Many of Oregon’s beloved music festivals are coming back this summer after taking a hiatus during the worst of the pandemic. OPB Music Director Jerad Walker joins us to talk about some of the bands and artists he’s most excited to hear live on stage as the weather gets warmer.
Note: The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Jenn Chávez: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Jenn Chávez. Many of Oregon’s beloved music festivals are coming back this summer after taking a hiatus earlier on in the pandemic. Perhaps like some of you, I spent those early days sitting on my couch in my apartment sorely missing the transcendent experience of seeing live music, which is why I’m so pleased to have OPB Music Director Jerad Walker here to fill us all in on some of the bands and artists he’s most excited to hear live on stage as the weather gets warmer. Jerad, welcome to the show.
Jerad Walker: Thank you so much for having me, Jenn.
Chávez: Yeah, I’m so excited to chat with you. So let’s get right to it. First, the Waterfront Blues Festival is coming up in Portland over the July 4th weekend, and this is a longstanding festival that’s been around since the late ‘80s. What did the last two years look like for the Blues Fest?
Walker: It’s been a bit of a chaotic adventure for them, like everyone in the festival business. They did not have an event at the onset of the pandemic in 2020 – canceled it altogether. Then the following year, they had a pared down event at a different location away from the traditional spot, which is Tom McCall Waterfront Park near downtown Portland. This year it’s a full return to Waterfront Park, and they’re hoping to do something that resembles the traditional event.
Chávez: Well, great. With the festival fully back in action this year, who are some of the headliners on the lineup?
Walker: They’ll have headliners like Taj Mahal and Grace Potter and regional mainstays that a lot of people in the Northwest will recognize like Curtis Salgado. So, it’s going to look like the traditional lineup that you’ve probably seen throughout the last few years before the pandemic hit as well.
Chávez: Cool. And who are you really excited to see at the Waterfront Blues Fest this year?
Walker: Well, my own personal experience at festivals I think mirrors a lot of folks. You get brought in to the event by the headliners, but the undercards – the bands you may not know or the bands that you may not have been drawn to the festival for – are oftentimes the big surprises and the highlights. One artist for the Waterfront Blues Festival that I think kind of fits that bill is Adia Victoria. She is based out of Tennessee and has just an incredibly powerful and atmospheric brand of southern gothic blues. This is a song called ‘Magnolia Blues’ that I’m going to share with you. It comes from her 2021 release, which is appropriately titled ‘A Southern Gothic.’
Chávez: Ooh, I love that. It’s just like, I feel like I’m flying through the clouds listening to that. Thank you for sharing that Jerad. Next up, the following weekend, is the Oregon Country Fair. That’s in Veneta about 13 miles west of Eugene. Before we dig in, I think some folks maybe know of the Oregon Country Fair already. But, for the uninitiated, what is the Oregon Country Fair all about exactly?
Walker: This is the mother of all hippy dippy festivals. It was founded in 1969, and it has its roots firmly entrenched in the counterculture movement of the late ‘60s. It’s got a sprawling program with everything from spoken word poets to dance troupes and circus acts performing, but music has always been the centerpiece.
Chávez: And the fair has been fully on hiatus for the past two years, right?
Walker: Yes, this is the grand return.
Chávez: Who are you looking forward to seeing at the Oregon Country Fair most this year?
Walker: I’m singling out the Portland band Sávila. This is a project made up of well-known musicians in the Portland music scene: Fabi Reyna, Papi Fimbres, Brisa Gonzalez. They play dreamy, rhythmic, Latin-inspired music. Their most recent release was heavily influenced by the sound of Oaxaca, which is a state in southern Mexico that has a glorious and unique cultural tradition. It doesn’t sound, taste or look like the rest of Mexico. The song I wanted to share from this band is called ‘La Conquista’ and it comes from that new EP which is called ‘Mayahuel.’
Chávez: Okay, love that. I love the guitar style on that, and I have to thank you for sharing some Mexican-inspired music with me specifically. Thank you so much. A bit later in July is the Northwest String Summit in North Plains, just a bit west of Portland. It is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. What kind of music can people typically expect from this festival?
