PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — There are some big names headlining the Waterfront Blues Festival starting on Thursday, including Robert Cray, Curtis Salgado and Shemekia Copeland.
But many of the earlier acts have a history of wowing the crowds.
“The first couple of slots every day are always filled with these acts that may be new to festival-goers, but then become fast favorites that folks discover,” Blues Fest organizer Christina Fuller said.
The artistic director for the festival, Peter Dammann, spends countless hours looking for new artists who will wow the crowd.
“I’ve spent a lot of time going out to clubs, kind of checking out new acts,” he said.
Music Millennium’s Terry Currier said Dammann’s talent has led to the discovery of several artists.
“Peter does a really incredible job at curating the festival,” Currier said.
Some of Dammann’s discoveries are returning to the festival this year as headlines — like Trombone Shorty, who first played on a Blues Cruise in 2008.
At the time, Trombone Shorty was barely out of high school and no one knew who he was. Then, he returned two years later to play the main stage.
“We’ve been trying to get him back ever since,” Dammann said. “His career’s taken off.”
Currier described Trombone Shorty’s music as unique.
“It’s got funk to it. It’s got rock to it. It’s got jazz to it,” Currier told KOIN 6 News. “He took the best of all those elements and put together an incredible band.”
Also returning to the Waterfront Blues Festival is Georgia sisters, Larkin Poe.
“They sing well together, they play well together,” Dammann said. “You know, they have this chemistry. They’re both really fun to watch.”
Larkin Poe played the Blues Festival in 2018 and their career has taken off, according to Dammann.
But the festival’s greatest discovery may be a guitar player from Mississippi.
“And his name is Christone Kingfish Ingram, and everybody knows him as just Kingfish,” Currier said.
The teen sensation first played at the Blues Fest in 2015. He’s known as the new “young savior of the blues.”
“Probably is going to have the most impact on music since the days of Stevie Ray Vaughn,” Currier said. “He is that good.”
Kingfish will perform on the North State on Sunday night.
“If anybody hasn’t seen Kingfish, they need to come down to the festival that day and see Kingfish.”