FRANKIE BEVERLY OF MAZE Keller Auditorium, 4/12

YOU'D BE hard pressed to define soul music in a way that does it justice. If cornered, I'd probably do what most people do and pinpoint soul at that intersection of gospel and R&B, that fertile ground somewhere between Memphis and Chicago and Muscle Shoals, that spark that burned white-hot in the middle of the '60s, surrounded by Motown pop and the civil rights movement and Soul on Ice and Miles and Coltrane and the decline of the blues. If it's music about being black, it's also music about finding love and god—or if not god, at least the way to transcend earthly confines, either through sex or dancing or yearning for a brighter tomorrow... and if you get right down to it, isn't that what almost every kind of music is about?

Sure. Let's say that it is. That's the approach the organizers of the Soul'd Out Music Festival have taken, at any rate, throwing every genre of music under the sun—black, white, soul, and far beyond—into a two-week, 30-show string of concerts at venues across town. Now in its third year, Soul'd Out gives equal attention to jazz, bluegrass, ska, quiet storm, Tuareg desert blues, electronica, and a few jam bands as well. It doesn't follow the typical format of most music festivals in these parts; instead of cramming a ton of shows into the space of a frantic weekend, Soul'd Out hosts between one and four shows a night spread out over a couple weeks. According to organizers, festival passes are no longer available, and a few shows are sold out, but we'll tell you which shows to hit, which to skip (i.e., the jamtastic ones), and how to make the most of this year's Soul'd Out, which starts Thursday, April 12, and runs through Thursday, April 26. For the complete lineup, visit

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly

This is Soul'd Out's big-daddy show of the year. Maze, fronted by Frankie Beverly, got its start in the mid-'70s and churned out R&B and quiet storm hits throughout the '80s. Their last record came out in '93, but Beverly & Co. have continued to perform frequently to a loyal fanbase—particularly to New Orleans crowds, where they recorded their much-loved 1981 live album. The big question is whether they can fill nearly 3,000 seats at the Keller Auditorium for their first-ever Portland show. Soul'd Out's betting yes. Either way, hearing songs like "Back in Stride" and "Love Is the Key" live for the first time will make it well worth attending. Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay, Thurs April 12


Leave it to the kid of a couple erstwhile members of the Grateful Dead—Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux—to find the hidden link between twirly jam-band rock and just-as-twirly electronic house with BoomBox. With DJ Russ Randolph in tow, guitarist Zion Godchaux weaves silky smooth guitar lines around cheeseball house beats. It's pretty unbearable. Unless you like twirling. Dante's, 1 SW 3rd, Thurs April 12

Curtis Salgado

The legend goes that Oregon soul singer Curtis Salgado inspired John Belushi to start the Blues Brothers back in the late '70s. Since then Salgado's been through numerous ups and downs; having fully recovered from health problems over the past few years, he plays two shows to celebrate the release of his new Soul Shot album. It's slick, crisp, competent soul music; if you thought Briefcase Full of Blues was an adequate substitute for classic sides by Junior Wells and Sam & Dave, Soul Shot will probably knock your socks off. Jimmy Mak's, 221 NW 10th, Fri April 13 & Sat April 14

Portland Cello Project

The beloved, local, mostly cello ensemble plays three shows (including an all-ages afternoon show on Saturday) to celebrate the release of Homage, their album of oddball covers and original material. Read our article on Portland Cello Project; Doug Fir, 830 E Burnside, Fri April 13 & Sat April 14

Pierced Arrows, the Lovesores, Di Di Mau

Soul'd Out embraces craggy punk rock with this late addition to the festival roster. See Up & Coming; Star Theater, 13 NW 6th, Fri April 13

Dom Kennedy

See Up & Coming; Peter's Room at the Roseland, 8 NW 6th, Sun April 15


See Up & Coming; Star Theater, 13 NW 6th, Mon April 16

The White Buffalo

Jake Smith looks like he could snap the neck of his acoustic guitar clean off. But his dusty folk songs—which he records and releases under the aegis of the White Buffalo—belie a hoarse delicacy that you wouldn't assume from his gruff appearance, as he channels echoes of Richie Havens and Greg Brown. Star Theater, 13 NW 6th, Tues April 17

