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Michael Munk PDX Historian

Waterfront Blues Festival:
The Portland Alliance Portal

Click here for coverage of ongoing festival!


Mark your calendars for July 1-4, musicians from near and far are coming to Portland!
Join us this Fourth of July weekend to celebrate our 35th anniversary.   THE HEADLINERS

The second Saturday of (most) every month, the Spare Room features Portland's best loved bluesman, Norman Sylvester. The Spare Room is always the friendliest place in town, with plenty of room to dance, and moderate prices. Show off your goofiest Christmas sweater, get on down with the Boogie Cat's holiday blues tunes, and have a good time. #blues #pdxboogiecat #thebluesisalright  #fightinghunger #fairtrademusic #cascadebluesassociation #oregonmusichalloffame #CBAmuddywinner #SpareRoomPDX #allthatSantahadtosaywasHoHoHo
Portland Alliance Portal to the Cascade Blues Association

 The 26th Annual Waterfront Blues Festival
          at Portland’s Waterfront Park

Nikki Hill above (pictures by Peter C. Little) Taj Mahal below


Pictures from the last several years
of the Blues Festival at the Waterfront.
http:// waterfrontbluesfest
  Here are some images from Parrot Productions: qz5UardYcQk

by Larry Cwik           (with photography by Larry Cwik & Peter C. Little)

From July 4 – 7, 2013 tens of thousands of Portlanders and visitors to Portland enjoyed the likes of Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, Joe Louis Walker, Eric Burdon and the Animals, John Hiatt and the Combo, Mavis Staples, and dozens of other gifted musicians at Portland’s 26th annual Waterfront Blues Festival at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.  Beautiful weather joined with awesome music from world-class musicians for the Festival.  The Festival, now the second-largest Blues Festival in the United States, raised a record $1.3 million for the Oregon Food Banks to help the state’s needy. 

Eric Burdon and the Animals

Eric Burdon and the Animals opened with their hit “When I Was Young” and continued through a rousing set that include many of their best-known hits, including an updated for the era “House of the Rising Sun,” featuring an electro-pop segment.  They also played “It’s My Life and I’ll Do What I Want,” a reggae-infused rendition of “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, a funk-infused rendition of his song “Black Dog,” and a tribute to Burdon’s hero, the great blues musician Bo Diddley.  Burdon talked from the stage of Diddley’s riding his motor scooter around Florida in a pair of polyester striped pants, a guitar on his back.  Burdon and Diddley corresponded but never got to meet before Diddley died in 2008.

Several songs Burdon and his band performed at the Festival came from their new 2013 release, "Til Your River Runs Dry,” inspired in part by environmental concerns.  “Water,” from the new release, was inspired by a conversation Burden had with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.  Burdon and his band delivered a soulful rendition of the song, with one of its lyrics, “water, water, water, teardrops from my eyes.”   Burdon’s new song “River is Rising” had a lyric “carry me away to another world,” perhaps a musical nod to global warming.   These songs continued a thread of social commentary in some of Burdon’s songs, which perhaps most notably included a 1968 song he did not play at the Festival, “Sky Pilot,” about a military chaplain blessing troops before they leave for combat.  Burdon’s social commentary is among a significant thread of social commentary in contemporary music, ranging from Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan (over most of his career), and The Rolling Stones (occasionally), to more recent music by such acts as John Trudell, Beck, and 2013 Seattle-based superstars Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

Burdon, 72, was in top form.  Burdon’s performance was particularly stunning considering he has been performing for 50 years.   He was an important part of the British Invasion of music to hit the U.S. shores, along with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Kinks.  Burdon’s voice, considered one of the greatest in rock history, delivered strong and clear.  His rendition of “Spill the Wine,” on which he played the tambourine and sang, was particularly hypnotic and mesmerizing.  A band member played the flute outstandingly on the tune.  

Burdon grew up in the U.K. but has lived in California in recent years.  He appeared in a cameo in the film “The Doors” and has done other acting.  He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  He has greatly inspired Bruce Springsteen and other musicians. 

 Eric Burdon and The Animals Performing the Song “Spill the Wine,” Portland, July 2013; photo: Larry Cwik

Chubby Carrier & the Swamp Bayou Band

The Grammy-award winning band Chubby Carrier & the Swamp Bayou Band, from southwest Louisiana, attracted a large crowd with its joyous zydeco music.  Lead singer and accordion player Chubby Carrier is the son and grandson of zydeco players.  Earl “Washboard” Sally was a special treat to watch as he played incredible spoon on washboard music with the band.   Carrier thanked the crowd for being able to play the Festival since 1995.

Chubby Carrier and Earl “Washboard” Sally of the Swamp Bayou Band, Portland, July 2013; photo: Larry Cwik

John Hiatt & The Combo

John Hiatt, 61, dressed fashionably in a plaid shirt, tans sports jacket, and fedora, wowed the audience with his genre-blurring music.  Hiatt has performed rock, blues, and country over several decades.  A special treat Hiatt performed at the Festival was his rock-oriented, eminently catchy song “Bite Marks” off of his 2012 release “Mystic Pinball.”  It had some of Hiatt’s famous lyrics, in this case full of melancholy and angst:  “you take a chunk of my soul,” “you go right for the jugular, babe,” and “your idea of fun is drawing blood.”   He and his band also performed Hiatt’s 1987 country-ish song “Tennessee Plates” from the “Thelma and Louise” movie.  Hiatt’s song-writing has long been widely respected.  Hiatt’s songs have been covered by Bob Dylan, Jewel, Paula Abdul, Bob Seger, Jimmy Buffet, Chaka Khan, Linda Ronstadt, Iggy Pop, Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, and B.B. King.  Hiatt received the 2008 Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting.


