TAJ MAHAL, ROBERT RANDOLPH HEADLINE 23rd BLUES ON THE FOX FESTIVAL, FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, JUNE 14 & 15 AT AURORA’S RIVEREDGE PARK
AURORA, IL, June 10, 2019 – Downtown Aurora’s 23rd Annual Blues on the Fox Festival boasts a killer line-up of longtime favorites and fresh new talent ready to jam along the banks of the Fox River, Friday and Saturday, June 14 and 15 at RiverEdge Park.
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Taj Mahal (left), Ana Popovic
Friday evening’s headliner is Taj Mahal with opener Ana Popovic kicking off suburban Chicago’s largest summer blues festival. Gates open at 6 p.m. Popovic starts at 7 p.m.
(top, from left) Robert Randolph, Coco Montoya, (bottom) Ronnie Baker Brooks and Jamiah Rogers
Saturday’s starring act is Robert Randolph and the Family Band, with Coco Montoya, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Jamiah Rogers paving the way with a full day of rocking live blues. Gates open at 2 pm. Jamiah Rogers opens Saturday’s quadruple bill at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $20 per day. Children 12 and under are admitted free to Blues on the Fox but must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older.
RiverEdge Park is located at 360 N. Broadway, right across the street from Metra’s Aurora Transportation Center in downtown Aurora. For tickets and information, visit RiverEdgeAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by RiverEdge’s satellite box office, Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday–Saturday. Tickets will also be sold on-site, both days. Fees not included.
At this event, the entire park is general admission. There will be limited bench seating in front of the stage with an area for bag chairs in between. Bench seating is first come, first served. The rest of the park is general admission for bag chairs. Bag chairs and blankets are also allowed on the lawn areas.
Blues on the Fox is sponsored by Old Second Bank, Rush Copley Medical Center, BMO Harris Bank and Earthmover Credit Union. The official radio station is 93.1 XRT FM. The RiverEdge Park 2019 Season is sponsored by Dunham Fund, Superior Beverage and City of Aurora. Park sponsor is Hollywood Casino Aurora.
MORE ABOUT THE SHOWS
23rd Annual Blues on the Fox Festival – Day One
Friday, June 14
Gates open at 6 p.m.
Ana Popovic (7 p.m.)
Award-winning, hard-touring, guitar slinger and singer Ana Popovic fell in love with American blues as a kid, starting back home in Belgrade, Serbia (ex-Yugoslavia). She then moved to the Netherlands to study at the conservatory of jazz and world music. After more than 10 years in Amsterdam, in a single-minded pursuit of her art and career, she relocated to Memphis, Tennessee to record and work with Southern musicians. Two years ago, she moved her family to Los Angeles, California where she now lives.
Called “one helluva guitar-player” by Bruce Springsteen and nominated for six Blues Music Awards, Popovic has appeared on the covers of Vintage Guitar and Guitar Player magazine. Her albums Can You Stand The Heat and Unconditional were USA Today Picks-Of-The-Week and featured on NPR Weekend Edition. Nearly all of her albums reached the top of the BillboardBlues Charts. She and her six-piece band have toured tirelessly, sharing stages with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa and many others.
She is back on the road promoting her new album, Like It On Top, that focuses on empowered, successful, inspiring female role models. “I hope that my music inspires others to motivate ladies all over the world to be successful, energetic, empowered women on a mission, and to motivate men to give them that chance,” Popovic says. Like It On Top, produced by four-time Grammy winner Keb’ Mo’, opened #2 at the iTunes most downloaded US blues albums and peaked at #2 of the Billboard Top Selling blues albums chart. anapopovic.com
Ana Popovic’s “Lasting Kind of Love” featuring Keb’ Mo’
Taj Mahal Quartet (9 p.m.)
American singer, guitarist, and songwriter Taj Mahal, born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks on May 17, 1942, in New York, New York, is one of the pioneers of merging blues and world music. He combined acoustic blues and other African American music with Caribbean and West African music and other genres to create his own distinctive sound.
Taj Mahal (the name came to him in a dream) grew up in a musical family. His father, of Jamaican background, was a jazz musician and arranger. His mother, a schoolteacher, sang gospel music. While a student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in the early 1960s, he began exploring the origins of African American music and focused on acoustic blues. Following graduation, he played in folk clubs until he moved to California in 1965 where he teamed up with Ry Cooder to form the band Rising Sons.
Returning to solo performing, he released his first album, Taj Mahal, in 1968. This and other albums recorded during the next several years – notably Giant Step/De Ole Folks at Home (1969) and Recycling the Blues and Other Related Stuff (1972) – featured blues songs infused with ragtime, reggae, gospel and other sounds. Mahal typically accompanied himself on a steel guitar but also played a number of other instruments, includeing electric instruments, tubas, steel drums and the kalimba (thumb piano), often in unexpected combinations.