Walker: This is a roots and bluegrass inspired event. You’ll see headliners like the more traditional Del McCoury Band who play a very traditional brand of bluegrass music. Del is a legendary 83-year-old, second generation bluegrass musician. But you’ll also hear jammier, more modern inspired bands like Yonder Mountain String Band.
Chávez: And tell us about what you are excited to see at the String Summit this year.
Walker: I am excited about the band Fruition. This is another Portland outfit. They have quietly become one of the biggest bands in Oregon in the past decade, almost entirely on the back of their live performances, which are really high energy, rootsy, and they fit in that really jammy kind of rock-and-roll vibe I was talking about earlier. They have a rabid fan base. I’m gonna play a song from a new live album that just came out that was recorded at Visual Arts Collective in Boise, Idaho. This is Fruition with a song called ‘Falling on My Face.’
Chávez: Yeah, you were right. That is a very live music vibe. Thank you for sharing that Jerad. Just moving on a little bit further into August, we have got Pickathon returning to Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley. And that’s after a two year hiatus as well. This festival usually kind of runs the gamut, right? What are the different types of music that people can usually hear at Pickathon?
Walker: I think this is probably the most eclectic lineup that you’re going to find in the state, maybe even the entire country. They have everything from bluegrass to hip hop to metal. I’ve seen all of those on Pendarvis Farm in the last few years, and this lineup is no different. Notably, country musician Margo Cilker, who has roots in Eastern Oregon, is on the bill this year. But I’m really excited about the international contingent of musicians who are in the lineup.
Chávez: Yeah, tell us more about who you are excited to see from that international lineup at Pickathon this summer.
Walker: Hip hop artist Sampa the Great is probably number one in my mind. She was born in Zambia, raised in Botswana, has spent time in the United States and now is based in Australia: truly a world citizen. Simply put, she is one of the most electric rappers in the world. This song is called ‘Final Form’ and it comes from her 2019 record ‘The Return.’
Chávez: Okay, I love that. I am a big hip hop fan. I was dancing along in the studio when that sample came in. I was like, ‘Ooh, what is this?’ Thank you Jerad.
Walker: It’s an incredible performance, and I’m so excited to see her perform live.
Chávez: Yeah. And who else are you excited to see at Pickathon?
Walker: Another international band – a group called Wet Leg. This is a duo from the Isle of Wight in England. They have just exploded onto the rock scene in the past year. That doesn’t happen very often anymore with the rise of the internet, but they’ve just sort of caught everybody by surprise. Their debut record just came out, and this song that I’m going to share from that band is a track called ‘Chaise Longue’ which is just irreverent, fun and probably very indicative of what you want to hear at a summer festival soundtrack.
Chávez: Okay, those are both really fun picks. Thank you for sharing a little bit more about Pickathon. We have covered some big ones: music festivals truly are a time honored summer tradition in Oregon. Jerad, are there any other festivals that you want to mention for folks before we wrap up?
Walker: Yeah. Coming up later in the year in late July, there’s the Oregon Jamboree, which is a giant country music festival in Sweet Home, Oregon, in Linn County, Oregon. Then in Portland in August is Portland Hip Hop Week, which is a grand celebration of Portland’s hip hop scene and impact in the community here in Portland; that begins on August 20. PDX Pop Now! is my final pick that I would let people know about. It’s a volunteer-run festival that highlights mostly independent Portland music, and that starts on August 22.
Chávez: Cool. And I just want to ask, Jerad: you personally, as a music fan, how do you feel, being able to be back out at outdoor fests?
Walker: I don’t quite know how I’m going to react. I haven’t been to a multi-day event like any of these in two years. I’ve been to a sparing amount of live shows in the Portland area as well. So, I hope the excitement is as fun and joyous as my anticipation has made it out to be in my mind.
Chávez: Well, thank you so much for sharing some of that anticipation with us, too. Jerad, thank you for being with us today. I’ve been speaking with OPB Music Director Jerad Walker.
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