The Skatalites

The Skatalites were there when ska was invented. Hell, they likely invented it. After their heyday in the early- to mid-'60s, the legendary group reformed in the '80s and has been playing ever since. Ska and reggae have come a long way since then, but you can't get any closer to the source than the Skatalites, and that they're playing the Goodfoot's low-ceilinged basement dancehall rather than a stuffy sit-down theater will allow for maximum skankability. The Goodfoot, 2845 SE Stark, Wed April 18


The music of SBTRKT—that's pronounced "subtract"—ranges from brain-dead dubstep to inventive, soulful post-hiphop in a way that's a total crapshoot. There's some solid songwriting at work here, even if the English guy responsible for it is known for wearing a tiki mask. Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell, Wed April 18


Led by guitarist Omara Moctar, Bombino makes Tuareg desert blues—much like Malian artists such as Ali Farka Touré and Tinariwen, although Bombino hails from bordering Niger. Sublime Frequencies' Hisham Mayet (a Portlander) recorded Bombino in 2007 and brought those recordings to Westerners' ears; in 2011 Bombino released the acclaimed Agadez album, named for Moctar's hometown. It's joyous and unforgettable music, full of animation, rhythm, and burning-hot guitar. There's no way to avoid feeling moved by Bombino, let alone the need to dance. This is one of the most exciting shows on the Soul'd Out roster. Star Theater, 13 NW 6th, Fri April 20

Greensky Bluegrass, Pert Near Sandstone

Look, we don't know why these bluegrass bands are playing Soul'd Out. Probably to make it even more hippie friendly. Unlike some of the traditional—and outstanding—roots-music acts we have here in the Northwest, Michigan's Greensky Bluegrass and Minnesota's Pert Near Sandstone err on the side of progressivism, making for that weirdly smooth version of new-grass that pleases public radio listeners. Roseland, 8 NW 6th, Fri April 20

Wanda Jackson & the Dusty 45s, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside

It's impossible not to love Wanda Jackson. The sweet lady with the nasty voice has been in the game for well over half a century, with rockabilly, country, and gospel songs making up a very lengthy catalog. She's a living legend, pure and simple, and there's no excuse for missing her—particularly when she's sharing the bill with local heroes Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside. Ford's brassy voice and retro charm makes this a perfect double header. Roseland, 8 NW 6th, Sat April 21

Allen Stone

Allen Stone would make viewers of The Voice flip out: a silky, buttery smooth voice, full of Stevie Wonderisms, emitting from a goofy, bespectacled white kid from Washington State. His lite-funk songs are totally hit and miss, sometimes hitting their mark and sometimes landing squarely in John Mayer cheeseville. Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell, Sun April 22

Dr. Lonnie Smith

With his trademark-y Hammond B3 sound and his even-more-trademark-y turban, Dr. Lonnie Smith plays rhythmic, funky jazz, and has played with George Benson, Dizzy Gillespie, Etta James, and countless others. He's a Soul'd Out festival mainstay; this'll make three out of three for him. Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi, Mon April 23


Justice's last Portland show at the Roseland in 2008 is already the stuff of legend. With a dazzling light show, the French electronic duo tore through the tracks that made up their striking, rocking 2007 debut, . Their new album, Audio, Video, Disco, is pretty awful, but that hasn't stopped this show from selling way the hell out, too. Roseland, 8 NW 6th, Tues April 24

Esperanza Spalding

Even though she quit Portland, it's hard not to love Esperanza Spalding. She's a hell of a bassist, but she's an even more striking vocalist, and she makes jazz sound as vibrant and vital as it's sounded in years. And she's a big deal: Barack Obama loves her—heck, even my dad knows who she is. Most important of all, Spalding's a riveting live performer. Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside, Wed April 25