Kingfish Ingram

The race is on. Ready for live events?

ArtsWatch Weekly: Ready or not, things are opening. Plus Lillian Pitt & Friends, opera breaks the mold, movie time, poetry all over

THE RACE IS ON, as George Jones famously crooned, and if it’s not pride up the backstretch and heartaches goin’ to the inside, as the song’s lyrics breathlessly declare, the stakes may be higher: Can we get the nation and world successfully vaccinated before relaxed safety standards and unchecked viral variants send us back to the starting gate? As warmer months approach, and vaccination rates improve, and people become more restless after more than a year in shutdown, the urge to get out and do things grows stronger – but is it jumping the gun? This week the state reclassified Multnomah and Clackamas counties, with a combined population of more than 1.2 million, from “moderate” to “high risk” for coronavirus. (Washington County, with a population of almost 600,000, maintained its “moderate” status.) The question is vital and controversial, and it goes beyond schools and workplaces and houses of worship and even a weekend at the coast. It has a deep and direct impact on cultural life, too.

Young blues phenom Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, from Clarksdale, Mississippi, had the crowd roaring at the 2019 Waterfront Blues Festival. The festival, a Portland July 4 Weekend tradition, was canceled in 2020 because of coronavirus restrictions but will return in July 2021 at the new Lot at Zidell Yards, south of its usual sprawling location on the downtown waterfront. This year’s acts have not yet been announced, and crowd size will be controlled. Photo: Joe Cantrell

Things are stirring. Restaurants have opened for indoor dining. Even theater, beyond the Covid-special videotaped virtual version, is taking tentative steps. Portland’s Triangle Productions has just gone into rehearsal for Joe DiPietro’s four-performer throwback comedy Clever Little Lies, with plans to open to a live audience on May 6, and it could be just the sort of nostalgic escapism that cooped-up audiences will be craving. Movie theaters are reopening (see Marc Mohan’s “Streamers” column, linked below). A consortium of Oregon large-event venues, meanwhile, has written Gov. Kate Brown pushing for guidelines and permission to reopen, arguing that they know how to control crowds and should be part of the decision-making process. The letter includes about fifty signees, ranging from the Pendleton Round-Up to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Sisters Folk Festival, and the Portland and Eugene symphonic orchestras.

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Blues finale: a festival with teeth

The party gets hearty as "Kingfish" Ingram picks his guitar strings for the crowd. Joe Cantrell snaps the Waterfront Blues Fest's last hurrah.


PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOE CANTRELL


When the extraordinary young guitarist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram waded into the crowd at the Waterfront Blues Festival on Sunday and started picking the strings with his teeth, you knew the whole darned party was gettin’ down. Musicians, fans, techies, vendors, kids, couples, senior hipsters, spur-of-the-moment dancers, festival newbies and seasoned blues aficionados – it was the last day of the four-day music extravaganza in Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and everyone was wringing the juice from the thing down to the last drop.

“Kingfish” Ingram: whole lotta talent goin’ down.

Ingram, the 20-year-old prodigy from Clarksdale, Mississippi, who’s played and recorded with Buddy Guy, Keb Mo’ and other greats, is two years out of high school and taking the music world by storm. Portland was happy to be part of the deluge. A Portland favorite from New Orleans, the fabulous Trombone Shorty – Troy Andrews on his birth certificate – played a late set with his band Orleans Avenue, and the likes of Feufollet, Ural Thomas & the Pain, and the Too Loose Cajun Zydeco Band – plus a whole lot of happy revelers – kept the closing-day party sizzling and most everyone waiting impatiently for next July, when the blues fest will blow the lid off the riverfront again.

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