Ah ... July 4th ... sunshine, blue sky, and Portland gets the blues. Every year the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival is the biggest fundraiser for the Oregon Food Bank and a ton of fun in Waterfront Park. And because the 4th has fallen midweek, this year's festival is five days long .... So what have I spotted this year that you should try not to miss?
If you like to catch the fireworks today and can hang with being in the crowd all day, there's some local stalwarts that are featured, with a couple of solid blues veterans and new national acts sprinkled in ... so if you arrive early, catch the four bands in the Journey to Memphis finals that kick things off at noon at the Oregonian Front Porch Stage. One of my fave acts, Tony Furtado, hits the north stage at 2:15, followed by the "second line" parade led by the Mysti Krewe of Nimbus and a host of brass and percussion players (this is gonna be fun!) and then the all-star tribute to the late Etta James. The festival is giving a few locals the chance to put together "big" bands - today it's Kevin Selfe and Ellen Whyte with expanded lineups. If harmonica blowing is your thing, there's plenty today ... catch the great Charlie Musselwhite at 4:45 ... and then Bill Rhoades' Harmonica Blow-off on the Front Porch (from 6:15 until 10 pm) ... The evening finishes before the fireworks with Curtis Salgado.
BTW, both the Oregonian and Oregon Music News have a ton of fine articles about the festival and acts that are playing that you should check out.
As I look through the next four days, the acts that stand out for me are:
On Thursday, it's New Orleans' Stooges Brass Band, the Jesse Lege/Joel Savoy Cajun Jam (at the same time as the Stooges ... hmmm... choices), Reggie Houston's Crescent City Connection, Booker T, and Toots & the Maytals.
Friday, it's the Otis Taylor Band (Taylor is doing four sets in various settings through the weekend - catch this guy, he's a unique player and personality), the Mannish Boys, Pimps of Joytime, and the start of great lineup of Cajun and Zydeco music at the Front Porch Stage ... Corey Ledet, the Too Loose Cajun Band, Cedrric Watson & Bijou Creole ... and lots more to come on Saturday.
Saturday, it's Louisiana music fans and dancers' heaven with a full day of Zydeco Swamp Rock at the Front Porch - always one of the most fun places to be at the festival. The Otis Taylor Banjo Project with the outstanding New Orleans banjo player, Don Vappie, and Portland's Tony Furdado, perform on the north stage at 2:15 - and, yes, you'll love the banjo after hearing these three play together .... Lloyd Jones is another local great augmenting his sound with a bigger band - catch the fun at 4:30 on the north stage, followed by vocalist Betty LaVette on the south stage ... And later, New Orleans' Galactic will tear it up on the south stage to finish the day.
On Sunday, if you still didn't get enough Zydeco, you can kick the day off at 12:45 with Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie, one of the best Zydeco acts in the world ... or check out some Jersey Soul with Kenny Lavitz and Judy Tint. Either way, a great start to the final day of the festival. Sunday wouldn't be complete without Linda Hornbuckle's Old Time Gospel Show at 3. I'd also recommend checking out Roy Rogers & the Delta Rhythm Kings, James Hunter, and an evening of swing and dance at the Front Porch that begins at 4:15 with Devin Phillips.
There's also some killer all-star after-hours shows at the Marriott every night except Sunday, afternoon and evening blues cruises on the river, and just a general good vibe all through the festival. Wander about, check out the food and vendors, buy some music at the Music Millennium booth, festival clothing, pottery from the Oregon Potters Association, or a poster from Gary Houston .... and check out all of the cool stuff at the DME Louisiana Pavilion near the Front Porch stage .... it's all for a great cause - feeding people - that the Oregon Food Bank does so well .... for a few cans of food and a $10 donation each day, you can't beat this ... so ...
See ya at the festival!