Portland festivals

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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Waterfront Blues Festival: The End

Not with a whimper, but a smile: Joe Cantrell and his camera capture the bliss and satisfaction of Saturday's final 2018 blues festival day.

Photographs and Story by Joe Cantrell

How to characterize the last day of this year’s Waterfront Blues Festival? Traditionally the festival has ended with the fireworks, late night on the 4th of July, but this year we began with Wednesday, the 4th. Thursday sustained, Friday found new energy. Saturday the 6th, still full of people palpably happy to be there, but more laid back, as though this year’s festivities had proven themselves, reached the peak of their oak barrel fermentation, didn’t need to prove nuthin’ to nobody.

Fuller Productions, Peter Damman and the sponsors and crews, having regenerated the miracle of WBF organization and execution at short notice, triumphed.

And so it was, maybe a few tired eyes and slower movement, but a shared notion of “We made it together again, what a trip, wuddn’t it fine!” See you next year.

 


See Joe Cantrell’s complete series from this year’s blues festival


 

The final frames: Faces and the crowd

 

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Waterfront Blues Festival: Day 2

Photographer Joe Cantrell captures the sights and sounds of the sprawling blues party as it swings toward Saturday's finale

Photographs and Story by Joe Cantrell

The 4th of July with fireworks draws crowds big enough for the fire marshal to shut down the entrances, and that has traditionally been the last of the Waterfront Blues Festival. But this year it was the first day, and Thursday, hotter and a workday to boot, should have been more sparsely attended. Through the day, it was. Lots of nice people still, but quieter.

Come the end of the workday and afternoon sun, lots of company arrived. Until a couple of years ago, people could stroll in without contributing anything at all. Privilege as an epithet; sleek well-groomed families cruising through the gates without glancing at the volunteers there to accept donations, claiming the suburban lawn territory of their personal tarps. They were ironically displacing later arrivals who did bring contributions but couldn’t get in because of the crowd size limit, especially on fireworks night. This was one of the dilemmas faced by the Food Bank, bless their hearts, but this year, everybody had to have a ticket. Bless the tickets, too; it’s a happier overall place.


See Photo First: glorious blue Fourth, Joe Cantrell’s photographs and essay on the Waterfront Blues Festival’s opening day, July 4.


The acts rotate among four stages, riverboat performances, and after-hours gigs in nearby venues. Many are superb, some not quite. All emotionally connect with the fans (see yesterday’s scribble on music festival as catalyst). The Blues Festival continues today (Friday) and tomorrow. Good-hearted person, you are part of it, whether you’re there or not. Better you be there.

 

Kid Ramos, on the Main Stage.

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Fertile Ground: Curtains (almost) up

ArtsWatch speed-dates the makers of 2017's Portland new-works festival. We don't kiss, but we do tell. Here's what's happening.

By CHRISTA McINTYRE, A.L. ADAMS, and BOB HICKS

One thing we’ve learned in life: You can’t date everyone. Even speedily.

Nevertheless, the three of us took a pretty good shot at it on the first Thursday in January, when we set up business at a big table in Artists Repertory Theatre’s upper lobby and braced ourselves for an onrushing tide of producers, writers, directors, and performers in this year’s Fertile Ground Festival, an orgy of new theater, dance, comedy, solo, musical-theater, circus, and other performance works that’ll scatter across the city January 19-29.

The meet-and-greets, which are set up roughly like a speed-dating session (or so we’ve been told), are a cacophony of elevator speeches, and as it happens, all three of us knew what to expect from previous years’ free-for-alls. Theater people line up in front of a confusion of journalists from print, online, radio, and television outlets and work their way to the front, where they get five minutes to pitch their show and explain why that journalist really, really ought to see it and write very, very nicely about it. Then a whistle blows, and everyone moves on to the next encounter. Did you get that phone number/email address/press release/oddball memento? We’ll be in touch. (That little pink-wrapped chunk of Hubba Bubba bubble gum from 1980’s Teen Musical? We’ve tossed it in the drawer with all of our leftover 1982 Easter Peeps to help us make it through Armageddon.)

At the ArtsWatch table, and beyond. Fertile Ground photo

As usual, Fertile Ground boss Nicole Lane kept things on a strict schedule, and by evening’s end we hadn’t got around to talking to everyone. A few no doubt got caught up at other tables and ran out of time. A few just had other priorities. Some, we imagine, didn’t show up at all: they’re not the dating kind. Still, out of seventy-plus acts, we managed among us to talk with people from roughly forty. Add to those the dance productions that ArtsWatch’s Jamuna Chiarini has written about separately, and … let’s just say we played the field.

One of the great things about Fertile Ground, which began as an annual festival in 2009, is that it’s open to new projects at every stage of production, from first readings to staged readings to workshops to world premieres. Theater companies have started to book premiere productions to coincide with the festival, lending the city a sense of freshness and discovery, at least on its performance stages, every January. It’s like a smaller Edinburgh Fringe Festival (and just as unpredictable), but made up entirely of local acts.

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