All Classical Radio James Depreist

Waterfront Blues Fest: That’s a wrap

Portland's four-day blues bash at Tom McCall Waterfront Park beats the heat -- and photographer Joe Cantrell catches the sights and sounds and free-flowing joy of it all.

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A weekend for laughing and embracing and feeling joy: A couple enjoying the Watrfront Blues Festival to the fullest.
A weekend for laughing and embracing and feeling joy.

Ace photographer Joe Cantrell has been shooting the Waterfront Blues Festival for more years than some people in the audience and even a couple of the musicians have been alive (although he still has a few years to go to catch up with the astonishing 90-year-old blues singer Bobby Rush).

You can see his extraordinary photos of this year’s July 4 opening day here, complete with the musicians, the throng in downtown Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the river rats taking in the scene from their boats on the Willamette, and the post-show Independence Day fireworks display lighting up the downtown sky.

That was only the beginning. Cantrell returned July 5-7 for days two, three, and four, through the festival’s big finale on Sunday. And, yes, he took his camera with him. The lively and lovely results of his keen-eyed efforts are here, providing proof of the festival’s many pleasures.

It was an unseasonably hot four-day stretch: The sun shone bright, and temperatures flirted with and eventually achieved triple digits. That might have thinned out the crowd a bit, but it did nothing to dampen the joy that filled the park and the audience that braved the heat while the music played from five stages. Visit — or, if you were part of the festival crowd, revisit — the sights and sounds through Cantrell’s eyes and camera lens.

— The Editors

The music makers

Blues man Bobby Rush, 90 years young, performing onstage.
Blues man Bobby Rush, 90 years young.
Bobby Rush singing with the North Mississippi All Stars.
Bobby Rush and the North Mississippi All Stars.
Legendary Portland blues singer Curtis Salgado wailing away.
Legendary Portland blues singer Curtis Salgado wailing away …
Legendary Portland blues singer Curtis Salgado signing an autograph.
… and legendary Portland blues singer Curtis Salgado signing an autograph.
Putting the squeeze on with the Lost Bayou Ramblers: The band's accordionist at work.
Putting the squeeze on with the Lost Bayou Ramblers.
Fiddling the day away with the Lost Bayou Ramblers.
Fiddling the day away with the Lost Bayou Ramblers.
Washboard, squeezebox, and ... a Muppet vocalist? A washboard player, an accordionist, and what appears o be a Muppet onstage.
Washboard, squeezebox, and … a Muppet vocalist?
Playing and dancing at the Front Porch Stage. The audience dances while the musicians onstage put out the beat.
Playing and dancing at the Front Porch Stage.

Transformations

What's a day in the park without a little face paint? A painter puts finishing touches on a visitor's painted face mask.
What’s a day in the park without a little face paint?
... oh, the magic of it all! A little girl is happy with her cat-like face painting.
… oh, the magic of it all!

These blues are made for dancin’

Blues Festival audiences are an active lot, eager to line up and get movin'. A line dance gets the crowd going.
Blues Festival audiences are an active lot, eager to line up and get movin’.
A man and woman dance to zydeco music.
Zydeco time: Swing your partner …
Two women laughing and dancing together.
… and swing your partner again …
A couple snuggling as they dance.
… and again …
A couple laughing and dancing to the music.
… and again …
A child and and an adult cut a rug as the music plays.
… and again …
A couple dancing.
… and again …
A couple dancing.
… and again.
Under the bridge a woman dances with colorful electronic-light version of herself.
Under the bridge you could dance with electronic-light version of you.

Checking out the booths

Longtime Nepalese vendors were back on the scene with fantastic fabrics.
Longtime Nepalese vendors were back on the scene with fantastic fabrics.
As evening falls, hats off to some fancy chapeaus. A vendor sits with his array of colorful cowboy hats for sale.
As evening falls, hats off to some fancy chapeaus.
A swoosh of fashion amid a delectable riot of color for sale. A woman in a rainbow colored dress checks out items for sale in a festival booth.
A swoosh of fashion amid a delectable riot of color for sale.

Rowin’ on the river

The Willamette River runs right behind the festival grounds in Tom McCall Waterfont Park, providing a good spot to float and sip and visit and listen to the music ...
The Willamette River runs right behind the festival grounds in Tom McCall Waterfont Park, providing a good spot to float and sip and visit and listen to the music …
... and maybe catch a quick forty winks, too. A man in a kayak on the Willamette River lies down and appears to be sleeping.
… and maybe catch a quick forty winks, too.

Faces in the crowd

Blues and 'cues on a bright July day. A woman smiles broadly as she sits in a lawn chair and gets ready to eat some barbecue.
Blues and ‘cues on a bright July day.
A festival cart driver takes a break from hauling musicians to grab a bite to eat.
A festival cart driver takes a break from hauling musicians to grab a bite to eat.
Eyes straight forward. A woman in the crowd smiles and looks straight toward the camera.
Eyes straight forward.
Several shades of shades. A woman wearing sunglasses that reflect a variety of colors in their lenses.
Several shades of shades.
Play misty for me: A woman cools off on a hot day by walking into a mist of spraying water.
Play misty for me.
Taking life easy ... a man and woman lying on a blanket in the park, checking something on his cell phone.
Taking life easy …
... and partially made in the shade. A woman lying on the grass with a fan shading her face.
… and partially made in the shade.

After the show is over

After he's finished his festival photos, Joe Cantrell spots a chorus line of crows as he heads back to his parking lot. They have a lot to chat about -- but that's another story.
After he’s finished his festival photos, Joe Cantrell spots a chorus line of crows as he heads back to his parking lot. They have a lot to chat about — but that’s another story.

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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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