One of my very favorite annual events in Portland starts on Friday afternoon. The four-day Waterfront Blues Festival is that for many reasons. It's not just the music, but the quintessentially Portland vibe (even when packed the crowd is pretty easy-going), the fact that it's the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Oregon Food Bank, it's inexpensive (full days of high quality music for $10 and a few cans of food), has an amazing setting on the river downtown, the social interaction (seeing and hanging with friends from around town and out of town), etc, etc.
I could go on and on about performers, etc ... but I'll give you some of the best resources for your exploration and make a few recommendations.
Of course, there's the main festival site. Lots of info on artists, schedules, and activities.
Oregon Music News is doing a great job of previewing the festival and will be reporting from the site all weekend (find them at the Delta Music Experience pavilion by the Oregonian Stage - the one north of the Hawthorne Bridge). They have descriptions of every artist and previews of some of the headliners and more obscure, but outstanding performers.
The Oregonian and OregonLive have a series of articles posted about the festival including this handy guide that was published in last Friday's A&E .... invaluable for tracking who's where. Check out their Blues Festival radio to hear an assortment of this year's performers and this story and interview with festival talent coordinator Peter Dammann.
My thoughts ....
So much talent coming .... and with four stages (sometimes with three going at once), there are plenty of choices to make as to what to hear. Plus, there's the DME river cruises which are a ton of fun and post-festival jams each night at the Marriott, just across the street.
Personally, my favorite stages are the Oregonian and Workshop stages. At the former you'll find a dance floor, benches, Zydeco (virtually all day on Saturday) and Swing music, and lots of the best local acts ... plus good food, the wine bar, and shorter beer lines. At the latter you can get up close and personal with performers and presentations that are often intimate sets and/or fascinating looks into the history and techniques of making music. There's a give and take between performers and artists you won't get anywhere else.
If you have the energy for a late night, you should definitely try to take in one of the jams at the Marriott or head over to the Hotel 50 for jams led by a host of great local talent. If you skip the jams, there's also some great festival-related music at Duff's on Friday (Lloyd Jones) and Saturday (Sultans of Slide) and Jimmy Mak's on Saturday. Joints will be jumpin'.
And, of course, don't forget the big fireworks display on the 4th.
So here's my picks for acts you might want to catch ... check the schedules for times and stages (some of these will present conflicts - so try to catch a little of each):
Moreland and Arbuckle
Colin Lake & Chance Hayden
Cedric Burnside & Lightnin' Malcolm (also Saturday)
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue (don't miss!)
Too Loose Cajun Band, with Reggie Houston, Steve Kerin & Portland All Stars (local faves of mine)
The I-5 Nine: Healy, Miller, Bott, Pain...et al
Corey Ledet & his Zydeco Band (heck, catch any of the Zydeco all day at the Oregonian Stage!)
Northwest Women in Blues, w/ special guests Tahoe Jackson and Nicole Fournier
Super Chikan & the Fighting Cocks
Journey to Memphis Finals (from noon until 4pm at the Oregonian Stage)
Billy D and the Hoodoos
Linda Hornbuckle & Janice Scroggins Old Time Gospel Hour, w/ special guest Lucky Peterson
Mingo Fishtrap (one of my favorite bands out of Austin, TX)
Curtis Salgado (featuring Lloyd Jones)
North Mississippi by Northwest: McMurrian, Lemhouse, Shoemaker & Bott
Chris Thomas King
Little Feat (with the Mingo Fistrap horns!)
Reggie Houston's Crescent City Connection
GALACTIC with Cyril Neville and Corey Henry (from Rebirth) (what a great closer for this year!)
I'm planning to be there all four days - spending some of it at the DME Pavilion at the Gulfsongs Oregon table where we'll be telling folks about our July - Sept fundraising concerts for folks on the Gulf Coast. Stop by and say hi .... or just find me wandering the festival with sunglasses and a smile.