Summer in Portland is definitely here when the the stages and tents rise in the bowl on the waterfront and for four days the sound of blues, soul, swing and zydeco wafts over the river. Yes, festivals don't get much better than this - great music, mellow crowd and all for an outstanding cause - gathering food and money for the Oregon Food Bank.
So what does 10 bucks and a couple cans of food get you each day at the Waterfront Blues Festival? To start with, a variety of musical styles and performers - from national headliners to our stellar locals.
Besides a hat, sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, pacing your alcohol intake, and maybe bringing a low chair you can occasionally plop down in, here's my thoughts . . .
Thursday . . . definitely check out Austin's Carolyn Wonderland on the Credit Union stage at 6 pm. Word is she just tears it up. Flip a coin or go back and forth under the Hawthorne Bridge to catch sets by Joe Bonamassa (CU stage) and Trombone Shorty (A&E stage) at 8 pm. And the Miller Stage hosts a series of acts that focus on a tribute to Memphis Soul that culminates with Issac Hayes.
Friday . . . the A&E stage hosts the Journey to Memphis Finals all afternoon - check out the bands vying for a spot in this national blues artist competition. The stage will then host the annual harmonica blow off for all you harp heads. Definitely try to check out the guitar trio of Andrew 'Jr. Boy' Jones, Phillip Walker and Sherman Robertson doing a tribute to Freddie King on the Miller Stage at 3:45. Robertston was a highlight of the festival 3 years ago and this should be hot. The trio will also do a Gulf Coast guitar set on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday . . . as usual, Saturday brings Zydeco music and dancing all day at the A&E stage. The party starts at noon and doesn't stop until 11 pm. Rosie Ledet, Dikki Du, Cedyrl Ballou, and Chris Ardoin lay down some rockin' accordion and washboard all day. A little bit of bayou on the Willamette. Over at the CU and Miller Stages, check out the very solid evening of Eric Lindell, Duffy Bishop, Paul Thorn and Charlie Musselwhite.
Sunday . . . what might be the strongest single day's lineup brings the 2008 festival to a close with Ruthie Foster (don't miss her!), James Hunter, Arthur Adams, Phoebe Snow, and Curtis Salgado. The A&E stage will focus on Delta Roots music thought the afternoon and swing in the evening.
And always check out the Workshop Stage - this small shady little oasis hosts some wonderfully informal and intimate performances and demonstrations of music technique and styles. From boogie-woogie piano basics with David Vest, to blues and ragtime guitar styles with Mary Flower, to exploring the music of Louisiana with Steve Kerin . . . to my friend, Jay Curlee's presentation about making a music documentary about Delbert McClinton (more on this in a separate post) . . . these are great opportunities to listen, enjoy and maybe even learn a little.
The festival is also a great opportunity to check out some of our fine local acts that you might not have gotten around to seeing in a club (which might encourage you to do so in the future) - folks like Fiona Boyes, Joe McMurrian, Reggie Houston, Hillstomp, Mary Flower, The Insomniacs, Lauren Sheehan, Terry Robb, The Strange Tones, Lloyd Jones, DK Stewart, and many others are featured throughout the festival. Check 'em out and support our local scene!
There's also the river cruises - some are already sold out - that are great parties and chances to get very up close with the music. And there's after-hours shows at the Marriott Hotel (Mt Hood Room) and at the University Place Hotel in Rafati's Encore310 (310 SW Lincoln).
Finally, one of the major reasons this is such a great event is that it really is a community event that raises money and food for the Oregon Food Bank. OFB provides an essential service to those in need in this state and right now, due to the economy and rising fuel and food prices, they are in BIG need of strong community support. What they need most (besides $$$) is listed here. Note the list doesn't include that unopened box of candy that's been in your cupboard since last Christmas.
The best I can say is head down, grab a schedule and float between stages . . . . there will always be something tasty on which to feast your ears. And when you get a chance, thank the sponsors, organizers and dedicated crew that put this together every year - it wouldn't happen without them (or you, come to think of it - so thanks in advance for going!).
Maybe see ya there!