Lisa Mann

Waterfront Blues 2: In the Spirit

On Day 2 of the big blues bash on the riverside, the sounds ring over the city. Joe Cantrell captures the excitement in photographs.


PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOE CANTRELL


Day Two of the Waterfront Blues Festival dug deep into the spirit of music and life with an extraordinary set by the Spiritual Brothers and their sounds of Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso. Unlike the four-day festival’s first day on the Fourth of July, there were no fireworks over the river. But there was plenty of fire in the music on Friday, a day that also included sharp sets by the likes of Harpdog Brown & the Uptown Blues Band, Larkin Poe, Terry Hancke, the California Honeydrops, Lloyd Jones, Lisa Mann with Lara Price, Monti Amundson, Brother Yusef, Arietta Ward (daughter of the legendary, late Portland pianist Janice Scroggins) and others.

Passing the traditions on: generations in the crowd.

The four-day festival, which transforms Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park through Sunday, is a highlight of the Pacific Northwest’s summer music season, drawing thousands of revelers every day. Saturday’s schedule features a lot of Louisiana sounds – Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Lil’ Pookie & the Zydeco Sensations, Mysti Krewe Mardi Gras Parade, Chubby Carrier & His Bayou Swamp Band – plus the likes of top locals LaRhonda & the Steele Family Band, the Terry Robb Quartet, Norman Sylvester’s Allstar Revue, and more. Your single-day tickets – $20 in advance, $25 at the gate – get you the entire day from 10 a.m. until after dark, and in addition to paying for the musicians and the music, help support the nonprofit Sunshine Division, which distributes food and clothing to people in the metropolitan area who need them.

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‘Just This One’ review: staging the blues

Jukebox musical based on the life of legendary Portland bluesman Paul deLay electrifies Fertile Ground festival

At the Fertile Ground Festival performance of Just This One, a jukebox musical based on the eventful life of late Portland bluesman Paul deLay, I went to a play and a great blues concert broke out.

I never got to hear deLay, who died in his native Portland in 2007, live. Having devoted way too many college nights to intense study of great local and touring blues masters at one of the nation’s great blues clubs, Antones, I was too snobby (not to mention too busy covering other music after moving here) to imagine that Oregon could produce great blues comparable to what I’d so often heard in Texas, except for maybe Robert Cray. By the time I realized my error, a year after moving to Portland, deLay was gone, stolen by leukemia at age 55

Saeeda Wright, Lisa Mann, LaRhonda Steele, Ben Rice in ‘Just This One.’

So the fact that even a deLay newbie like me so enjoyed Wayne Harrel’s new musical shows that his songs and story (even as fictionalized here) are plenty compelling for any blues lover — not just those trying to relive deLay’s glory days performing at the Fat Little Rooster.

That’s because this show wisely keeps the spotlight on deLay’s masterfully crafted, often wryly humorous music, not the characteristically contrived story frame, and enlists a stage full of powerful performers to deliver it. Even though the show, ably directed by Judy Straalsund, happened in the backroom of a southeast Portland piano store, Michelle’s Piano Company, if I closed my eyes, I could imagine I was back at Antone’s, minus the clouds of cigarette smoke.

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