Summer is fast approaching and with it comes the 2014 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival. Mark your calendars for Thursday, July 3 thru Sunday, July 6. This is the event that grows more spectacular every year. Overlooking the Willamette River, Tom McCall Waterfront Park will once again play host to the festival.
“It is Oregon Food Bank’s largest fundraising event to help fight hunger across Oregon and SW Washington. Four days, four stages of non-stop performances by more than 100 artists over July 4 weekend,” according to Peter Dammann, Artistic Director for the event.
Thursday, July 3
The weekend starts on Thursday, July 3, with a hard-rocking double bill featuring Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys.
Los Lobos is a band that continually reboots itself and expands its scope with each passing year, while never losing sight of where they came from. Through sheer camaraderie and respect for one another’s musicality, they’ve continued to explore who Los Lobos is and what they have to offer, without succumbing to the burnout that plagues so many other bands that stick it out for any considerable length of time. Their influence is vast, yet they remain humble, centered and dedicated to their craft. Each new recording they make moves Los Lobos into another new dimension while simultaneously sounding like no one else in the world.
Los Lonely Boys
Hailing from San Angelo, Texas, Los Lonely Boys are a sibling trio whose music draws equally from rock, blues, Tex-Mex, Conjunto, and Tejano. Such a combination is shaped by the band’s three brothers: guitarist Henry Garza, bassist JoJo Garza, and drummer Ringo Garza, Jr. Their father, Ringo Garza, Sr., was also a member of a sibling band (the Falcones) during the ’70s and ’80s. Soon after, Garza went solo, backed by his three sons even before they reached their teens. The family relocated to Nashville in the 1990s, and the sons emerged as a group separate from their father.
Portland connection: the group’s touring percussionist, Austin-based Carmelo Torres, is the son of Portland percussion legend Bobby Torres. And Carmelo’s brother, Reinhard Melz, has been first-call drummer on Portland’s blues, soul and funk scene for two decades.
Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials
Gritty blues from Chicago’s Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials helps to get the party started. From working at Chicago’s Red Carpet Car Wash to appearing on national television, and from gigging at the smallest ghetto blues bars to performing on the biggest international concert stages, master bluesman Lil’ Ed Williams has come a long way. Mixing smoking slide guitar boogies and raw-boned Chicago shuffles with the deepest slow-burners, Lil’ Ed and his blistering Blues Imperials – bassist James “Pookie” Young, guitarist Mike Garrett and drummer Kelly Littleton – deliver the blues, from gloriously riotous and rollicking to intensely emotional and moving. Not since the heyday of Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers has a blues band made such a consistently joyful noise.
Mississippi’s young blues siblings, Homemade Jamz, make their Oregon debut. Ryan Perry’s gruff vocals and visceral, stinging, guitar licks, along with younger brother Kyle’s solid rumble, and baby sister Taya’s cool stomp have electrified crowds across the country, up and down Memphis’s famed Beale Street and on the festival and blues cruise circuit. The band saturated their local media, appearing numerous times in several local papers and national blues magazines, and on local and national TV—including a feature segment on CBS Sunday Morning when the band played the WC Handy Festival last July. Even B.B. King said in a YouTube video, “In my 82 years, I’ve never seen something musically… so remarkable.”
Omara “Bombino” Moctar, whose given name is Goumour Almoctar, was born on January 1, 1980, in Tidene, Niger – an encampment of nomadic Tuaregs located about 80 kilometers to the northeast of Agadez. He is a member of the Ifoghas tribe, which belongs to the Kel Air Tuareg federation. Bombino’s first internationally released album, Agadez, was produced by Ron Wyman and released in April 2011 on Cumbancha Records. Bombino made his Nonesuch Records debut with the release of the album Nomad, recorded with Grammy Award-winning producer, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Nomad debuted at #1 on the Billboard World Music album chart and earned rave reviews from top media outlets around the world including BBC World Service, which calls it “utterly, utterly fantastic” and Rolling Stone, which describes Nomad as “a perfect match of sound and soul [that] introduces a new guitar hero.” His dazzling live performance and virtuosity on the guitar have led notable music critics to compare him to Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Neil Young, and Jerry Garcia.
