We sang the Healthcare Blues… AND LOVED IT!

Feature- Bluesfest ReportReport back from the 6th Annual Inner City Blues Fest!

We spent the weekend in an intimate club filled with around 800 of our closest friends, all dressed to kill, listening to the rumbling growl of Norman Sylvester, the glistening fingers of Mary Flower, the trancelike rhythms of the Strangetones, the pulse-pounding beats of Boco Alegria, and so many more.  It wasn’t just an evening of blistering Blues, but also an evening promoting Single Payer Healthcare in Oregon.  It’s an event we’re proud to sponsor, and it’s something we look forward to all year long.  Here’s a little history on the festival and some pictures of this year’s show.  We think if you get a taste of wRestOfNewsletterhat you missed, you’ll start making your own plans for next year’s show right now!

The Inner City Blues Festival has its roots in the Portland Rainbow Coalition’s 1988 “Jam for Jesse” Jackson.  While the Jam for Jesse was 20 years too early for the first African American President, the event itself continued in support of social causes and social justice until 1998.  Bob Gross, Ken Cropper, Norman Sylvester, and a small group of dedicated activists were responsible for those original festivals, and decided to revive the event as “Healing the Healthcare Blues” in 2011 in support of Single Payer Healthcare in Oregon and beyond.  Tom Dwyer Automotive was privileged to support the new Festival, and it’s an event we’ve eagerly looked forward to every year since.  The Inner City Blues Festival has grown into a spectacular showcase of some of the premiere Northwest blues stars, bringing together 800+ guests, 150+ businesses and partner organizations, and countless volunteers to increase awareness about universal access to health care through Health Care for All- Oregon.

Blues is an amazing art form but it’s typically not a very well-paying one, and most (if not all) of the musicians who’ll be playing have very personal horror stories of the health care system.  When Rob Shoemaker’s wife needed rotator cuff surgery, they were forced to re-finance the house to cover their part of the expenses. “Our old mortgage would have been paid off 3 years ago”, he said. “As it is, at age 62, I have 12 years of house payments still ahead of me.”   Headliner Norman Sylvester is tired of playing benefits for musicians who fell ill or, more tragically, playing for their Celebration of Life… “They didn’t have preventative care because of years of not being able to afford healthcare.  Health Care is a Human Right!”  Linda Hornbuckle summed up both the problem and the solution nicely… “You never know when a health crisis is going to come.  With the resources available in this country, healthcare should be available to every citizen!”

The Inner City Blues Festival, “Healing the Healthcare Blues,” rolled into the North Portland Eagles Lodge (7611 N. Exeter; at Lombard) on Saturday, April 22nd.  Doors opened at 5:00 p.m., and the place absolutely rocked until midnight!  This year’s lineup featured many of the most dynamic artists from past years including…

The Norman Sylvester Band

Obo Addy Legacy Project “Okropong,”

Mary Flower

Tevis Hodge Jr.

Mic Crenshaw


Stangetones & Volcano Vixens

Bloco Alegria

Steve Cheseborough

Lloyd “Have Mercy” Jones

Tony Ozier and “Doo Doo Funk”

Mad as Hell Doctors, Nurses, & Interns


and celebrity MCs Paul Knauls, Renee Mitchell, and Ken Boddie.


Headliner Norman Sylvester with enthusiastic fans

The talent list has grown each year since the Festival was revived, so we expect it to be even more of a powerhouse lineup next year!  Ticket prices for the Waterfront Blues Festival (that other little band practice across the river in July) have gone up along with the crowds, but prices for this up-close-and-personal show have stayed very reasonable.  This year’s tickets were only $20 in advance or $25 at the door, which is even better when you consider that the proceeds go to benefit Health Care For All Oregon, the group promoting Single Payer Health Care in Oregon and beyond.


You can listen to the Blues all year (and we recommend it) and you can support Health Care For All Oregon with your donations any time you want (and please do), but there’s only one place you can do both at the same time.  You’ve missed it this year but don’t make the same mistake next year!  Start making your plans NOW for the 7th Annual Inner City Blues Fest, and just look at these pictures of what you missed this year!


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