Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

Blues Fest finale: Light up the sky

After a four-day feast of music and partying, the 2023 Waterfront Blues Festival winds up with a bang of Fourth of July fireworks over the river.


The 2023 Waterfront Blues Festival ended after dark on the Fourth of July with a grand fireworks show over the Willamette River.

What? Over already? The 2023 Waterfront Blues Festival went out with a traditional bang on Tuesday night, ending with a giant fireworks display over the Willamette River in downtown Portland. And that was that: a four-day feast of blues and roots sounds, with thousands of music lovers roaming from stage to stage in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, creating a giant summer party of meeting, mingling, and memories. It was the Fourth of July, after all: What better time to light up the sky?

It was, one again, an audible orgy of good music, with Tuesday performances on the festival’s four stages by the likes of Ty Curtis, Tyrone Hendrix and the PDX Soul Collective, Soul Vaccination with Andy Stokes, Kim Field’s Harmonica Blowoff, veteran Portland blues genius Curtis Salgado, and the evening headliners before the fireworks, The Mavericks. (The great, legendary Buddy Guy headlined Monday night.)

The music was terrific, and once again photographer Joe Cantrell spent his day prowling around the park, looking for scenes and moments that captured the spirit of the celebration. On this Fourth of July he concentrated his camera not so much on the musicians as on the people who came downtown to catch the action, and to turn an event into an actual celebration — a human happening, a dance, a feed, a gathering, a surprise of good will and new faces and hail-fellows-well-met; a coming-out party after the long lull of the pandemic. Time to celebrate. Here comes summer, and isn’t it grand?

So Joe snapped pictures of the people. And of some of the musicians. And of course, the big fireworks blowout, because, well, it lit up the sky. And them everyone went home. Same time next year?

— The Editors

One way to keep the joy alive: capturing The Mavericks on video.

Faces in the crowd

“… so there I was, minding my own business, doing the backstroke, when…”

Miss Independent, meet Mr. Hawaiian Shirt.

Feeling a little parched in the sun? Here’s an idea …

Dressed for the holiday.


Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

Psst; Hey, Joe! Over here. Group shot!

A time to dance, a time to dine.

“The Army? Let me just tell you a little story about that…”

Guitar shirt and phone chair.

One big happy family.

Shoutout with Curtis Salgado & Friends

The great Portland and national blues singer Curtis Salgado and his band had the crowd jumping for joy on the festival’s final day.

The ensemble got into the spirit of the music and the day.

Curtis finds a moment to reflect …
… and the band gets down to some serious business.

Other voices, other paths

So near, so far: A man hauls his belongs close to the park and the music …
… and another man brings a warning: All is not well.

People, places, and things

As photographer Cantrell puts it, “breaking the cute meter.”

Mugs with a message; discounts today.

RBG gets the blues; zydecougar wears a smile.

Celebration is the blues.

Light up the sky

Crowding along the Hawthorne Bridge, waiting for the fireworks to begin …

After four days of music on several stages in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, this year’s Blues Festival ended with a bang of fireworks above the Willamette River. Joe Cantrell stationed himself and his camera on the other side of the river to capture the display in all its glory.

.. and then, with a glorious Fourth of July flash, they did.


Portland Center Stage at the Armory Quixote Nuevo Portland Oregon


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Photo Joe Cantrell

I spent my first 21 years in Tahlequah, Cherokee County, Oklahoma, assuming that except for a few unfortunate spots, ‘everybody’ was part Cherokee, and son of the soil. Volunteered for Vietnam because that’s what we did. After two stints, hoping to gain insight, perhaps do something constructive, I spent the next 16 years as a photojournalist in Asia, living much like the lower income urban peasants and learning a lot. Moved back to the USA in 1986, tried photojournalism and found that the most important subjects were football and basketball, never mind humankind. In 1992, age 46, I became single dad of my 3-year-old daughter and spent the next two decades working regular jobs, at which I was not very good, to keep a roof over our heads, but we made it. She’s retail sales supervisor for Sony, Los Angeles. Wowee! The VA finally acknowledged that the war had affected me badly and gave me a disability pension. I regard that as a stipend for continuing to serve humanity as I can, to use my abilities to facilitate insight and awareness, so I shoot a lot of volunteer stuff for worthy institutions and do artistic/scientific work from our Cherokee perspective well into many nights. Come along!

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