Friday, July 4
Commander Cody & his Modern Day Airmen
Look in any book on the history of rock and roll and you will ﬁnd Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, whose Deep in the Heart of Texas is listed among Rolling Stone Magazine’s top 100 albums of all time. But the Commander is no mere nostalgia act, as his 2010 Blind Pig label release, Dopers, Drunks and Everyday Losers, proved. “The Commander is stronger than ever,” raved Hittin’ the Note. “His ﬂoor-stomping mix of country, swing, and rockabilly can shake the rafters of any bar or club.”
John Németh and the Bo-Keys
Blue-eyed soul singer John Németh, backed by Memphis’ legendary Bo-Keys (who’ve worked with Al Green, Otis Redding, Ann Peebles, Mavis Staples) will be back in town. Boise, Idaho is hardly the place anyone would conjure up as a hotbed of soul-blues. But for John Németh, it’s where his love for the genre began—and the starting point for a journey that’s taken him from his first gigs fronting a teenage blues band to winning the “Soul Blues Vocalist of the Year” Award (and four other nominations) at the 2013 Blues Music Awards last month in Memphis. But Boise is where this preternaturally talented son of a Hungarian immigrant gained his early chops on the harmonica, building on the style of blues heroes like Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson.
In the early parts of their careers, members of the Bo-Keys performed in B.B. King’s orchestra, anchored the Hi Rhythm Section, nailed the unforgettable intro to “Theme From Shaft,” and survived the plane crash that claimed Otis Redding. The Bo-Keys features alumni both of Stax Records and Hi Records, plus younger musicians who grew up loving that classic sound. The band has garnered an Emmy award and a Grammy nomination. The Bo-Keys’ debut effort The Royal Sessions drew raves, and can still be heard in snippets on National Public Radio broadcasts.
On the Oregonian Front Porch Stage, the action kicks off with the Journey to Memphis finals, segues into a late afternoon swing/blues dance competition, and ends with Bill Rhoades’ annual Harmonica Blow-off.
The evening will close with Oregon’s finest fireworks display, introduced by the National Anthem, sung by Portland gospel/soul diva, Linda Hornbuckle.
Saturday, July 5
It’s fairly common knowledge that funk master Maceo Parker has played with each and every leader of funk. He got his start with James Brown, which Maceo describes as “like being at University.” He then jumped aboard the Mothership with George Clinton and he still tours now and then with Prince. He’s the living, breathing pulse which connects the history of Funk in one golden thread.
“He’s no bebopper, reborn or otherwise. His roots are the church and the blues… his sound is a joyful, cutting ribbon of light and heat burnished by grit and soul… kinda like his longtime boss’ vocals, amazingly enough.” There’s no doubt about it, ‘There’s only one Maceo.’” – Downbeat Magazine
Soon after he was discovered fronting a Los Angeles blues jam in 2011, Sugaray Rayford became one of the lead vocalists for the Mannish Boys, and appeared with the all-star group that year at Waterfront Blues Festival. He sang lead vocals on nine songs on Double Dynamite, the Mannish Boys CD that won Best Traditional Blues Album at the 2013 Blues Music Awards. Sugaray’s first solo CD Blind Alley was a self-release in 2010, which garnered critical acclaim. His second solo CD Dangerous, released last fall, debuted at #2 on Blues Debut Chart, #6 on the Roots Music Chart and is currently #2 on The Living Blues Chart. In May 2012, Rayford made his stage debut starring in the Tony Award-winning play, “Ain’t Nuthin’ But The Blues” at Portland Center Stage. He joined members of the New York Broadway cast playing the part previously played by the late Ron Taylor. It had a 6-week run where every show ended with a standing ovation.
Otis Taylor with special guest Mato Nanji
Expect the unexpected from blues singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Otis Taylor. While his music, an amalgamation of roots styles in their rawest form, discusses heavyweight issues like murder, homelessness, tyranny, and injustice, his personal style is lighthearted. “I’m good at dark, but I’m not a particularly unhappy person,” he says. “I’d just like to make enough money to buy a Porsche.” One unexpected element in Taylor’s music is the combination of musicians he selects to play with. Taylor’s special guest for this year’s WBF set is Mato Nanji (Ma-TOE Non-gee), guitarist and co-founder of the Native American blues band Indigenous. Nanji is a fiery blues guitar virtuoso in the vein of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn, but he’s no ordinary guitar-slinger; his playing and songwriting possess a tangible spiritual depth. Born and raised on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, Nanji was greatly influenced by his father, who was both an important Native American leader and a musician with a vast collection of blues records.
