Well, things are sure going to pot this past month, and I don’t mean anything about the legalization of marijuana in the state. I mean things are definitely going downhill. Quickly.
I thought my personal woes at the Waterfront Blues Festival were bad, tweeking my back the morning of July 2, right before heading out for the day and starting the four-day event. Oh what pain! I could barely move between the two stages I was announcing at and spent most of my time those first couple days in the VIP area sitting. Went through ice packs, medication, massage, lots of water, and adult alcoholic beverages available in the VIP area. But it was too much to handle much movement and I missed a good deal of the festival happening on the Brewery Stage. No Gregg Allman, no Jaimoe, no Dave & Phil Alvin, no King Louie’s Blues Revue or anything else I would have wanted to see. And I wasn’t able to hang out with my friends who show up once a year and that really smarted.
But it is nothing compared to the news the week before of the death of Cascade Blues Association Hall of Fame member Jimmy Lloyd Rea. A good friend that due to his living on the opposite side of the state meant that we didn’t see much of each other. But I will never forget him and the stories he would tell me of things like the Ann Arbor Blues Festival and the musicians he had performed with. He saw a lot in me. Enough that he nominated me for and pushed my induction into the (online) Blues Hall of Fame. This was quite an honor, but I never felt comfortable with this recognition. The others who were inducted in Oregon were people like Lloyd Jones, Bill Rhoades and Jim Mesi for example. These people had given their entire lives and careers in performing the blues. I was just a writer, a photographer and a blues society president. I didn’t belong alongside these people. So I recanted my induction, assured if I were to ever change my mind that I would be reinstated. I still do not feel any differently. But thank you Jimmy Lloyd Rea. You were a top notch friend and I am going to miss you.
The second biggest blow happened right at BluesNotes deadline. We had heard the month prior about the confirmation of the rumor of the closing of Highway 99 in Seattle. Heaven forbid that such would befall a major venue in Portland. Halibut’s was closing but they seem to have a new location already found. But when word was received that The Lehrer was being forced to close their doors, it was like having all of the wind knocked out of you. This was the Muddy Award winning venue of the year. This was an owner that not only pushed for people to come to his club, but supported other venues by patronizing them and musicians by scouting them out before they made a pitch to play at his room. A friendly staff, a large dance floor, good food and great music. Why weren’t people coming out? Here or anywhere else? Sure, the summer months are busy, so much going on. But that doesn’t explain the rest of the year. Huge kudos to Brad Lehrer for making this a go-to spot. He did his best to survive, but anybody who has run a music venue knows already that you’re in it for the love, don’t expect to see profits. Yet he tried and alas we’re seeing another of the best venues in town close its doors.
Don’t bemoan another club closure if you didn’t help support those venues. It’s easy to sit back and say how bad it is that another one has closed. But they would survive if you would make the effort to go to the shows they offer. Brad Lehrer brought in acts, taking chances on little known in our area bands and touring acts that should’ve been seen. I have seen it other places as well. Ten people showing up to a national act playing in town for the first time, while venues offering a free jam pack the place out. You do realize that despite Portland’s reputation for being a blues city, a lot of the touring acts note this as well and decide that it might not be in their best interest to come here. Prevent that from happening, and prevent venues we love from closing. Get out there and see live music. Take a chance on somebody you’re not familiar with. Pay a little cover. You may find somebody that really rocks your boat. It is worth it.