Oregon Cultural Trust

Waterfront Blues: a bang-up start



It was a bang-up day on the Fourth of July in Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park, where this year’s Waterfront Blues Festival got off to a high-flying start and, come night time, a rainbow of fireworks lit up the sky. It was just the first of four days’ ringing out the blues on the waterfront – the festival plays through Sunday – and photographer Joe Cantrell spent hour after hour and walked mile after mile through the park, capturing the essence of the action from the stages and the crowd and the sky. Whatever else the festival is about, it’s about people: the musicians, the fans, the revelers, the technicians, the oldsters, the couples, the kids, the crowds.

Red, white, and boom! Blues Fest fireworks light up the sky.

The River City Riot Brass Band met the crowds in the morning at the festival gates, and the day continued with a river of sound from groups as varied as Johnny Wheels and the Swamp Donkeys, The King Louie Organ Trio, Vanessa Collier, Sarah Grace & the Soul, Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings, Andy Stokes and the Brothers in Black, Mary Flower, Too Slim and the Taildraggers, the great Curtis Salgado and the Robert Cray Band, and an end-of-Independence-Day rendition of the national anthem by Stokes before the fireworks.

On tap Friday: a varied lineup including the BrassRoots Marching Band, a dance demo/lesson with Portland Blues Experience, Bottleneck Blues Band, Arietta Ward, Portland favorite Lloyd Jones, Brother Yusef, Harpdog Brown and the Uptown Blues Band, the California Honeydrops, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, a James Brown tribute with Farnell Newton and the Othership Connection, the Midnight Rose Bayou Boyz, 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.

All along the waterfront, people put on a happy face …
The joy of sax …
… onstage …
… and in the crowd.
Rollin’ on the river …
… they don’t call it the Waterfront Blues Festival …
… for nothing.
Faces in the crowd: Dressed for the occasion …
Rain? Sun? No worries. I’m OK …
Who’s playing next? …
Ready …
Set …
… Wow!
… Whew!
Hmm: Which one, do you think?
Playin’ it …
Dancing it …
Listening to it …
Walking the line.
Hey! It’s the Fourth of July!
Night time? Let there be light time …
Goodnight, now. See you tomorrow.

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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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