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The RiverCity Music Festival is one of Portland’s biggest annual music events. Commonly referred to as “the bluegrass festival” by Portlanders, the festival mostly features bluegrass music. It also has other acoustic music and Americana. Each year, the festival takes place in the Jantzen Beach area along the river in the Red Lion Hotel. It happens during January and is a great winter pick-me-up activity.
Many outstanding bluegrass musicians perform at the RiverCity Music Festival, which has two stages and plenty of space for casual jam sessions. Some examples from the previous years’ lineups include the Steep Canyon Rangers, Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, Northern Departure, Riders in the Sky, Cedar Flats, The Midnight Serenaders, Tony Furtado, The Boxcars, Misty River, Jackstraw, Tommy Emmanuel, and many more. A variety of vendors also attend the festival to sell crafts and musical instruments. There are also Friday and Saturday night dances and two restaurants in the building. Many visitors get rooms in the hotel so they have a place to rest or practice playing music throughout the day.
Many aspiring musicians attend the RiverCity Music Festival not only to watch great performers but also to attend workshops and become better performers themselves. The weekend’s schedule is full of interesting workshops on just about any instrument a bluegrass musician might play. For example, there are workshops in mandolin, guitar, banjo, songwriting, fiddle, yodeling, vocal harmonies, and swing. There are also workshops for children and teens.
Besides learning at the many workshops that take place, many festival attendees bring instruments and participate in casual jam sessions throughout the hotel. The festival provides many great opportunities to practice with experienced musicians and meet fellow musicians in the bluegrass scene.
A great way to participate in the festival is to volunteer. The festival has coat check, instrument check, and many other features that take volunteers to run. Volunteers get to help out, and they also get to attend the festival for free.
One drawback for some people is the festival’s price. This year’s tickets (2012) were $130 for the entire weekend. Friday night only was $35 and Saturday admission was $55. Sunday passes were $45. These prices aren’t bad when you consider that the tickets come with the opportunity to see multiple concerts; however, the festival can end up being a somewhat pricey weekend. Tickets are available online at www.rivercitybluegrass.com.
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