Southeast Portland neighborhood hosts free ‘Summer Music Series’

INCLUDES VIDEO With no outdoor concerts scheduled for outer East Portland, see where you can go for a pleasant evening of free, live music this summer …

Although these free summer concerts are held in parking lots instead of in Portland parks, folks are flocking to hear great, professional, local musicians play and sing.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The frightening spectre of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic stopped outdoor concerts in 2020; and, as far as we know, free outdoor music won’t return this summer to outer East Portland parks, either.

Even though the pandemic was winding down in June this year, it became clear to folks in inner Southeast Portland’s Sellwood Moreland Improvement League (yes, its acronym is ‘SMILE’, it’s the oldest neighborhood association in Portland) that their beloved “Concerts in the Park” produced by Portland Parks & Recreation wouldn’t take place this year.

Proudly representing their neighborhood association at their first summer concert in 2021 are SMILE’s President, Simon Fulford; Events Committee Chair Jim Friscia; and Vice President Ayomide Nikzi.

“Because our park concerts were cancelled again this year, SMILE is hosting a free, 12-concert neighborhood music series that we’re calling ‘SMILE Summer Music’ that runs now, through the end of August,” said the organizer of the concerts, Jim Friscia.

As musicians were setting up for the summer series’ opening show on Saturday evening, July 10, in the Windermere Realtors building’s Westmoreland parking lot, residents and visitors began to drift in, many of them bringing chairs and take-out food purchased from local restaurants.

At the first concert, Mark Shark and Lloyd Jones entertain the audience with blues and Americana music, and lively banter.

“Even though we were not able to host our July ‘Concerts in the Park’ series, we decided we still wanted to bring live music to Sellwood and Westmoreland for all the people in Southeast Portland to enjoy,” said Friscia, who is also a SMILE Board Member, and is Chair of its new Events Committee.

Asked why this year’s concerts are being held in parking lots instead of in parks, Friscia responded, “Even if they allowed it, we’d need to buy permits from Portland Parks & Recreation; and then bring in electricity, a sound system, and perhaps a stage.

“But, because three location partners are providing space and power, it’s not too much to ask our professional musicians to bring their own sound equipment for these smaller performances,” explained Friscia.

Also, he added, with the dozen concerts taking place in three locations around Sellwood-Westmoreland – see the list below – these are very accessible events.

“And, the booking principle we used is to showcase professional performing musicians who either live in the neighborhood, and/or play in the neighborhood, such as at the Muddy Rudder or Corkscrew Wine Bar, thus supporting the people and establishments who keep live music in the neighborhood,” Friscia told East Portland News.

As the sounds of music provided by Mark Shark and Lloyd Jones continue, the audience grows.

Asked why he was willing to put so much effort into this volunteer organizing concert series project, Friscia replied, “Music is one of those things to which everyone positively responds. Especially with live music, it’s something that brings people together and lifts people up – and that’s central to developing a stronger sense of community.”

Blues legends start off concert series
The audience assembled for this particular live concert knew they were in for a musical treat as they saw the duo of Sellwood neighbor Lloyd Jones and Mark Shark setting up for their concert. Shark has played and recorded with such luminaries as Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and George Harrison.

And Lloyd Jones? He’s a world-famous, internationally-touring roots, blues, and Americana festival artist headliner – who’s also played with a who’s-who of music – and who happens to live a few blocks away from this concert site.

It’s clear that Mark Shark and Lloyd Jones love sharing their music, with their neighbors.

“It’s true, I’ve played at music festivals before audiences of 10,000 people, but I’m loving being here this evening, because this area – right here – is where it all grew from,” Jones said with an introspective smile.

“For me, this is ‘coming back home’; it’s charming to play here, in my neighborhood. You know, music is meant for people to get together and feel good in a space like this; in a huge venues, when [a concert] gets so slick, so technical, and so big, it loses some of that.

“So, here we are, right back home, and I love it,” said Jones, as he turned to start the free concert.

Introducing himself to the audience, he revealed that he’s lived “in the same house on the same street” for 47 years. “When I moved in, I was the hippie in the neighborhood; and now it’s me who’s saying, ‘Hey you kids, get off my lawn’!”

About 150 people attended that free concert; and, to the delight of all who attended, the music flowed for more than two hours.

Upcoming Summer Music Concerts

At the Windermere Building parking lot (SE 16th & Rural) Saturdays, from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m.
July 17 – Silver Lake 66 – Soulful Americana
July 24 – Terry Robb & Lauren Sheehan – American Roots and Blues
July 31 – Sellwood Jazz Ensemble

At Sellwood Community House Pavilion (SE 15th and Spokane) Tuesdays, from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m.
August 03 – Marv & Rindy Ross – of Seafood Mama, Quarterflash, Trail Band fame
August 10 – Paula Byrne – Jazz Vocalist
August 17 – Robert Meade – Americana, Rhythm ‘n’ Blues originals & classics
August 24 – Carpathian-Pacific Express – Joyful, energetic Klezmer music

At Moreland Presbyterian Church parking lot (SE 19th & Bybee) Saturdays, from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m.
August 07 – Annette Lowman Trio – Jazz vocalist and storyteller
August 14 – Adlai Alexander Trio – Soulful Jazz guitar and vocals
August 21 – Mary Flower – Blues acoustic guitarist and singer
August 28 – The Catnip Brothers – Bakersfield Honky Tonk & Western Swing

Note: Available seating will vary by venue, so consider bringing your own chairs. Pick up food at a neighborhood restaurant, or bring a picnic basket from home.

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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