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Bluesman Norman Sylvester performing at the Nehalem Bay Winery, March 2018. (Courtesy of Norman Sylvester)
The Skanner News Staff
Published: 05 April 2018

In its seventh year, the annual “Inner City Blues Festival: Healing the Health Care Blues” kicks off at the North Portland Eagles Lodge on April 21.

The one-night concert event is largely a fundraiser for Health Care for All Oregon – a volunteer-run, statewide coalition of over 120 organizations working to bring an equitable, affordable, and publicly funded health care to Oregonians.

With over a dozen acts, the six-hour blues festival will also feature a silent auction, food and beverages, and tabling by community organizations. With around 800 attendees last year, the festival raised $28,000 for the cause.

This year’s installment will showcase performances by Bloco Alegria, I&I Band Reunion with Newell Briggs and Obi Addy, Ken DeRouchie Band with Mz. Etta, King Louie Pain Quartet, and the Norman Sylvester Review with Sarah Billings and Lenanne Sylvester-Miller, plus many more. Inner City Blues will be MC’ed by Renee Mitchell, Ken Boddie and Paul Knauls.

The alliance among health care advocates and blues musicians is a natural pairing, said its organizers. “The blues is about worry, depression, and melancholy. That’s what people feel around our current insurance system,” said Tom Sincic, a retired family nurse practitioner and president of Health Care for All Oregon.

“Whether you go with the Mississippi Delta blues, the Memphis blues, the St. Louis blues, or the Portland blues – it’s all across the country,” continued Sincic. “People have all kinds of worries about whether they’re going to get the health care they need, and about the financial loss attached to it. It causes a lot of stress, so the blues is a perfect type of music to relay that.”

The festival’s performers should know, as many have experienced first-hand the plight of accessing and affording healthcare – in particular, Oregon blues legend Norman Sylvester, who has been a festival mainstay from the start.

“I have played too many benefits for musicians who fell ill or, more tragically, played at their (tributes). They didn't have preventative care because of years of not being able to afford healthcare,” Sylvester said in the festival’s press release.  

But as the state of the nation’s health care system continues to hang in the balance, Health Care for All Oregon falls in line with many local visions of an agreeable and equitable model.

On Feb. 1, Multnomah County’s board of commissioners passed a resolution supporting legislative action towards universal health care access. In the letter, the commissioners urged “the Governor and the Legislature to continue working to develop a comprehensive, equitable, and high-quality system of health care that is accessible to all, without discrimination, and that is affordable for families, businesses, and society.”

The North Portland Eagles Lodge is located at 7611 N Exeter Avenue in Portland, Oregon, 97203. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and performances will run until midnight. 

Tickets can be purchased for $20 online at Ticket Tomato, or at Music Millennium (3158 E Burnside), Geneva's Shear Perfection (5601 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd), Peninsula Station (8316 N. Lombard), and Musician's Union Hall (325 NE 20th Ave). Tickets are $25 at the door.

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