Elizabeth Weinberg
Elizabeth Weinberg Credit: Dr. Dog

The fledgling Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival returns to the Congress Theater for its second year this Saturday from 11 AM till midnight. Between them the 26 bands on the bill—rounded out by the two winners of the Last Banjo Standing contest, Sexfist and the Great Divide—play not only bluegrass and blues but also alt-country, Americana, rock, and more. The lineup consists primarily of local acts, among them the Giving Tree Band, Van Ghost, Majors Junction, Tangleweed, and Eddy “the Chief” Clearwater, but toward the end of the day there are a handful of out-of-town headliners, including Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Dr. Dog, and the Emmitt-Nershi Band. Additional attractions include more than 50 vendor booths, among them many from artists and craftspeople, as well as film screenings and onstage improv performances from Second City members. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own musical instruments to participate in the open jam sessions and picking circles that will come together throughout the day. It’s also a good idea to bring a camping chair. Tickets are $35, and children under 12 are free; VIP passes cost $50 and include access to a balcony with separate bathrooms and bars and “a guaranteed seat away from the sweaty crowd and long lines.” A portion of the festival’s proceeds will benefit the Saving Tiny Hearts Society (which supports research into congenital heart defects) and Prevent Child Abuse America.