Every Fourth of July weekend, the Waterfront Blues Festival takes over downtown Portland’s Waterfront Park. This Independence Day celebration of America’s most heartfelt musical genre has featured masters like the Steve Miller Band, Mavis Staples, Buddy Guy, Booker T, Lucinda Williams, Robert Plant, Taj Mahal Trio and more alongside acclaimed upstarts.
The 2018 lineup was headlined by George Thorgood and the Destroyers, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and Grammy-nominated singer Beth Hart (who also holds three nominations for the 2018 Blues Music Awards including best contemporary blues album and best contemporary blues female artist). Legendary singer and harmonica guru Curtis Salgado and two-time Muddy Award winner Kevin Selfe helped represent Portland’s plethora of local blues talent, while Portland’s Too Loose Cajun/Zydeco Band spiced things up with their brand of high-energy bayou grooves.
Wailing into the waters of the Willamette since 1987, this annual event is the largest blues festival west of the Mississippi and second biggest in the U.S. Four days of music bring thousands to the popular Portland park, where more than 30 acts jam from morning until night.
Midnight blues cruises, late-night dances and after-hours shows help spread the music all over town. But, no doubt, the biggest scene is on the waterfront, where festive sunbathers soak in the tunes, stretch out on blankets and dance on the grass while the talented musicians fill the air with blues and everything benefits the Oregon Food Bank.