Mahal has recorded several dozen albums. An anthology, In Progress & In Motion (1965–1998), was released in 1998. He explored world music on Mumtaz Mahal (1995), Sacred Island (1998) was a delve into Hawaiian music, and he partnered with Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté on Kulanjan(1999). He also scored the films Sounder (1972) and Sounder II (1976), in which he also had acting roles, and the play Mule Bone (1991), originally written by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. He received Grammys for best contemporary blues album for Señor Blues (1997), Shoutin’ in Key (2000) and his duet album with Keb’ Mo’, TajMo (2017). tajblues.com
Taj Mahal “Good Morning Ms. Brown”
23rd Annual Blues on the Fox Festival – Day Two
Saturday, June 15
Gates open at 2 p.m.
Jamiah Rogers (3 p.m.)
The Jamiah Rogers Band – Jamiah Rogers, lead vocals and guitar; Dionte Skinner, drums; and Tony Rogers, background vocals and bass guitar – is one of the Midwest’s hottest bands and local favorites in the Chicago blues scene. In 2015, the band recorded their second CD Winners Never Quit, featuring 10 original songs written and produced by Rogers. The band has traveled throughout the US and Canada to play several international music festivals including the Montreal International Jazz and Blues Festival. In June 2017, Rogers released his junior solo CD Blues Superman. In 2018, the Jamiah Rogers Band toured France as part of the New Generational Blues Tour. jamiahrogersblues.com
Jamiah Rogers “Something About You”
Ronnie Baker Brooks (5 p.m.)
Ronnie Baker Brooks, the son of Texas and Chicago blues legend Lonnie “Guitar Jr.” Brooks, has been climbing the blues world’s ladder all his life. He was born in Chicago, and started playing guitar at age six. At 19, he joined his father, who by then had influenced some of the top bluesman of history: Jimmy Reed, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Johnny Winter and Junior Wells. For 12 years the two would tour together, putting Ronnie out front with Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor. In 1998, when he was 32, his father told him to go solo.
Brooks already had a band by then, one he’d been touring on the side with since 1992. By 1998 he’d started a label; that year he made his first album, Golddigger. Take Me Witcha came three years later; his second album on Watchdog Records. Brooks broke out as his own champion on 2006’s The Torch. The Boston Herald called it “ferocious and unrelenting … the year’s best blues album.”
His newest album, Times Have Changed, brings a sound so big it could topple a Louisiana juke joint, carrying with it the weight of grown perspective and time spent perfecting old material. ronniebakerbrooks.com
Ronnie Baker Brooks “Born in Chicago”
Coco Montoya (7 p.m.)
Growing up in 1950s Santa Monica, California, Henry “Coco” Montoya listened to big band jazz, salsa, doo-wop and rock ‘n’ roll. He acquired a drum kit at age 11 and a guitar two years later. But guitar was secondary. Montoya turned his love of drumming into his profession while still in his teens and eventually became an in-demand drummer.
In 1969, Montoya saw Albert King perform at LA’s Shrine Auditorium and was transformed. Then, in the early 1970s, he saw Albert Collins and “his show just tore my head off.” Months later, Collins needed a drummer and he called Montoya. He remained in the band for five more years and began doubling on guitar.
As disco began to take over and gigs began to dry up, Montoya left Collins’ band, but the two remained close friends. One night in the early 1980s, Montoya was jamming in a Los Angeles bar when John Mayall walked in. Soon after, Mayall needed a guitarist for the newly reformed Bluesbreakers, and he called Montoya. Filling the shoes of previous Bluesbreaker guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor would not be easy, but for the next 10 years he toured the world and recorded with Mayall.
By the early 1990s, Montoya had his own band. His debut as a leader, 1995’s Gotta Mind To Travel became an instant fan favorite. In 1996, he was nominated for four Blues Music Awards and walked away with the award for Best New Blues Artist. In 2000, Montoya’s Alligator debut, Suspicion, became the best-selling album of his career. After two more successful Alligator releases—2002’s Can’t Look Back and 2007’s Dirty Deal, Montoya signed with Ruf Records. Back home on Alligator with his latest release, Hard Truth, Montoya has hit the road, playing his heart out night after night for fans hungry for the real thing. cocomontoyaband.com
Coco Montoya “Love Jail”
Robert Randolph and the Family Band (9 p.m.)
