CMNW Summer Festival SB FIXED #1, TP, Top

MusicWatch Monthly: Waterfront Blues & Cathedral Park Jazz & Federale & Jenny Don’t & The Spurs

Tips for staying cool during yet another apocalyptic heat wave while enjoying the best in Oregon music.


Paul Atreides and Stilgar watch for wormsign in the 1984 "Dune."
Paul Atreides and Stilgar watch for wormsign in the 1984 “Dune.”

The above is an image of Kyle MacLachlan and Everett McGill in the 1984 film adaptation of Dune, directed by the chain-smoking surrealist painter David Lynch. They’re each wearing a “stillsuit,” an invention of Dune author Frank Herbert; the idea is that the suit traps and recycles the body’s moisture in order to assist its wearer’s survival in the deep desert. Obviously such a thing would never work–you’re probably better off following the more practical habits of the Fremen, things like strict resource conservation, a nocturnal lifestyle, ruthless culling of the weak, and relentless guerrilla warfare against the corrupt imperial government–but it’s a nice idea.

Neal Stephenson, the greatest speculative fiction writer of our time, devised a similar device in his recent climate-themed novel Termination Shock: the “earthsuit,” which reviewer Paul DiFilippo characterizes as a “battery-powered refrigeration garment” and which a Stephenson fan on Reddit describes as “dozens of gadgets cobbled together.” Pull at that thread a while longer and you arrive at a cooling vest designed by a Dutch “furry” and embraced by various members of the obscure “military furry” subculture. No joke!

Pepeyn Langedijk's "EZ Cool Down" cooling vests.
Pepeyn Langedijk’s “EZ Cool Down” cooling vests.

Anyways, all of this is on our minds as the annual Waterfront Blues Festival kicks off July 4 (today, if you’re reading this on Independence Day), on the cusp of a catastrophic heat dome slamming Oregon with insane weather, a series of insanely hot days expected to climb past 100 degrees and probably stay there until Bastille Day. This, as we have just mentioned, is clearly insane.

WBF has this to say on the “Weather Updates” portion of their website:

While the Waterfront Blues Festival will continue rain or shine, we take our attendees, staff and performers’ safety very seriously. We have several accommodations in place at the festival to help our guests manage heat, including:

Several tented and tree shaded areas.

Water misting cooling stations.

Unlimited free water at water stations throughout festival grounds. Factory sealed water bottles and empty refillable bottles are allowed inside the festival; and additional bottled water, reusable cups, and ice will be available  on-site as well.

Fully staffed and prepared first-aid tent to assist anyone feeling signs of heat-related concerns.

Updated Umbrella Policy: the festival has adjusted its policy to ALLOW personal-sized umbrellas (up to 62”) for the 2024 festival. Group/patio umbrellas are still prohibited.

In partnership with the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront hotel, there will be a Waterfront Blues Festival Chill Center located on the second floor of the hotel. The Chill Center is air-conditioned and will be open to all festival attendees from 12 pm – 9 pm July 4-7. As a 2024 heat-related courtesy to our GA 1-Day ticketholders, guests may request a special wristband at all exit gates to visit the Chill Center and receive re-entry to the festival.

A more elegant option might be to do as the Fremen would and simply start the festival with the evening’s fireworks instead of ending with them, and then keep the party going throughout the night, slinking away down the river before dawn like a brood of aquatic vampires.


Oregon Cultural Trust

As usual, the festival lineup is vast and varied; you can get a load of the whole thing right here. The most intriguing big-name artists this year, for the present author anyways, are the famed slide guitarist Ben Harper (performing on the South Stage at 9 pm on Saturday, July 6) and the famed dual-function guitarist Charlie Hunter (performing twice on July 6 on the Blues Stage, at 6 pm with Jubu Smith and at 8 pm with Candace Ivory and Nic Clark, then performing yet again at 1 pm on Sunday over on the Crossroads Stage).

