Sunday, August 3, 2008

Long Overdue-Portland Waterfront Blues Fest-Photos by Charles Sterling

Well it was almost a month ago, so there's really no excuse for me not having written anything about it other than sheer laziness. I'll let the photos do most of the talking, but I'll just say that the three artists I heard while I was there were all fantastic, both to listen to and to watch perform live. Kristin's dad Chuck is somewhat of a shutterbug, so he took some great photos that I'm happy to share.

I love blues music so much; it's such an unbelievably fertile, uniquely American idiom that has served as the wellspring for so many styles and artists. Ever heard of jazz, rock'n'roll, or hip-hop? Without the blues they never could have existed. I'm not saying anything everyone doesn't already know, just emphasizing (as much for my own sake as anything else) why this music is so important. I think it's safe to say that, if some strange time warp incident were to wipe out blues music, music worldwide over the last century would be irrevocably wounded, unrecognizably different, and immeasurably poorer for its lack.

Enough words! On to the photos!

Gotta love a P-town waterfront music fest...

I had never heard her before, but I was so glad I was there to hear Ruthie Foster, a Texan whose soul/gospel/blues singing was absolutely riveting and honest, with no frills. Here are a couple of great photos of her:

Although I couldn'tt get it to rotate, I think this pic is great and worth turning your laptop sideways to look at.

Here are some pix of Portland's own soul diva Linda Hornbuckle. Her gospel set was nothing short of stunning. (That's the disadvantage of waiting so long to write something, expecially when I wasn't taking any notes. The specifics sort of fade...)

Linda and her gospel choir.

The real reason I came down on this blazing hot Sunday afternoon, however, was to see Phoebe Snow. I've loved her ever since I was a teenager. When I was younger, I always held my oldest sister Karrie as the coolest person in the world. I mean, she has the best taste in everything: music, clothes, movies, food, and always knows a lot about what she likes and thinks intensely about why she likes it (kind of like someone else I know...) She used to have me over to her house and we would go through her large collection of vinyl, listening to record after record. Through her I got into so much good music: The Beach Boys, CCR, Phoebe Snow, Leon Redbone, Taj Mahal, The Crazy 8s, The Fine Young Cannibals (before they got big), not to mention tons of great classical music, most of which she bequeathed to me and I've sadly lost through the years.

Phoebe Snow has such a distinctive voice. She did some jingles in the 80s and 90s after her career slowed down a bit, but she cracked jokes about that during the show, and even sang the Colon Blow jingle from SNL; that is one of my very favorite SNL faux commercials of all time. She sang at least two songs from her self-titled debut album, the one that I am so familiar with through my sister's collection. She sang Poetry Man and Harpo's Blues, and I think maybe one other from her really early years. My favorite songs of hers were always San Francisco Bay Blues and Either or Both, both from that first album with the white cover and the line drawing of Phoebe's face.

Her voice is incredible, not just for the sheer range of it but also because of the magnificent control whether she's in a simmering contralto or soaring in a stratospheric soprano. She just has an amazing instrument, and a keen understanding of how to use it; very unique and stylistic. Kristin's mom Suzie bought me Phoebe's Greatest Hits CD for a birthday present; definitely a great gift.

Some of these pix are sideways. Deal with it; I'm a music nerd, not a computer nerd.

I can still hear the lyrics from Either or Both in my head:

Sometimes my face is so funny, that I hide it behind a book.
Sometimes this face has so much class that I have to take a second look.

Never was a truer word spoken; those lines have stuck with me through my whole life, helping sustain me when I look in the mirror and want to run screaming in terror, and keep me humble when I find myself staring in the mirror at that handsome devil. Speaking of which devil...

Just so we all know I'm not a poseur, I'm living the motto espoused on my t-shirt there; that's a double fist of Deschutes Brewery's Green Lakes Organic Ale

One more good one of Phoebe's and I'm audi 5k.

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