The Windy City Blows Over Mesa

Jeff Fairchild and Ken Levine believe in uniting people with fedoras, Wayfarer sunglasses, black suits and the blues.

The two lead the Blues Brothers tribute act, Fairchild Blues Tribute. They will perform at the Chicago Fest West VIP Party at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 22 at Modern Moments in Gilbert. Hosted by College Bound AZ, the event showcases the “aura of Chicago through music.”

“There’s going to be a lot of fun and audience participation,” Fairchild says. “There will be dancing, if there is room to dance.”

Guests can meet White Sox legend Bill Melton; bid on a signed Jim McMahon jersey at auction; take a selfie at the Harry Caray wall; and dance to Bluesman Mike and the Blues Review Band, followed by Fairchild Blues Tribute. Portillo’s and Lou Malnati’s Pizza will provide dinner and drinks.

All proceeds benefit College Bound AZ, the college program that turns dreams into degrees.

The VIP party leads into Chicago Fest West on April 30 at Riverview Park in Mesa. The Chicago-themed outdoor festival includes tribute bands Surrender: The Cheap Trick Experience; Chicago Uncorked, a dance cover band; and the Bluesman Mike and the Blues Review.

Riverview Park is filled with tents and food trucks; arts and crafts kiosks; sellers; sports memorabilia; neighborhood pavilions with Chicago-style ethnic dishes; art exhibitions for young people; chalk artists; a Chicago graffiti artist and a vintage car show. Shop festival-specific Michigan Avenue for leather goods, jewelry and artwork.

This is the second year Chicago Fest West has been presented by College Bound, a local nonprofit that helps “underserved youth realize their dreams of a better future through a college education,” said Elizabeth. Paulus, executive director of College Bound AZ.

Chicago Fest West is one day, but Paulus and College Bound AZ plan to turn it into an annual weekend event.

“It’s bigger and better this year,” says Paulus.

“We have different bands – a bit of blues, we have Surrender: The Cheap Trick Experience. We had a lot of interest in dance last year. So we have Uncorked, and we have JNX, a young emerging band. What’s interesting is that the bassist’s sister is an alumnus of our program and she’s a sophomore at Harvard.

College Bound shares the journey to college with underrepresented aspiring students through mentorship, guidance, and supportive resources for their advancement to a brighter future through education.

“I know education is transformative, and our program serves as a bridge to a brighter future through higher education,” says Paulus.

“I feel a deep connection with every student I come into contact with, as each represents our past, our present and our future. Every generation is looking for the same thing: opportunity.

“I’ve seen what the lack of college guidance has done to the most well-meaning student. The opportunity is lost. First-generation students and all those who are underrepresented in college need our most great support for equal access to opportunity and success.

College Bound AZ provides laptops to students so they are used to working online.

‘A very long time ago’

Fairchild Blues Tribute formed in 1997 – “a long, long time ago”, according to Fairchild. This was right after Fairchild’s brother was told he looked like Garth Brooks.

“He was walking around the mall and this lady said, ‘You look like Garth Brooks. Do you sing?’ He said he was a singer and she asked him to go to Vegas and audition for Legends in Concert.

“In 1997, I was singing six nights a week at a nightclub. I went out to see my brother play and I thought, ‘Who could I be?’ I remember my dad said I reminded him of a little Dan Aykroyd. We auditioned for Legends in Concert.

Since then, the group has performed all over the world with its brass section, backing vocals and black suits.

“We’re very interactive with the crowd and very spontaneous in terms of relating to the crowd and the things they say and do,” says Levine, a Phoenix resident who also has a swing band, Ken Levine & Jump Jive & Wail.

“We’re just having a good time. We bring out the fun in people.

They say the Fairchild Blues Tribute works because they have such great chemistry.

“I’ve been playing with Jeff for about 17 years,” says Fairchild, who lives in Las Vegas. “We like to play together. We have very good chemistry. You never know what will happen. It’s so funny. We have these spontaneous comedic outbursts. Sometimes Jeff says something and it’s just a good time.

Levine adds, “Even though people have never heard of the Blues Brothers, they’re still having a great time. They are having fun and having a good time. The quirky guys are entertaining and funny and so are we.

Chicago Fest West VIP Party

WHEN: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 22

OR: Modern Moments, 3335 E. Baseline Road, Gilbert

COST: $100

INFORMATION: 602-550-3161,

West Chicago Festival

WHEN: 1:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday April 30

OR: Riverview Park, 2100 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Mesa

COST: Tickets start at $22



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