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Chris Canas plays during the Chicago Blues Tour on Saturday.

News flash: You don't have to wait for the Chicago Blues Festival to enjoy three straight days of blues-related fun. Chicago Blues Weekend is now upon us, and while it may cost a lot more than the annual free event in Grant Park, it's still worth a gander. Here's the schedule for the next few days:

Friday: Chicago Blues Express. You'll visit three South Side clubs (Lee's Unleaded Blues, For the Good Times Lounge, Taste Entertainment Center) during this five-hour tour. A $75 ticket price includes two drinks and a download card for Chainsaw DuPont's "The Real Guitar Hero," plus shuttle transportation from Lizzie McNeill's (400 N. McClurg).

Saturday: Chicago Blues Tour. The 20th annual event includes 10 clubs and 11 performers, including Michael Coleman, Super Percy and Chainsaw DuPont, all for just $45. Lizzie McNeill's is the hub, with buses departing every 10-20 minutes from 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Sunday: Maxwell Market Shuttle Tour and Blues Jam. Take a shuttle down to the famed Maxwell Street District and enjoy a 50-minute historical walking tour, shopping at the Market, a live blues jam and more during this $10 event. Downtown pickups are at Lizzie McNeill's and the Jazz Record Mart (27 E. Illinois), with departures at 9:30, 10:15 and 11 a.m.

3 Things To Do Today

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A Hip-Hop Aesop: Jazzed, Bopped and Beat-Boxed
10 a.m. and noon at eta Creative Arts Foundation; $5-$6
Turn off the Lil' Wayne and turn to this new spin on ten classic Aesop fables, which offers morality plays with a hip-hop beat. Fables include "The Boy Who Cried Wolf", "The Tortoise and The Hare", "The Bee and Jupiter" and many more. Recommended for grades K-8.

Jakob Dylan and Three Legs
7:30 p.m. at Park West; $25
We'd hesitate to recommend going to see the former Wallflowers' frontman (and Bob Dylan's son), if not for two reasons: his backup singers, Neko Case and Kelly Hogan. These semi-local alt-country luminaries add some major cred to the proceedings. Don't expect to hear "One Headlight," but do expect lots of cuts from Dylan's new album, appropriately titled "Women and Country."

Rock 'n' Bowl Comedy Showl
9:30 p.m. at Diversey River Bowl; $5
Bowl a few frames and enjoy sets from local comedians Irving Typs, Jeff Hansen and Marty DeRosa at this Logan Square alley. Dave Odd hosts, and 25-cent wings and $2 bottles of PBR are available to make the laughs come a little easier.


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Winter Block Party for Chicago's Hip-Hop Arts
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater; free during the day, $10-$15 evening
This second-annual event features a free daytime session with visual art and graffiti from emerging local artists, a B-Boy/B-Girl breakdancing battle, an open-mic showcase, DJs and a lot more. In the evening, check out "The New Style: Hip-Hop Aesthetics Across Genres," an exhibition of "style, mash-ups, collage, and conversation" hosted by Kevin Coval and featuring Waka (of the Brickheadz crew), WBEZ South Side Bureau reporter Natalie Moore, South Side Community Arts Center executive director/curator Faheem Majeedis and others.

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We have to give you credit, CTA. After all the ways you’ve screwed us over in 2009 (full buses passing us by, trains running express when we least expect it, the persistent odor of bodily fluids), you think you can make us forget all of it by offering penny rides on New Year’s Eve. And you know what? It just might work. Because instead of writing up a list of grievances, we’ve been busy brainstorming how to spend those cents between 8 p.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday. Here’s what we’ve come up with (not including all the New Year’s Eve events on the slate):

  • Hop on the Red Line and spend some time at the Jackson stop, where you’ll surely find a music performance in progress, whether it’s classical violin or jazz on electric guitar. Increase your enjoyment by stopping by Ceres Café for a drink with the traders first.
  • Take a ride over to the Chicago Blue Line stop to view the new installation from local artist Peter N. Gray. While you’re there, head above ground for a cocktail at the Matchbox and maybe a heart attack (the Three Little Piggies Sandwich) at the nearby Silver Palm.
  • Plan a Pink Line journey to 18th St, where the decorated station will have you in awe. Not only that, but perennial favorite Nuevo Leon is just a short walk away (and if you’re taking a ride on the tail end of the deal, Panaderia Nuevo Leon opens at 5:30 a.m.)
  • Pre-party with the Wildcat faithful at Tommy Nevin’s Pub in Evanston, off the Purple Line’s Dempster stop – the diehards have plenty to prepare for, as Northwestern plays its biggest football game in several years on New Year’s Day, against Auburn in the Outback Bowl at 11 a.m. (if you can’t bear to leave the city, try Lion Head Pub – by the Fullerton stop – or the brand-new Purple Haze, steps away from Belmont).
  • Ride the Brown Line out to Francisco, just so you can confirm it exists (seriously, it’s gotta be the least referenced stop on the North Side). The welcoming Montrose Saloon is a short jaunt south.
  • Go for a late, late dinner (or an early breakfast) at the 24-hour Huck Finn Donuts near the Pulaski stop on the Orange Line. We recommend the Donut Delight (topped with whipped cream and ice cream).
  • Brave the cold and take a walk to Promontory Point, near the Garfield Green Line stop in Hyde Park. It’s the perfect place to toast to 2010 (with non-alcoholic beverages, of course).


Got better ideas for how to take advantage of cheap public transit on New Year’s Eve? Let everyone know in the comments. And remember to check out Centerstage’s Virtual L to find the best spots near train stops year-round.

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