Blues Festival mixes big names with local talent

Waterfront Blues Festival

There are more than 80 acts scheduled to play at the Waterfront Blues Festival

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — There are more than 80 acts scheduled to play at the Waterfront Blues Festival over the next four days — with big headliners like Robert Cray and Trombone Shorty.

But the Blues Festival also plays a huge role in the local music scene.

Festival organizers work hard to bring in local talent and give those musicians an opportunity on the big stages.

Waterfront Blues Festival Artistic Director Peter Dammann. (KOIN)

“At the moment there’s really no other big event around that heavily relies on local musicians,” Blues Festival artistic director Peter Dammann said.

Dammann spends months curating the perfect lineup for the festival.

“Half the acts that appear on our stages are local and regional acts,” he said.

Saeda Wright has been on stage at the Blues Festival before, singing backup on different projects.

“The Blues Fest is — it’s been a major part of my life. It’s been around since I was a little girl,” Wright said. “You think ‘One day I’ll be on that stage’ and to get there — it’s like wow, what you know.”

This year Wright is debuting her own band.

Blues musician Saeeda Wright. (KOIN)

“It’s full circle for me I think, and especially the fact that it is, it’s local and it’s this beautiful mix,” she said. “Like you know you’re gonna get great acts from around the world but you’re gonna see Portland talent showcased.”

Talent like Arietta Ward, daughter of the late Janice Scroggins, a beloved gospel blues pianist.

“Arietta sorta grew up at the Blues Festival,” Dammann said.

“I was at the first one, I was 10,” Ward said. “To be on there and kicking off the day, it’s really surreal. I’m excited.”

Full coverage of the Blues Festival

All the artists say the Blues Festival is a homecoming of sorts.

“I wanna see my friends get up there and do their thing,” Wright said.

“You’re able to connect with other artists, but you also see your friends,” Ward said. “Like ‘oh your playing over there, I’m gonna come over after my set.'”

Dammann said he’s looking forward to see the mix of acts this year.

“I think it’s going to be an amazing experience,” Wright said. “We’re gonna kill it and we’re gonna sing our hearts out.”

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