Ramblings On My Mind – 2020 in Review and What Lies Ahead
Greg Johnson, Cascade Blues Association President
Reflecting back on 2020, we have witnessed without doubt the single toughest year we have ever faced as an organization. COVID-19 shut down so many of our events and saw musicians and venues around the world suffer along with every other business out there.
We took extreme hits, including the first time in 32 years there were no Muddy Awards, no Holiday Party and the BluesNotes that’d been in print nearly since the inception of the CBA had to be suspended from its print form, moving to a monthly email blast and content posted on our website. One of our signature events, the Journey to Memphis also had to be put on hold after 20 years as The Blues Foundation was forced to cancel the event in 2021 — which also meant no Best Self Produced CD competition for the year either.
Our monthly membership meetings also had to be placed on a back-burner as the state shut down venues and limited gathering sizes. When it all clears up, rest assured that we plan on resuming these meetings, but we will be looking for a new location as The Eagles have permanently closed the Hawthorne location where we met.
The Waterfront Blues Festival was canceled this past summer, as were most festivals. This hurt us deeply as it is the one event of the year where we bring in our highest number of new members and renewals, not to mention our biggest income due to merchandise sales. It is also highly anticipated by our members, who make up a great deal of the volunteer force filling roles at the festival stages.
Though shut-downs limited us from holding in-person board meetings, they did not stop us from proceeding as need be, with several email communications that we held with voting that led to many of the difficult decisions we made this past year as noted already. It also helped us to look at other avenues that we may be able to focus upon to help impact our community.
One of those major outlets was the Portland Venue Project we held this past summer alongside the Portland Parks & Recreation Commission. The Cascade Blues Association hosted private, for-family-only lunch performances for the city’s kids lunch program. We also made arrangements if the shut-down phase limits changed before the end of the summer when we would be able to hold concerts in the parks. The spots to play the kids lunches and the evening park shows were held by lottery, and all were paid slots. Even though the evening concerts were not permitted to take place, the acts were still paid as expected.
Recently we have started a streaming monthly live show in partnership with Artichoke Music, another local nonprofit. We have completed two events to date, starting with Kim Field & The Perfect Gentlemen in November, followed in December with Steve Cheseborough. Though the pay for these performers is totally through their own online payment sources promoted through the show, the CBA provides the cost for the sound/video and stage use. We are not sure how much they may make through the online donations, but the audience is there. Bob Howard from Artichoke reported that more than 900 people tuned into the broadcast during Steve Cheseborough’s set from across the country. And Artichoke produces a video stored under their account on YouTube allowing for replays and sharing long after the show is over. On Jan. 6 we will present Mitch Kashmar & Alan Hager, then on Feb. 3, Mary Flower will take the stage. We are looking forward to continuing this monthly event as it is a means to bring you music from artists that you are currently missing.
Fortunately for the CBA, we held a rainy-day balance in our bank accounts to make sure to cover unexpected emergency expenses. This year certainly saw the need for that and then some. But with our cutbacks and budgeting we have made ends meet and hopefully will be able to stretch through the end of the pandemic with what we still have on hand.
Early this month we are planning a board meeting (most likely via Zoom) to detail plans and to brainstorm on how to move forward. As COVID keeps stressing our music community, we want to find new avenues to help promote our beloved musicians, longtime retail sponsors and venues. With new vaccines coming to aid us with the pandemic we may be seeing an end sometime in the future. But we don’t foresee it being anytime within a couple of months and anticipate we will still have more to go through before everyone feels safe once again to gather, or as the state allows.
With that in mind, as members do you have any thoughts that might help us assist our local blues community move forward as we continue through these hardships? We want to hear your ideas, but please remember we are just a small group of volunteers and may need your assistance in carrying forth any plans that we come up with. Contact us on our website at https://cascadebluesassociation.org/contact-us/
Please note that we are still in need of a permanent treasurer. If you are interested in volunteering to join our board of directors, let us know. The duties include keeping the checkbook, paying bills and communicating end of the month expenses to the bookkeeper who will enter everything into Quickbooks and prepare the taxes. All you need is attention to detail, a willingness to communicate to the board and a love of the blues! We are also interested in at-large members for our board and have open spots to fill.
Music has a way of surviving. Let’s make sure those who bring it to us can make it, too. We’re planning on being there; hoping we’ll be right there along with all of our friends. Working together, we can do it.