Check out Harper and Hunter here:

There are also plenty of locals, including Curtis Salgado, LaRhonda and the Steele Family Band, Lo Steele and Igor Prado, Jujuba, Bloco Alegria, Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group, Northwest Women Rhythm & Blues, and so on. And before we leave you to your festival planning and your umbrella measuring and your water conservation rituals, we must share this tidbit of trivia: Tom McCall Waterfront Park, as any Oregonian is happy to tell you, was created by tearing out a stretch of freeway. And this feat of environmentalism was, of course, only feasible because a different stretch of freeway had been built over and across the river, where it still hangs–but every little bit helps.


We also can’t leave this “hotter than hell festivals” segment without mentioning the Jazz Society of Oregon’s 44th annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, happening later this month (July 19-21). As the name suggests, this one’s in Cathedral Park, under the gothic arches of the infamous St. Johns Bridge on the North Portland Peninsula, aka “The Fifth Quadrant.” It’s certainly fair to describe CPJF as the more Oregonian of the two festivals–it’s totally free and the lineup is entirely local, with many of the same performers as WBF (Jujuba, Lo Steele, Mel Brown). It will be cooler and shadier, and not just because it’s in St. Johns. Note that neither tents nor umbrellas of any size will be allowed. Full schedule and info right here.


Hop in your kayak and continue up the edge of that NoPo Peninsula, past the confluence of the Weird Willamette and the Mighty Columbia, and you come to Sauvie Island, home of the notorious Sauvie Island UFO. Elsewhere on the island you will find Topaz Farm, and if you head up there on July 12 you’ll get to hear Oregon’s finest not-exactly-country-but-not-exactly-not-country band, Jenny Don’t and the Spurs, who sometimes call themselves “High Energy Country Western” and sometimes “cowpunk.” 


Oregon Cultural Trust

Topaz Farms has its own extensive list of rules and regulations–including, yes, size restrictions on not only umbrellas but also blankets and lawn chairs–and you can get up to speed about full compliance right here. If that, and the parking, and the heat, and the people, and all of it–well, if that sounds like a drag to you, perhaps you’d be better off staying at home and listening to the new album, Broken Hearted Blue:

Hell, why not order the vinyl? For what you’ll spend on gas and beer and food cart pickings and sunscreen and a new umbrella, you can probably pick up their whole catalog.

Let’s all go to the movies

Also on July 12, and also in North Portland, the legendary Oregon cinematic band Federale haunts Mississippi Studios for the release of its latest full-length album, Reverb Seduction, which you can pre-sample and pre-order from the internet right here:

This one’s also available on vinyl, as is their previous full-length release (2019’s alarmingly good No Justice) and the rest of their alarming cinetastic albums. We’re especially excited about this one, having been rather impressed with the deep dark turn Federale’s music took on No Justice and the songs they subsequently recorded for Ana Lily Amirpour’s delicious third feature, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, which you still need to watch–along with her first two, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night and The Bad Batch (when you have the stomach for it).

Anyways, here’s the video for “Blood Moon,” and three videos from the new album, and, well, just check out Federale, okay? Along with Pink Martini and YOB, they remain One Of The Oldest And Most Important Surviving Bands In Oregon.


Seattle Opera Pagliacci

If you can’t make it up to Mississippi on the 12th, maybe you can make it down to Sam Bond’s Garage (the venue, not the actual garage) in Eugene on the 13th. Or, as we keep suggesting, you can save yourself the gas money and the heartache and the heat stroke and just stay home with your air-conditioning and your turntable and your doordash. Amirpour’s movies are all on Amazon, which is where you’ll also find a good turntable and a good pair of speakers and a wide variety of cooling vests.

I heard it in the wind, I saw it in the sky

We leave you, as we must, with a Gen X classic: Soundgarden’s “4th of July,” a song about (among other things) an acid trip. Stay frosty, Oregon!

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Photo Joe Cantrell

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Music editor Matthew Neil Andrews is a composer, writer, and alchemist specializing in the intersection of The Weird and The Beautiful. An incorrigible wanderer who spent his teens climbing mountains and his twenties driving 18-wheelers around the country, Matthew can often be found taking his nightly dérive walks all over whichever Oregon city he happens to be in. He and his music can be reached at


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