It may be cold and snowy outside, but things will be sizzling at The 14th annual Chicago International Salsa Congress - 4 groovy nights and 3 jam-packed days of outstanding Latin culture, music and dance. The event begins today and runs the entire weekend at the Westin O'Hare (6100 N. River Rd.) in Rosemont, IL.

Attendees will experience a dizzying array of performances by the world's best Latin dancers who perform and instruct at the CISC, grooving live Latin bands, and social dancing until 4 a.m. Each day, all day a Latin musical culture is celebrated and shared via a variety of workshops (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.), dance showcases (4 p.m. and 8 p.m.) , with concerts at 10 p.m. nightly.

There is even an official CISC Marketplace where vendors will have a treasure trove of dance and workout apparel, dance shoes, instruction and music videos, CDs, DVDs, jewelry, accessories, health care and beauty products and so much more.

Tonigh's concert features Edwin Sanchez & Friends performing  A Latin Music Salute to the Genius of Ray Barretto, Non-stop Afro-Cuban rhythms direct from Colombia and performed by Diego Gale and Grupo Gale will be Friday's fare. Valentine couples on Saturday will be treated to the rich salsa vocals of the Dominican Republicâ's Raulin Rosendo and Puerto Rico's Ray De La Paz!

Closing out the weekend on Sunday will be Grammy award-winning Larry Harlow & The Latin Legends Band celebrating the 50th anniversary of their Grammy win and featuring most of the band's original Fania musicians.

The mission of The Chicago International Salsa Congress is to unite cultures and generations, while showcasing and keeping alive the history of Latin and Afro-Caribbean music and dance. Tickets and more: ChicagoSalsaCongress.com


• Brothers and Wine is the name of the new band assembled by longtime region drummer Billy Mayer (ex-Alison's Mailbox) and his vocalist cousin Tommy Mayer (ex-Soul Pride and Rusta Lillypad), with rhythm guitarist Scott Barreiro, lead guitarist Mick Zajac, and Aaron Bishop on bass. "I would say (our sound) is distorted blues with heavy hitting drums," summed up Billy Mayer.

• Tickets went on sale this week for the Humane Society of Northwest Indiana's annual music fundraiser, PET ROCK 2015, presented at County Line Orchard on March 28. The event features The Bluz Brothers: Chicago's Premier Tribute to Jake & Elwood, with performances by Laurie Blazzing of Joplin: The Janis Joplin Show,€The Acoustic Crawpuppies and Tomfoolery Fun Club comedians Rudy Ruiz and Marci Deloney.

The auction portion of the event features signed guitars from the bands STYX and Foreigner, plus items signed and sent by Ted Nugent, Triumph, Cheap Trick, Foghat, Bad Company, Paul Rodgers, Charlie Daniels and many others. Tickets and info at: facebook.com/HumaneSocietyofNWIN.

• Those who love the high energy and catchy dance melodies of today's pop music but are weary of lyrics about rump shaking and twerking, may find relief in the music made by one of Northwest Indiana's own. Lexi Elisha is as pretty and perky as any of the pop tarts on today's dance charts, only she delivers lyrics inspired by her church roots and faith in God.

Parents looking for a positive role model for their teens and tweens would be well advised to check out this gifted and homegrown young talent. Find Lexi's music and links to her many YouTube music videos at: facebook.com/lexielishamusic.

• National country/blues artist Anne McCue guests live on the Midwest BEAT with Tom Lounges  program Feb. 17, followed by singer/songwriter James McMurtry on Feb. 24.

Looking ahead: British Invasion music icon Peter Asher (of Peter & Gordon) and former Moody Blues/Wings guitarist Denny Laine reflect on the British Invasion when they guest March 3 on the program. Then Mike Levine of Canadian hard rock trio Triumph guests on March 10, followed by Michael Rutherford of Mike & The Mechanics and Genesis on March 17. All shows air at 6 p.m.. Lakeshore Public Radio may be streamed live in real time online at: lakeshorepublicmedia.org.

Email Tom Lounges at: beatboss@aol.com

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Entertainment Editor/Features Reporter

Eloise is A&E Editor and a food, entertainment and features writer for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.