I know it seems soon.
New Orleans has taken a lot from Portland this week — dignity, to name one thing — with the Pelicans’ painful dismantling of the Trail Blazers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Pelicans stunned Portland twice in the Rose City to open the series. Then New Orleans delivered a 17-point shellacking in their house, nearly extinguishing what at once (perhaps foolishly) seemed like high hopes for the Blazers.
But for all the Big Easy has taken from Portland this week, it has also given back in abundance.
Soul’d Out Music Festival attendees have reaped the grand rewards of New Orleans’ rich musical tradition.
That includes R&B musician PJ Morton, a New Orleans native who played the Aladdin on Friday. He’s a big-time Pelicans fan.
The team became the Pelicans in 2013. Prior to then, they were the Hornets after relocating from Charlotte, North Carolina.
“The Hornets were always Charlotte to me,” Morton told OPB. “I couldn’t really get on-board.”
Since the name-change, though, the Pelicans have gradually improved. This year is just their second time in the postseason and the city has gravitated toward the team.
“It feels like it’s ours,” Morton said.
They’ve become part of the city’s culture once threatened by the storm. Morton, who had left New Orleans after high school, returned in 2015, 10 years after Katrina.
“I started to feel a yearning for more purpose in my life and my career,” he said.
He started his own label there and joined his hometown’s resurgence.
And cities like Portland enjoy the fruits of that effort when New Orleans products like Morton, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, and Rebirth Brass Band, who played Revolution Hall on Friday, come through town.
So yes, New Orleans roughed us up this week, Portland. Let’s just be thankful they also provided musicians to replenish our soul.
Visually, PJ Morton took the audience zooming back to the 1970s. His backup singers wore mustard yellow, his bassist dressed in all brown and Morton sported a mahogany-colored suit — all surrounded by a swirling flower light show cutting through hazy pinks, blues, greens and yellows. The show had the color palette of your favorite Portland vintage store. Screams of “OW” and “YES” and “TELL ‘EM, PJ” punctuated Morton’s every note. He has a soothing brand of R&B and so much control over his voice it forces the crowd to lose control of theirs. — Bradley W. Parks
“Y’all like soooouuul music?” Leela James growled from the Aladdin stage Friday. The crowd did, in fact, like soul music, so it was soul music they received. James brought incredible energy to an opening set that featured no backup band, sometimes leaning so far over the edge of the stage into the crowd it seemed like she’d dive right in. James reminisced about the “backyard boogie parties” her family held when she was growing up in Los Angeles. So instead of jumping into the crowd, she brought the crowd to her — pulling people up on stage for a boogie party of her own. James apologized when her Rose City boogie party ended; it was her first time here, but she had to go. James promised to return to Portland, next time with a full band in tow. “Y’all know you got a beautiful city?” she said. Yeah, Leela, we do. Come back any time. — Bradley W. Parks
Rebirth Brass Band
Revolution Hall couldn’t stop moving, dancing and partaking in the spirit of the crescent grooves of New Orleans’ own Rebirth Brass Band Friday night during Soul’d Out Music Fest. There were no takeaway cups but the packed show tried its best to replicate the good vibes and festival atmosphere of New Orleans. Onstage, alone with her guitar, Moorea Masa started the night off, singing a soulful palette of original songs to warm the crowd up. Then came the horns, chants and waves of the second line mixed with soul and jazz that has become the staple of Rebirth allure. There was even a little ragging from the band about their Pelicans being up 3-0 on the Blazers (there was a broom mentioned). The legendary Rebirth Brass Band invited a few people over for music in Southeast Portland Friday night, and no one has ever said New Orleans didn’t know how to throw a party. — David Stuckey