The River City Music Festival in Portland over this past weekend proved the joy of smaller, more intimate Bluegrass festivals, and confirmed the passion of large festivals like BeanBlossom, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and RockyGrass.
The River City Festival has diversified a bit from its first six years (beginning in 2001). This year, the Festival has been renamed and expanded to the River City Music Festival, and is set to be inviting to Bluegrass, Acoustic and Americana music fans. It has also made a change of venue from the Portland Civic Center to the Jantzen Beach Red Lion Inn.
Due to the fact that this is a non-profit festival, it seems that the advertising of artists was a bit scanty. Early on Saturday morning, the Bluegrass Regulators, a great semi-local band played, but their show was not extremely well attended, as they had not been advertised on the major posters and news releases about the Festival. Additionally, Vince Gill played with the Time Jumpers, a group of Bluegrass session musicians who sporadically appear at Bluegrass festivals. Another sorry loss was missing Cindy Cashdollar (on Dobro) and Laurie Lewis (on fiddle) who played as part of Dave Alvin’s side group, The Guilty Women.
Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, and the Infamous Stringdusters received great coverage. Tim O’Brien and Bryan Sutton also got good coverage. All of these shows were extremely well attended, and the artists seemed happy to meet and greet people after their shows.
Across the board, the picking was some of the very best. Adding to the Bluegrass ambience were the plethora of jam sessions going on in hotel lobbies, hallways and corners. Workshops abounded on Saturday, and were extremely popular.
Like the larger festivals, there were many vendors, and chances to register to win a Martin HD-28 or a Nechville Saturn LC Banjo. They had a great selection of t-shirts, caps, and jackets. The biggest difference between this festival and the bigger festivals was price, and the weather. Besides the chance to get a great Bluegrass fix in the middle of winter, the prices for the tickets, and merchandise and food was much more reasonable than many of the larger festivals.