Toronzo Cannon, Billy Branch perform as part of livestream Blues on the Fox
The annual Blues on the Fox festival goes virtual this weekend.
Because festivals are not allowed under the current phase of the Restore Illinois plan, Blues on the Fox organizers have opted to livestream performances from The Venue in Aurora this Friday and Saturday.
Both livestreams can be accessed via the Facebook page (facebook.com/TheVenueAurora) for The Venue, a 200-seat music room that opened last year.
Alligator Recording artist Toronzo Cannon entertains at 7 p.m. Friday, June 19, Three-time Grammy nominee Billy Branch performs with the Sons of the Blues Saturday, June 20, at 8 p.m.
Both are Blues on the Fox veterans.
"It was a challenge the first few weeks to determine this was the route to go," said Fox Valley Music Foundation President Dave Glynn, "but people are going through withdrawal with the cancellation of Chicago's blues fest and many others. This will be the first livestreamed major blues festival in Illinois this year."
A documentary about Blues on the Fox will precede each performance. The documentary was created by Glynn in conjunction with the Paramount Arts Centre. It includes several clips from past festivals and will be shown in two parts.
Part one on Friday examines the history of the blues in Aurora, dating back to the late 1930s when Sonny Boy Williamson and Big Joe Williams recorded hit songs in the Sky Club of the Leland Hotel.
Part two on Saturday details the evolution of Blues on the Fox from its 1997 origin as a street festival along Galena Boulevard to its eventual move to Aurora's RiverEdge Park.
This weekend's livestream performances are free, but donations are encouraged. The large majority of donations will go directly to the performers themselves. A portion will go to the Fox Valley Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization comprised of music lovers, music educators and arts enthusiasts dedicated to preserving, protecting and presenting the music of the Fox Valley.
"I think everyone will enjoy the documentary, but the main thing is people are going to see two incredible blues performers," Glynn said. "Billy and Toronzo are both big Chicago blues guys. And I think people will be very happy with the audio."
Friday will not be the first livestream The Venue has attempted. The club has been livestreaming Monday night shows since mid-April, featuring artists such as Noah Gabriel, Scott Tipping, Dave Ramont and Dave Nelson.
Last Saturday night, The Venue livestreamed a performance by John Primer and the Real Deal Blues Band. Glynn served as emcee while production manager Sarah Garcia supervised the webcast with a four-person crew that included cameramen and a sound engineer. No audience was present.
"It was a little weird, but it was great to hear the blues again," Glynn said. "The nice thing is that everyone can comment during the livestream."