My dad has always loved rock and roll. I can remember many a night (or Sunday morning for that matter) where an impromptu dance party would start up in our kitchen sparked by music of The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Santana, or any other rock and roll artist of the 70’s vintage. A few years ago we came across an awesome performance aired on Iowa Public Television featuring Clapton, Santana, John Mayer, Robert Randolph, and many others – Crossroads Guitar Festival. It was essentially an hour-long jam session which, of course, Dad loved. My sister purchased the DVD of that performance from Crossroads for Dad and it wasn’t long until we could hear it blasting up from the basement whenever he was down there.
Crossroads, we found out, is a day-long guitar festival put on by Eric Clapton every three years to benefit Crossroads Centre in Antigua (founded by Clapton). For 10 hours some of the greatest known (and some unknown) names in blues and rock n’ roll play their hits and jam together on stage.
This past summer, the Crossroads Festival was at Toyota Park in Chicago. The lineup looked good: Sheryl Crow, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, The Allman Brothers, BB King, ZZ Top, John Mayer and of course Eric Clapton. For our summer adventure Dad decided to take the whole family and go. It was amazing.
It was a particularly hot and muggy Chicago day in late June and the sun was beating down over the stadium. I think my t-shirt was completely saturated by mid-afternoon despite the fact that we were partially shaded. The heat was hardly noticeable though once the music started. I’m a strong believer in the power of music and the festival only reinforced my belief. I grew up listening to Clapton so I knew his music, but there were plenty of performers I was not familiar with. Despite this, for 10 whole hours we (my entire family, spanning ages 56 to 19) were rocking out and having the time of our lives while listening to the same music. Dad had the air guitar out while mom played the air keyboard and we all had our toes a tappin’.
ZZ Top was one of my favorite acts of the day. “La Grange” is a song that can always get me rarin’ to go. They came onstage following a more mellow acoustic act in the middle of the afternoon and turned things up a notch. They were wearing matching leather jackets embroidered with roses and used mics made out of exhaust pipes from semis. These old dudes with matching long grey beards and leather outfits growled into their mics, shredded it on their guitars, and grape-vined in unison across the stage. Bad-ass. My absolute favorite part of the event however, was at the end of the 10 hour day (which, truth be told was more like 11 and a half), when all the performers from the entire day came out on stage for a 10 minute rendition of “Sweet Home Chicago.” It was so cool to see such a large group of talented musicians all play together. It was a wonderful moment, a wonderful day, and a wonderful memory that my family and I will share for the rest of our lives.