Many musicians claim that they “grew up in the church,” but for Robert Randolph that is literally the case. The renowned pedal steel guitarist, vocalist and songwriter led such a cloistered childhood and adolescence that he heard no secular music while growing up. If it wasn’t being played inside of the House of God Church in Orange, New Jersey—quite often by Robert and members of his own family, who upheld a long but little known gospel music tradition called sacred steel—Randolph simply didn’t know it existed.
Which makes it all the more remarkable that the leader of Robert Randolph and the Family Band—whose label debut for Sony Masterworks, Got Soul—is today an inspiration to the likes of Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Derek Trucks. It wasn’t until he was out of his teens that Randolph broke from the confines of his social and musical conditioning to discover rock, funk, soul, jazz and the jam band scene, forging his own sound by fusing elements of those genres.
“All music is related. Gospel is the same as blues,” he says. “The only thing that changes is in hardcore gospel people are singing about God and Jesus and in the blues people are singing about ‘my baby left me’ and whiskey.” By the early 2000s, Randolph had begun applying his dazzling steel guitar technique to secular music, and from that grew the Family Band. Their first album, 2002’s Live at the Wetlands, was followed by four studio albums and another live set.
The Family Band’s improvisational skills also quickly made them mega-popular among the jam-band crowd. Their upcoming album, Brightest Days, drops May 31. robertrandolph.net
Robert Randolph & the Family Band live at the Levitate Music Festival
Tickets are already on sale for the following concerts this summer at RiverEdge Park:
Kings of Chaos – Lou Gramm (original member of Foreigner), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Sebastian Bach (the original voice of Skid Row),
Warren DeMartini (Ratt), Gilby Clarke (former member of Guns N’ Roses), James LoMenzo (White Lion and Megadeth), Kenny Aronoff (John Fogerty, Chickenfoot and John Mellencamp)
Saturday, June 22
‘80s on the Fox – Eddie Money, Starship featuring Mickey Thomas,
Patty Smyth & Scandal and The Romantics
Saturday, June 29
Fourth of July Fireworks, Bruce in the USA and Aurora American Legion Band
Thursday, July 4
Dark Star Orchestra
Friday, July 5
The Royal Affair Tour – YES, Asia, John Lodge
and Carl Palmer, presented by Live Nation
Saturday, July 6
Downtown Alive! American English
Friday, July 12
Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Wheels of Soul tour
with special guests Blackberry Smoke and Shovels & Rope
Sunday, July 21
The Mavericks with special guest Los Lobos
Friday, July 26
The Comedy of Errors: Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks
Saturday, August 3
Downtown Alive! Hollywood Nights – A Bob Seger Experience
Friday, August 9
Saturday, August 10
Friday, August 16
Brandy, En Vogue and Arrested Development
Saturday, August 17
Get the Led Out: A Celebration of the “Mighty Zep”
Friday, August 23
Poi Dog Pondering
Saturday, August 24
About RiverEdge Park
RiverEdge Park is located right across the street from the Aurora Transportation Center. For drivers, paid parking is available in the Metra lot, with more public and private lots around the park and in downtown Aurora.
Concessions include a diverse menu and bar with domestic and craft beers, wine, sodas, bottled water and more. Outside food is also welcome. No alcohol or other outside beverages are allowed, with the exception of two sealed bottles of unflavored water per person. Read the full outside food policy at riveredgeaurora.com/visit.
Events at RiverEdge Park take place rain or shine, unless conditions endanger the safety of artists and the public. Concertgoers are advised to follow RiverEdge Park on Facebook and Twitter for all concert updates, or call the RiverEdge Park Weather Line, 630.723.2480, to check status if inclement weather is pending. Patrons can also text REPARK to 888777 for weather alert updates.
RiverEdge Park debuted in 2013, and was renamed Thomas J. Weisner RiverEdge Park in 2016 in honor of late Aurora Mayor Thomas J. Weisner. It is a beautiful outdoor summer concert venue with a capacity of up to 6,000 boasting state-of-the-art acoustics and lighting, a warm community feel and gorgeous views on the banks of the Fox River. The park is anchored by the contemporary John C. Dunham performance pavilion.
RiverEdge Park is managed and programmed by the Aurora Civic Center Authority (ACCA), which also oversees operations for Aurora’s historic Paramount Theatre, the Copley Theatre and the Paramount School of the Arts, which opened June 1, 2019 in the new John C. Dunham Aurora Arts Center.
The RiverEdge Park 2019 Season is sponsored by Dunham Fund, Superior Beverage and City of Aurora. Park sponsor is Hollywood Casino Aurora. For tickets and information, visit RiverEdgeAurora.com or call 630.896.6666.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.
Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America.
Hanania's columns are archived on his personal website at RayHanania.com. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.
Hanania is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group which provides communications services to governments and private businesses, and hosts writing training workshops, and publishes books.