Top: Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck. Bottom: Derek Trucks, Ronnie Wood, John Mayer
“I don’t know how you feel, but I feel like I’m in heaven.”
That’s not a quote from any of the 30,000+ people enduring
sweltering heat for the June 26 Crossroads Guitar Festival
in Chicago. That’s blues legend Buddy Guy in the midst of a
lively set with Jonny Lang and surprise guest Ron Wood.
Judging by the ensuing uproar from the crowd, the feeling
But Guy’s take on the situation wasn’t just talk. When he,
Wood, and Lang wrapped up their set—which included an
instrumental cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You”—they
took their bows and walked offstage laughing and with
their arms around each other. Between the crowd and performers,
you couldn’t tell who was having more fun.
And that’s just one of the many snapshots that prove Eric
Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival is an extraordinary event.
The word “crossroads” can have many meanings—from
simple and straightforward to metaphorical—depending on
context. When American blues lore and a gathering of the
genre’s living masters are part of the narrative, it gets pretty
compelling. Add in the fact that the rendezvous of greats
was organized to raise money for the Crossroads Centre—a
rehab facility Eric Clapton started on the island of Antigua to
help people at perhaps the most pivotal crossroads of their
lives—and it just takes the whole experience up a notch.
Left: Fingerstylist Stefan Grossman (right) shows
Eric Clapton his 1920 Grand Concert Stella acoustic in the
air-conditioned Fender Artists Tent backstage. Photo by Jo Ayres Right: Derek Trucks with his Maestro-equipped SG and Warren Haynes
with his trusty Les Paul.
Held at Toyota Park in the Chicago suburbs on one of the
hottest weekends of the summer, this year’s Crossroads
festival—the third one since the benefit got off the ground
in 2004—brought together 25 guitarists for one of the largest
and most exciting live guitar extravaganzas around.
Crack-up comedian Bill Murray reprised his role as host this
year, and in addition to Guy, Wood, and Lang, Crossroads
featured repeat performances by Jeff Beck, B.B. King, John
Mayer, Vince Gill, Robert Cray, Warren Haynes, Robert
Randolph, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, James Burton,
Steve Winwood, Doyle Bramhall II, Sheryl Crow, Sonny
Landreth, Albert Lee, Los Lobos’ César Rosas and David
Hidalgo, ZZ Top, Hubert Sumlin, Johnny Winter, Jimmie
Vaughan, and of course Mr. Clapton himself. Other performers
included Bert Jansch, Earl Klugh, Gary Clark Jr., Keb’
Mo’, Joe Bonamassa, Stefan Grossman, and Citizen Cope.
Throughout the 12-hour show full of blistering blues, the
sold-out crowd was treated to set after set of energetic,
generation-spanning collaborations. Over the next 11
pages, we take you to Toyota Park with photos and a
detailed timeline of performers and songs, and go backstage
with some of the show’s performers and techs to
show you what it’s like behind the scenes.
• Backstage accounts from the Crossroads artists
• Play Crossroads winner Ryan McGarvey
• How the stage was put together
• 13 performance and gear shots
• Timeline of events