Zydeco Swamp Romp
On the Oregonian Front Porch Stage, the annual Zydeco Swamp Romp keeps the dance floor packed all day Saturday and Sunday with some of the Gulf Coast’s finest Cajun and Zydeco acts: Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas, Horace Trahann & Ossun Express, Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Yvette Landry and more.
Sunday, July 6
Then on Sunday, July 6, the four-day festival closes as it did last year—Spectacularly! (Note: Sunday is admission by pass-only)
Gregg Allman’s contribution to rock music is undeniable. As lead singer, organist, and songwriter with the Allman Brothers Band, his early popularity and success had much to do with the band’s signature 40-minute jam sessions and high-wattage guitar riffs. But Gregg Allman has long been a gifted natural interpreter of the blues, his soulful and distinctive voice one of the defining sounds in the history of American music. Low Country Blues marks the legendary Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s seventh solo recording and first in more than 13 years. Produced by T Bone Burnett, the album finds Allman putting his own stamp on songs by some of the blues giants whose work has long informed his own, from Muddy Waters and BB King to Buddy Guy and Magic Sam. Named for the coastal Georgia region Allman calls home, Low Country Blues stands as a high water mark in an already remarkable body of work, rich with passion, verve, and the unerring confidence of a true survivor.
Portland connection: Rose City born and bred saxophonist Jay Collins was a stunning young up-and-comer on the local hard-bop, soul and funk scenes here until he moved to the Big Apple in the 1990s. There, Collins joined the band of the late drummer/leader of The Band, Levon Helm, married his boss’ talented daughter, Amy; worked with such heavies as Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs and the Allman Brothers, and lately has been touring with Gregg Allman’s Band. Collins will also appear at Waterfront Sunday afternoon with his occasional NY band mate, Chris Bergson.
Boz Scaggs is both a musical seeker and a man of sizable talent as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. His explorations in blues and R&B, rock and jazz have produced lasting work and a career that has brought with it acclaim, a loyal following, and an enduring respect among musicians.
The early part of Scaggs’ career—a long stint in the band of fellow Texan Steve Miller, followed by a solo career that involved collaborations with the likes of Duane Allman—was steeped in the blues. His latest release, last year’s Memphis, was recorded at Willie Mitchell’s famed Royal Studios, which turned out a string of hits for Al Green, Ann Peebles, Otis Clay. On Memphis Boz returns to the blues and soul classics that early-on inspired him. “I had been thinking about a record that involved going back into my past and finding songs that match my style and my voice,” Scaggs says. With producer Steve Jordan and a crack band he put a distinctive touch on classics like “Rainy Night in Georgia,” “Corinna Corinna,” and “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl,” as well as on a couple of originals. At Waterfront debut, expect Boz Scaggs to dig deep.
Lee Fields & the Expressions
With a career spanning 43 years, releases on 12 different record labels, and having toured the world over with his raucous-yet-tender voice, it’s mind-blowing that the music he’s making today with Brooklyn’s own Truth & Soul Records is the best of Lee Fields career. He continues to evolve, enmeshed into the group’s sweeping, string-laden, cinematic soul sound. Their latest full-length Faithful Man released in March 2012 on Truth & Soul, was called “one smoking mother of an old-sound soul record” by Pitchfork and Vice magazine. Fields’ newest, Emma Jean, is due out June 3.
Joan Osborne with the Holmes Brothers
A Kentucky native, Joan Osborne has sold millions of albums and garnered multiple Grammy nominations throughout her 15-year career. Osborne’s singing career took off while attending NYU’s film school. Inspired by singers like Billie Holiday and Etta James, Osborne’s gutsy, passionate vocals turned “One Of Us,” a track from her major label debut, Relish, into a massive MTV and radio hit. The disc went on to sell 5 million copies worldwide and led to numerous Grammy nominations. Osborne has performed as a member of the Grateful Dead, toured with the Dixie Chicks and The Funk Brothers, appeared in the acclaimed documentary, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, and has released a children’s album and a country record. Her latest release, Bring It On Home, is a collection of classic blues, R&B and soul covers. Joining her on the CD are Barbecue Bob Pomeroy (harmonica), Allen Toussaint (piano), Jimmy Vivino, The Holmes Brothers and Rufus Thomas’ daughter, Vaneese Thomas.
