So last weekend, about 100,000 of my closest friends and I braved the wilting 90-degree heat to get a crash course in boogie at the 22nd Safeway Waterfront Blues Fest. For newbies like myself, the immensity and scope of the fest can be rather daunting, what with some 30,000 fans in attendance each day and the constant barrage of music—ranging from Appalachian trance blues to zydeco—at five stages (about 30 performances a day). But once I found a comfy spot to squat—in between a 70-year-old woman madly gyrating just a little too close to my face, and the funky toddler busting out his first rudimentary dance moves—it became glaringly obvious that the blues fest has absurdly broad appeal and that everyone is welcome, even if you aren’t familiar with the complete works of Muddy Waters or Mississippi John Hurt.

After a few acts (and a few drinks), dancing to washboards, slide guitar, and harmonica felt like second nature to me, and it was easy to forget that the whole reason (or at least a big reason) we were all there was for the Oregon Food Bank. And thanks to the thousands of fans and wannabe fans (like myself), $544,638 was raised along with 76,363 pounds of food to help out Oregonians in need. With marquee attractions like ‘Keb ‘Mo and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings spreading the message in a saunalike setting, it’s no wonder the fest is crammed with attendees year after year. If you missed out this year, be sure to mark your calendars (in Sharpie!) for next time, ’cause there’s no reason to be shy and there’s plenty of room to move.
Are your ears twitching for more? For the true-blue, die-hard fan, there’s more coverage of the fest coming soon in our web-exclusive slide show.
—Megan Udow