The Recording Academy Chicago Chapter presented its eighth annual Chicago Bluesfest Kickoff Jam on June 9 at Buddy Guy's Legends, a precursor to the popular annual Chicago Blues Festival, which took place June 11–13. Approximately 500 guests packed the venue to officially kick off Chicago's summer blues season and enjoy a lineup of 12 eclectic performances from artists including Billy Branch, Otis Clay, Vino Louden, Matthew Skoller, and Otis Taylor, among others.
Branch's rootsy set was followed by the fruits of his local Blues in the Schools program, as 11 youngsters, backed by Branch's band, belted out a spirited performance of T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday."
The former bandleader for late blues queen Koko Taylor, Louden charmed the audience with slow, seductive guitar solos. Clay — decked out in a white suit and backed by a full band — lent a gospel touch to his bluesy reverie. Taylor stunned the room with a trance-like version of the Jimi Hendrix favorite "Hey Joe." Skoller treated the audience to an exhaustive release on the harp, building excitement with a wailing guitar and keyboards, and reaching a climax with an energetic harmonica jam.
The legendary Buddy Guy took the stage himself, performing an arresting version of the Willie Dixon classic "Let Me Love You Baby." In an evening marked by memorable music and fun, Guy later joked about being treated like royalty in his own club. "I tried to use the bathroom and I had to say cheese all the way there."