Pull out your floppiest hat; it’s time to replenish those tragically depleted vitamin D stores and languish in the sun all summer. And where better to do so than an outdoor concert? Here are some of the best happening in the Portland area over the next few months.
June 3 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Though it’s often covered in goose poop, Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a relatively nice place to see a concert. It’s miserable at high noon on a hot summer day, but we’ll talk about that later because this is a nighttime show. Sir Mix-a-Lot—Seattle rap icon and auteur of “Baby Got Back,” one of the greatest songs ever written—will hit the RoZone (I’m sorry for making you read that word but it’s what the Rose Festival calls its performance stage) for an unforgettable dip into 1980s hip-hop nostalgia under the light of the waxing moon.
Waterfront Blues Fest
June 30-July 4 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Submerge yourself in some midsummer blues at Portland’s annual Waterfront Blues Fest. It’s a five-day affair that, like all great things, ends in fireworks. This festival goes noon to 10 pm each day, so we’re gonna need to talk about the sunshine situation. It’s bad. You’ll sweat hard and deeply. You’ll become territorial under the spotty shade of trees. Prepare, my friends, or suffer. Let me tell you something else: The lineup is perplexing. I have no idea who invited Joss Stone and Canned Heat—all I can say is that I hope they share a green room. But the bill’s got some major highlights, like Vieux Farka Touré, Portland’s own Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles, and—wait for it—Chris motherfucking Isaak. Is he 60 years old and cheesy? Sure. Was he always cheesy? Another sure. Does my dad recall meeting him once in San Francisco, only to discover that he had (allegedly!) terrible B.O.? Third sure’s a charm. But I love this man so much. Isaak’s a crooner raised in the tradition of the elder crooners like Roy Orbison, which has allowed him to produce such incredible songs as “Wicked Game” and “Blue Spanish Sky.” I will be front row with a foam #1 finger, see you there.
Cathedral Park Jazz Festival
July 14-16 at Cathedral Park
Everything about the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival seems chill. It’s three days of free music in a spectacular park under the St. Johns Bridge. It’s the longest running jazz and blues festival west of the Mississippi. Pictures from years past depict sun-drunk concertgoers sprawled out on blankets and lounging in lawn chairs on a grassy knoll. Plus, there’s nonstop jazz! No word on the sun exposure situation—proceed with caution.
PDX Pop Now!
July 21-23 at AudioCinema
PDX Pop Now! is Portland's premiere all-ages festival. The three-day event takes place every year at AudioCinema under the Hawthorne Bridge, with outdoor stages, food and beer, a record fair, and Rigsketball—a sport that's like basketball, but the hoop is attached to the back of a van. They haven't announced the lineup yet, but last year's featured up-and-coming local acts like Summer Cannibals and Maze Koroma.
August 3-6 at Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley
Plan your entire summer around Pickathon. The festival takes place at one of the most beautiful places on Earth—there’s a striking view of Mount Hood, and its green meadows back up to dense woods where people camp and swing around in hammocks and do other weird shit for a whole weekend. Not to mention the music: Pickathon veteran Ty Segall is basically the festival’s mascot or troll or something. This year’s lineup also features Charles Bradley, Jonathan Richman, Xenia Rubinos, and up-and-coming local acts like Tyus and the Last Artful, Dodgr. I’m convinced this is festival utopia—the lineup is eclectic, the setting is an enchanted forest, and the attendees are too stoned out of their gourds to be rude.
MusicfestNW Presents: Project Pabst
August 26 & 27 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park
For years, the annual MusicfestNW would descend upon Portland’s venues for a week of concerts that had local music fans bouncing all over the city. It was a glorious time, but in 2014, this era came to an end. The festival moved to Tom McCall Waterfront Park and in 2016 merged with Project Pabst to form MusicfestNW Presents: Project Pabst, or, “ProjaMusaPabstFestNW,” as Mercury Senior Editor Ned Lannamann once coined it. This lackluster union played out last year with an unexciting lineup (save for a few highlights like Ice Cube and Sheer Mag). This year’s festival looks much more promising, with everybody’s favorite leathery rock daddy Iggy Pop, up-and-coming Chicago rapper Noname, Portland post-punk band Lithics, and many more talented musicians gracing the bill.
ALL SUMMER LONG
Oregon Zoo Concerts
4001 Southwest Canyon
To be honest, I hate zoos—they bum me out. But if you’re interested in seeing musicians like Seu Jorge, John Prine, Aimee Mann, or Mac Demarco, the Oregon Zoo’s hosting evening concerts (many of which welcome all ages) from June through September.
Revolution Hall’s Sunset Series on the Roof Deck
1300 SE Stark
Revolution Hall’s roof deck makes me want a pair of binoculars. Not in a creepy Rear Window way, though—it’s just got a killer view of the city that I’d like to inspect up close. Imagine watching the sunset over the Portland skyline while listening to the heavenly chords of Avi Buffalo’s song “What’s In It For?” or Emma Ruth Rundle’s dark, brooding folk. This daydream could become a reality this summer, unless you’re deathly afraid of heights.
White Owl Social Club Outdoor Summer Concert Series
1305 SE 8th
Throughout the summer, the White Owl Social Club and XRAY.fm will host an outdoor concert series every week featuring Portland bands like Ah God and the Lavender Flu. Most of the shows will be free, except for a few in August with bigger-name, nonlocal headliners like Shannon and the Clams. Sip some cold booze and soak up these psychedelic vibes, my dudes.