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Marina Crouse at Waterfront Blues Festival

About Us

History

The festival began in 1987 as the Rose City Blues Festival – a concert to support our local homeless population, sponsored by the Cascade Blues Association. Performers included John Lee Hooker, the Paul deLay Band, Curtis Salgado, Norman Sylvester Blues Band, and Lloyd Jones Struggle.

The countdown to the annual Blues Festival began in 1988 when Oregon Food Share, predecessor to Oregon Food Bank, became producer and beneficiary. That year, the festival raised $7,500 and 650 pounds of food. In 1991, the festival was renamed the Waterfront Blues Festival.

Over 3 decades, the festival has steadily grown and is now recognized as one of the world’s premier blues festivals. Since 1988, the festival has raised more than $10 million and over 1,000 tons of food to support those facing hunger.

Local artist, Gary Houston, has been providing the signature look through his scratchboard art over the years. Check out past posters here.

In January 2018, the Oregon Food Bank decided to step away from the role of owning and producing the festival, handing over the management and ownership to longtime festival production partners, Waterfront Blues Production, LLC.

The Waterfront Blues Festival has earned many honors and awards over the years, including:

  • 2020 Oregon Festival and Events Association’s Ovation Award for Oregon’s Music Festival of the Year.
  • 2019 Best Festival and Best Outdoor Event in Willamette Week’s ‘Best of Portland’ reader’s poll. 
  • 2018 Oregon Festival and Events Association’s Ovation Award for Oregon’s Best Festival, Civic Celebration or Community Event.
  • Travel Portland President’s Award, recognizing the festival for its valuable contributions to Portland’s visitor industry.
  • Listed as one of the top ten festivals in the United States by Essential Travel Magazine in the UK.
  • Named one of the best outdoor music festivals by Outside Magazine.
  • Cascade Blues Association [CBA] Muddy Award for Best Northwest Blues Event (Received so many years running, the CBA retired the festival from the category in 2012).
  • Numerous CBA Muddy Awards for Northwest Blues Performance of the Year (Buddy Guy, Kevin Selfe & the Tornadoes Big Band, Paul deLay Tribute, among many others). 
  • Peter Dammann, festival Artistic Director: Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Blues Promoter of the Year; Cascade Blues Association’s Lifetime Achievement, Back What You Believe In, and Guitarist of the Year awards; inductee of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.

Past Lineups

The festival has brought blues, soul, roots, and rock legends to Portland’s Waterfront Park, many of whom made their Northwest debuts at our festival. The festival introduced such legends as Little Milton, Irma Thomas, Solomon Burke and Isaac Hayes, as well as up-and-comers Gary Clark, Jr. and Trombone Shorty, to Portland audiences for the first time. The festival main stage has been a launching pad for numerous regional acts, some of whom, like Liv Warfield have moved on to international venues, awards and careers.

Here’s a partial list of musicians who have graced our stages:

Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Luther Allison, Solomon Burke, Gregg Allman, Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters, Steve Miller Band, George Thorogood & the Destroyers, The Mavericks, Taj Mahal, Mavis Staples, John Hiatt, James Cotton, Booker T & the MGs, Irma Thomas, Little Milton, Dr. John, Robert Cray, Charlie Musselwhite, Little Feat, the Neville Brothers, Keb Mo, Robben Ford, Magic Slim, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Trombone Shorty, Gary Clark Jr., Joe Bonamassa, Phoebe Snow, Isaac Hayes, Blind Boys of Alabama, Eric Burdon & the Animals, JJ Grey, Dan Hicks, Delbert McClinton, Doyle Bramhall, Los Lobos, Jonny Lang, J. Geils, Bobby Rush, Bobby Blue Bland, Honeyboy Edwards, The Chambers Brothers, Junior Wells, John Mayall, Gatemouth Brown, Johnny Copeland, Lucinda Williams, Jimmie Rogers, Fenton Robinson, Floyd Dixon, and hometown stars such as Curtis Salgado, Paul deLay, Linda Hornbuckle, Lloyd Jones and Janice Scroggins.

Meet Our Crew

SOUTH STAGE

NORTH STAGE

FRONT PORCH STAGE

PDX Community College

CROSSROADS STAGE

WE LOVE OUR VOLUNTEERS!

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Waterfront Blues Festival

3121 S. Moody Ave., Suite 150
Portland, OR 97239

Copyright © 1987-2021 Waterfront Blues Festival. All rights reserved.