On a summer night in mid June with temperatures in the upper 70’s the weather set the mood for the perfect evening. Ravinia, a venue just outside of Chicago in the upscale Illinois suburb of Highland Park, hosted a diverse crowd ranging from young to old. Who had all gathered in for the performances of JJ Grey and Mofro and the legendary Buddy Guy. Doors opened at 5:00 pm and the lawn quickly began to fill as people picnicked and caught up with old friends and family. Ravinia has an open policy toward coolers, tables, chairs, candles anything that would enhance ones picnicking experience. Before the performances laughter and voices filled the air. At 6:00 pm the Ravinia Jazz Mentors and their students, high school Scholars, preformed in the Martin Theater and was played over the loud speakers throughout the lawn. Their jazz performance put everyone in the audience in the mood to hear the amazing sounds of Buddy Guy and JJ Grey and Mofro as the sun set behind the trees and candles began to start flickering with the fireflies across the lawn.
JJ Grey and Mofro is a blues and funk southern rock band from Florida. JJ Grey was on vocals, guitar, and harmonica while the 6 other band members Daryl Hance on guitar, Art Edmaiston on the saxophone, Dennis Marion played trumpet, Andrew Trube on bass, Anthony Farrell organ and piano, Anthony Cole on the drums, and Ted on guitar who sometimes joins the band in performances, delivered an electrifying fifty minute set. It was visible to the audience how the music seemed to pour out of every inch of the band’s soul. JJ Grey’s powerful vocals increased the crowd’s energy with every song. They played some fan favorites; Higher you Climb, Lochloosa, Orange Blossoms, and On Fire, while also giving fans a taste of the future with The Sweetest Thing; a song from their upcoming album, Georgia Warhorse. Hearing this band live is amazing and something every fan should experience. It raises one’s body temperature and makes your body move to the array of musical styles being conveyed. The performance was unbelievable; however JJ Grey barely gave the crowd enough time to applaud before fleeing the stage. The show seemed to be over before it got started, but nothing can last forever especially with the legendary Buddy Guy performance in its wake.
As the sky got darker, the aura of the stage and pavilion from the lawn was getting brighter. A passerby was overheard stating, “You could not get a more perfect evening.” Everyone was on the edge of their seats because this was the moment they all came here for…Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy. With crowd cheering, Buddy walks onto the stage with a huge grin across his face, happily welcomed back to Ravinia for his ninth appearance at the park. “I don’t know if you know this,” he says, “but I love this place!” If there’s anything Buddy Guy is memorable for it’s his high spirited audience interaction. He incorporates a lot of call and response, beats that inspire clapping, and especially story-telling. He was accompanied by Ric Hall on guitar, Marty Sammon on keyboards, Orlando Wright on bass and Tim Austin on drums. Each song had its own energy, from loud and wild to slow and soulful, keeping whistles coming from audience members. Early on he states, “I’m going to play something so funky you can smell it,” followed by a fan favorite, Hoochie Coochie Man. When he brought it up, you know it was always going to come back down at which point he would take a minute to tell a story while the beat kept on in the background. At one point he was whispering into the mic while hardly plucking his guitar. His huge smiles and jolly personality as he shuffled across the stage kept the energy alive all night as friends and family sat side by side sharing a drink and good times in the warm summer night, eventually strolling out of Ravinia inspired and relaxed as they ventured home into the starry night.