Over the course of their 30-plus year career, The Holmes Brothers have been feeding souls with a joyous and moving blend of blues, gospel, soul, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and country. Their three-part harmony singing, mixing Wendell’s gruff and gravelly vocals with Popsy’s soaring falsetto and Sherman’s rich baritone, brings the soul and spirit of gospel music into everything they perform. Equally gripping is the rhythmic foundation laid down by Sherman’s bass playing and Popsy’s drumming, perfectly complimenting Wendell’s blues-soaked guitar solos and church-inspired piano playing. The band easily blends Saturday night’s roadhouse rock with gospel fervor and harmonies. The Holmes Brothers have won multiple Blues Music Awards and performed with the likes of Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Keith Richards, Al Green, Ben Harper, Levon Helm, and Odetta. The brothers’ recent Alligator release, Brotherhood, has been hailed as the greatest recording of their career.
Aside from the headliners, other acts that will be of interest to BluesNotes readers will be:
- Andy T & Nick Nixon Band, with special guest Anson Funderburgh
- Anthony Paule & Frank Bey
- Ayron Jones & The Way
- Ben Rice Trio
- Bill Rhoades’ Harmonica Blow-Off
- Blind Boy Paxton
- Chris O’Leary Band
- Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble
- Horace Trahan & the Ossun Express
- Jeffrey Broussard & Creole Cowboys
- Journey to Memphis Competition
- Kara Grainger
- Karen Lovely’s Prohibition Orchestra
- Leo “Bud” Welch
- Linda Hornbuckle
- Rae Gordon Band
- The Soul of John Black
- Ural Thomas & the Pain
- Yvette Landry Chris Bergson Band
- And many other fabulous blues acts yet to be announced
See the website at www.waterfrontbluesfest.com for complete information. Artists and schedule subject to change.
DME Blues Cruises
Delta Music Experience returns with their amazing blues cruises.
Thursday, July 3—Hoodoo Moon Cruise – 10:45 p.m.
Featuring: Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials, Blind Boy Paxton, Homemade Jamz, Bombino
This is a 21+ show.
Friday, July 4—Driftin’ Blues Cruise – 2:30 p.m.
Featuring: Commander Cody, Chris O’Leary Band, Soul of John Black
Saturday, July 5—Sail on Sister Cruise – 2:30 p.m.
Featuring: Duffy Bishop and Friends, Kara Grainger, Ellen Whyte & Albert Reda
Saturday, July 5—Rock the Boat Dance Cruise – 10:45 p.m.
Featuring: Sugaray Rayford Band, Chris Bergson, Andy T & Nick Nixon Band, and others TBA
Waterfront After Hours All-Stars
Catch some of the festival’s biggest acts at the after-hours concerts at the Marriott Hotel Ballroom.
Friday, July 4—“John Nemeth’s Memphis Grease Party” with the Bo-Keys, Duffy Bishop, Andy Stokes, and other special guests. (Additional headlining act to be announced)
Saturday, July 5—Maceo Parker, Lee Fields & The Expressions
Waterfront After Hours Jam
The WBF After Hours Series at Hotel Rose (formerly Hotel Fifty) has again been officially sanctioned as part of the event. For those of you who know, this developed from an acoustic solo/duo venue into a Portland-hosted musical “welcome wagon”, where touring artists could come together with locals in an intimate, invigorating environment.
The host band will, for the third time, be Dave Kahl, Carlton Jackson, and, either switching off or some combination of Lloyd Jones and Chris Carlson. Admission is free and it’s always a great time.
4-day passes are on sale now for $60. Or invest in a Buddy Pass, for $120, which gets you early entry, guaranteed re-entry to Festival, exclusive Buddy T-shirt and button, and discount to after-hours Allstars concerts by Maceo Parker, Lee Fields & the Impressions, John Németh & the Bo-Keys. Visit waterfrontbluesfest.com for information on passes and updates on lineup.
Oregon Food Bank announced safety updates for the 27th annual Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival presented by First Tech Federal Credit Union. In keeping with best practices for events and festivals around the nation, updates include (but are not limited to) no hard-sided coolers, no large blankets or tarps, no high-backed chairs, limited outside beverages and one bag smaller than 16x16x8 in. Check website for more information.
Final Words of Wisdom
“Don’t miss what’s sure to be Portland’s festival / concert experience of the summer. This is THE concert deal of the summer and a great way to support Oregon Food Bank! You’ll need a Festival Pass for Spectacular Sunday. And it all goes to help Oregon Food Bank fight hunger and its root causes,” Peter Dammann said.