Blues on the Fox 2023-Aurora IL

Blues on the Fox 2023

Aurora IL

16-17 June, 2023

Photos and Review by Roman Sobus

Coming on the heels of the Chicago Blues Festival, this two day celebration of Blues music is now in its 27th year. The festival takes place in a new, state of the art park on the banks of the Fox River, about an hour west of Chicago in Aurora Illinois. It is an idyllic setting with a more “chill atmosphere than its big city counterpart. Some seating is provided but fans bring their own chairs and set up in shady spots on the lawn. Large monitors stream the stage view so no one misses any of the sets. It is not unusual to have pleasure boats and kayaks just off shore stopping to take in some of the entertainment.

This year the festival brought together a diverse group of musicians with very different styles and spanning not only blues but Jazz, Folk, Rock and Gospel. I call it a sampler of sorts on a seriously underrated part of American musical culture.

Opening this year’s festival on Friday evening was Grammy Award nominated singer/songwriter Ruthie Foster. Born in Gause TX and brought up in a family of Gospel singers, her set drew heavily on her early life experiences. 

Jimmy Vaughan was the second and final performance of the evening. Jimmy is the older brother of Stevie Ray Vaughan and an accomplished musician in his own right. His band includes a three piece brass section and his set had a decidedly jazzy vibe. 

Saturday turned out warm and hazy with larger crowds and a full day of music. Opening was a relative newcomer to the Blues scene – Joey J Saye. Brought up on Chicago’s West side, he was exposed to the Blues at an early age and is passionate about his work He was joined by veteran musicians Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums and Robert Stroger on bass. At age 29, he has found his place in the Chicago Music scene. 

Mud Morganfield took to the stage next for a traditional Blues set. We should expect nothing less from the eldest son of the legendary Muddy Waters. The crowd filled the aisles to dance when the band played Muddy Water’s selections “Hoochie-Coochie Man” and “Got My Mojo Working”. Mud’s facial expressions and mannerisms are very reminiscent of his father’s. I never tire of seeing him perform.

Baton Rouge native Kenny Neals was up next. His style is what I can best describe as New Orleans. He refers to some of his selections as Cajun Blues others as Jazz. He managed to squeeze in “When the Saints Come Marching In” with full audience participation. Listening to him, one has a feeling of walking the streets of the French Quarter. He is an amazing guitarist!

This year’s festival headliner was guitarist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. He is often referred to as the “Future of the Blues” and at age 23, has headlined festivals. He is scheduled to open for The Rolling Stones in London’s Hyde Park on July 3! In his short career, he has accomplished what others hope to achieve in a lifetime of work. Needless to say, Kingfish had the crowd from beginning to end! He is definitely one to watch!

Until next year!