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 was mutual.

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.

Crossroads 2010
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