 John Hiatt at the Blues Festival, Portland, July 2013; photo: Larry Cwik

Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters


Robert Plant, now 65 years old, and one of the most charismatic front-men in rock history along with Jim Morrison, Roger Daltrey, and Mick Jagger, performed with his current band, The Sensational Space Shifters.  The crowd was ecstatic. Plant headlined the final night of the Festival.  Born in England, Plant still has a noticeable British accent.  The former lead singer for Led Zeppelin performed several famous Led Zeppelin songs including “Going to California,” and “Four Sticks,” ending the latter with a repeated electric reverb of the line “Oh baby,” over and over.   Perhaps the longest song performed at the Festival by the band was a long, extended version of the 1969 mega-hit “Whole Lotta Love,” which network VH1 has called the third greatest hard rock song in history.   Plant also played his huge 1983 solo hit “In the Mood (for a Melody)” which peaked at number 4 on the Billboard charts.  The Festival rendition of “In the Mood” had sections as cool as ice and light as moonlight, alternated perfectly with other sections of classic heavy rock beats.  Plant and The Sensational Soul Shifters performed some new music as well, including a soulful rendition of “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” and the exceptionally catchy song, “Spoonful,” including psychedelic sound interludes and Plant’s unmistakable voice.

Plant is the recipient of a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.  He
was voted “the greatest voice in rock” in a Planet Rock poll.  He talked of loving and caressing music from Mississippi as a teenager.  Plant also has great wit.  He talked to the crowd between songs of independence, the reason for the Fourth of July celebration, joking that he was glad that we Americans kept the language, though we had messed with it, including in “adverts.”  In the encore he did for the crowd with his band, Plant introduced a song as one that came over from England on the Mayflower, and then proceeded to blow the crowd away with an incredibly-performed version of Led Zeppelin classic “Rock and Roll,” complete with music from African musician Juldeh Camera.

Robert Plant at the Blues Festival, Portland, July 2013; photo: Larry Cwik

The Sensational Space Shifters had innovations in keeping with our time:  Plant’s voice was at times synchronized and reverberated, several songs had hypnotic or psychedelic sections, and the newest and perhaps the most distinctive member of Plant’s band was Camara.  Camera is a griot and master musician from Gambia, West Africa.  Camara performed on a ritti, a one-stringed African fiddle, and other African instruments, adding to the magic of The Sensational Space Shifters’ performance.   Camera is recognized as the world’s most respected ritti player.   His father was blind.  Camara believed he received his musical gift from the forest spirits for his father’s loss of sight.   Plant has noted that Camera has inspired his newest band’s music.

Juldeh Camara of The Sensational Space Shifters at the Blues Festival, Portland, July 2013; photo: Larry Cwik

Plant and Burdon are just two
of the overseas musicians influenced by America’s blues music.  So as we Americans have been influenced by England, through language, customs, music, and much more, so has England been influenced by its former colony in many ways, showing the benefits of cultural exchange in creativity.  

Like Eric Burden, Plant has continued on a many decades-long path of creativity, not content to rest on his laurels.  In a June 2013 Rolling Stone magazine interview, talking about his long and influential history in music, Plant said “I've learned that it's good to keep moving and keep smiling!"  In a June 2013 Santa Barbara interview with film-maker Russ Spencer, Plant said each musician in his band was remarkable.  He added that The Sensational Space Shifters is “a mélange of psychedelic British urban trance music mixed with the power of Delta Blues and the spirit of Led Zep, amen.”  The Sensational Space Shifters’ performance at the Festival bore this out in a remarkable, joyful, and wildly crowd-pleasing way.


The Sensational Space Shifters at the Blues Festival, Portland, July 2013; photo: Larry Cwik

Finally, in addition to the incredible music by some of the planet’s best musicians, fireworks, vendor booths selling hats, CDs, food, etc., and the beautiful backdrop of Portland’s Willamette River and its downtown bridges all made the Festival a memorable and huge, fun draw for all willing to brave its enormous crowds.

Hats for Sale at a Vendor Booth at the Blues Festival,

Portland, July 2013; photo: Larry Cwik

Crowd at the Blues Festival, Portland, July 2013; photo:
Larry Cwik

Larry Cwik is an artist, photographer, and film-maker in Portland.

Checkout 46 More Photos of 2013 Blues Fest by Peter C. Little
Nothin But the Blues!

Here are some pictures from the last several years of the Blues Festival at the Waterfront.
http:// waterfrontblues/
We have been covering the Blues Festival for several years
and featuring special coverage in The Portland Alliance.
http:// waterfrontbluesfest
http:// waterfrontbluesjuly4

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