PELA’s Trip to the Blues Festival

PELA at the Blues Festival

PELA students and teachers at the Waterfront Blues Festival!

Last Friday, a bunch of us went to the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival in Downtown Portland. We had a GREAT time, we listened to some AMAZING music, and we helped a GOOD CAUSE!

What is a “Blues Festival?”

A music festival is much bigger than a concert; festivals are usually an entire day, or many days, and there are many different performers.

Students waiting for the music to start

You can see the Hawthorne Bridge behind us!

The Waterfront Blues Festival happens every year in Waterfront Park in downtown Portland.  It is a HUGE, outdoor music festival.  Musicians and bands come from around Portland, around the United States, and around the world to play different kinds of blues music.

Waterfront Blues Festival Stage

People wait for the show to start at one of the festival stages.

Students with drinks at the Waterfront Blues Festival

Students and teachers ready to watch some great music after classes on Friday.

You can listen to music and dance, buy food or drinks, and buy music and meet performers.  The Waterfront Blues Festival helps the Oregon Food Bank raise thousands of dollars every year: every ticket that people buy gives money.  This year, the Oregon Food Bank raised over ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

PELA student next to Oregon Food Bank sign

A PELA students poses next to a sign: The Oregon Food Bank had already raised $200,000 in the first day!

What is the Oregon Food Bank?

The Oregon Food Bank is a charity.  Charities help people in different ways:  giving food, clothes, or other help that people cannot pay for by themselves.  Many families in Oregon need help with food, and the Oregon Food Bank gives food to people that need it.

PELA students volunteering at Oregon Food Bank

PELA students have volunteered at the Oregon Food Bank many times!

PELA students volunteering at Oregon Food Bank

Students working with other volunteers to pack fresh food.

PELA students volunteering at Oregon Food Bank

Our most recent trip volunteering at the food bank.

Many people help the Oregon Food Bank by donating (giving) money, or by volunteering (giving their time) for different projects.  If you are interested in volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank, you can follow this link, or talk to Luke at the front desk.

What is “blues music?”

Blues music is one of the oldest types of American music.  It has sounds from many different cultures’ music, but it was first performed by slaves and ex-slaves in the American South as work songs.  Because there are many cultures that live in the United States, blues music had sounds from many different places, including gospel (church songs), African chants and rhythms, and could use many different instruments from Europe and Africa or just clapping, slapping, and stomping.  It was illegal for slaves to read and write, and many songs were not written down; people remembered songs and added small changes.  As time passed, one song would change and be sung many different ways.

As slavery ended and many people started moving around the country, different types of blues were created in different parts of the United States.  Some of the most well-known styles of blues include:

Delta Blues – Named after the Mississippi Delta, blues music started here.  Delta Blues is usually played by one person on guitar, sometimes with a harmonica.  Listen to John Lee Hooker sing Delta Blues.

Piedmont Blues – Musicians moved to the East Coast and added other types of music to the blues, such as early jazz and ragtime.  Listen to Blind Boy Fuller sing Piedmont Blues.

Chicago Blues – As Delta Blues moved north, it began to change.  Guitars became electrified.  Musicians began to play with a band.  Listen to Muddy Waters sing some Chicago Blues.

I missed the festival!  Where can I see live music?


Music festivals are a great place to see a lot of bands in one place!


Go out and explore! Meet new people!

Portland is a GREAT place to see all different kinds of music, from folk to rock to rap to blues.  There are many performers from around the world, too!

If you are interested in seeing live music, here are some great resources:

Blues Music

Music Festivals Around Oregon

  • MFNW: Project Pabst – pop and alternative bands from around Portland and the United States.
  • Warped Tour – punk, rock, alt-rock, and heavy metal bands from around the country.
  • What the Festival – electronic and dance music.  Unfortunately, it’s in June!  Try next year.
  • Pickathon – indie, folk, and roots music.  A HUGE, 4-day festival!
  • Oregon Country Fair – unusual music, food, art, and performances, this is a very unique festival!

Other Music around Portland – Pop/Hip-hop/Rock, etc.

  • The Portland Mercury and Willamette Week have LIVE music calendars with many different types of music.  Sometimes you can find a band’s webpage and listen to their music, too!

If you have more questions about the music in Portland, ask in the comments section, below!