicago-barbecue-rib-tips-hot-links.
Oh, boy, was that delicious. Time for a walk? Right around the corner, at 4250 S. Cottage Grove Ave., we’ll find Small Shop Cycles and Service. Yes, it’s a bike shop, and one of the niftiest little places you’ve ever seen. With great people, excellent service, community involvement, and some very creative displays, it’s a welcoming space that’s much smaller and friendlier than a Trek-sized store. Thank you for indulging me. http://smallshopchicago.com/
Let’s walk east on 43rd St., check out the stores, the architecture, and the many murals that grace this very large part of Chicago. The outdoor art is worth the trip, all by itself, just look! We’ll stop is at Faie African Art Gallery, 1005 E. 43rd St., Chicago, 773.268.2889. Why am I just now discovering this place? It’s FANTASTIC! Their website, http://faieafrikanart.com/, tells us:
“FAIE AFRIKAN ART began in 1995 with a trip to Mali and Guinea in West Africa. The impact and beauty of the art was undeniable. This began a quest to explore the art of the continent. This art is not created ‘art for arts’ sake’; it speaks of the connections to tradition, family, the ancestors, and the belief in the Omnipresence of the Spirit.”
I really enjoy fine painting and sculpture, don’t you? Just look at these pieces! Don’t they make those connections come alive?
Finally, let’s have dinner at Yassa African Restaurant, up at 3511 S. King Dr., where owners Madieye and Awa Gueye offer up delicious meals from Senegalese cuisine. The house specialty, Yassa chicken, is marinated in lemon and spices and served over rice. Yum! Perhaps, like me, you enjoy lamb; maffe, another feature dish, sounds just right: cubed lamb cooked in a peanut butter and tomato sauce served with carrots and potatoes. https://www.yassarestaurant.com
Most people recognize the Water Tower when the see photos of this wonderful building, one of the few survivors of the Chicago Fire of October 8-10, 1871, which killed over 300 people and left one third of all Chicagoans homeless. Did you know that the building is open to the public and houses “City Gallery”? The Gallery is a showcase for local photographers and artists, currently exhibiting “Stand Up for Landmarks! Protests, Posters & Pictures” a collection of photos and other works depicting the struggles of communities to save their important landmarks from the developer’s wrecking balls. It’s open from 10am until 7pm on weekdays, but we’ll be going on Saturday, June 15th; please meet us there, early afternoon, say about 1pm? We’ll walk through the exhibit, and learn about these struggles, which were successful and which were not, as well as finding out a bit more about this world-famous structure.
Wasn’t that fabulous? Now, almost next door, we can have lunch in the 900 North Michigan building, wherein 13 different restaurants occupy Astor Hall, http://www.asterhallchicago.com/food. You pick this time! Some handmade pasta at Lil’ Boots? A great cheeseburger at Small Cheval? Chicken at The Rotiserrie? It’s all here and a lot more as well. We’ll grab a table while you order, then we can all catch up, so much is happening, this will take some time.
It’s time for another neighborhood festival, this one, Ravenswood on Tap, http://ravenswoodchicago.org/ontap/, has many local craft beer and spirit vendors. However it happened, Ravenswood Ave. has become a mecca of sorts for craft breweries. Begyle, Half Acre, Spiteful Brewery (what a name, right?) and even Koval Distillery will be on hand, among a host of others. Expect to indulge in excellent local food offerings, and of course we’ll stroll the art and craft exhibits, taking in live music along the way. It all starts at “Malt Row”, Ravenswood at Berteau Ave, Saturday June 22nd, we’ll be there at noon.
Onto the Millennium Art Festival! We’ll meet you there on Saturday, June 29th, right when it opens at 10am. We’ll have plenty of time to wander the aisles, take in the art, and chat with a few of the artists before things get crowded. The paintings, sculpture, jewelry, and more, of 110 artists will be on display. Sunshine Artist magazine declares this to be one of the “Top 50 Art and Design Shows”, so this one is not to be missed. Surprisingly, it’s not actually in the Park, it’s up at Michigan Ave. and Lake St. Excellent food will be there, or we can decide to stroll around while we talk and find some other place for lunch.
To finish out this very exciting month, let’s visit the Logan Square Arts Festival, http://www.logansquareartsfestival.com. This gathering, at Milwaukee Ave. and Logan Square Monument Park, is as much about the music as the art. There are two stages, hosting live music throughout the weekend, with a huge array of local and regional bands and musicians playing a wide variety of music. Our clan will arrive after lunch, likely about 2pm, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be hard to miss. Please find us, say “hi”, and have nothing but fun.
Do you believe June is upon us already? Holy cow, even more adventure awaits, so readers and friends, smile, be kind, and adventure on, until next month.