Miller Stage at Blues Fest

The Waterfront Blues Festival is a dream for blues enthusiasts, but as Blues Fest veterans know, it encompasses other genres as well.

On Thursday, attendees moved and grooved to the sounds of Soul Vaccination. Vocalist Regina K showcased her powerful Chaka Kahn-esque voice, covering Chaka’s songs “Once You Get Started” and “You Got the Love.” Portland-based Paul Creighton, whose voice is somewhat redolent of Adam Levine, took the mic to cover soul standards like “So Very Hard to Go.” The horn section swayed in rhythm as fans cheered. The band felt honored to be joined by organist Chester Thompson. His raw talent amazed the crowd. As a former organist for Tower of Power, and for Santana spanning 26 years, Thompson brought extraordinary experience to the table.

The Dusty 45s immediately followed. They brought a little bit of country and a little bit of rock and roll to the stage. Readers of Seattle Weekly voted them “Best of Seattle” three years in a row. Lead vocalist Billy Joe Huels, who slightly resembles Buddy Holly, played Holly in a theater production recently. He said it was his first acting venture and his last.

If you’ve never seen March Fourth Marching Band, you’re missing out on a highly entertaining show. They are not a traditional marching band. Think circus meets Mardi Gras. In fact, the band began at a Fat Tuesday party in Portland on March 4, 2003.

With the band sporting flashy marching band uniforms and the dancers wearing burlesque-style dresses, the band is definitely keeping Portland weird. One member wearing a King Tut Egyptian headdress moved around so much, you wondered how he had enough breath to play the flute.

Music ranged from calypso to ’80s funk, all with a marching band beat. But the most awe-inspiring part of the act was the stilt walkers. They didn’t just walk – they danced, performed acrobatics, back bends, walkovers and other gymnastic moves. With such little room on stage, they require precise timing and positioning, and they did not disappoint.

The band also invited onto the stage kids from Joy Now Arts Project, a performance program for youth ages 5 – 18, which is taught by members of March 4th, or M4 as they call themselves. The program includes after school classes, summer camps and workshops.

M4 mentioned their recent trip to China, where they served as “ambassadors” by touring China’s Henan Province on a U.S. State Department diplomatic cultural exchange. They will also film a movie about their adventure in the Far East.

Another exciting piece of news for M4 is that their song “Gospel” from their 2009 release Rise Up was featured in Disney/Pixar’s “Monsters University.” The tune played twice in the movie and in the closing credits.

It was announced that the fireworks show would be delayed, as the fire department had to respond to a fire before showing up at the Blues Fest. Anticipation grew, yet M4 kept the crowd entertained by playing two encore songs.

Once everything was in place, Linda Hornbuckle executed a beautiful rendition of the national anthem. Her trumpet player accompanied her by playing a trumpet literally on fire. The excitable crowd appreciated the bold move.

The night ended in a brilliant fireworks display over the Willamette River, firing up the crowd and raising American pride.

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