Women, area musicians power inaugural Blues festival in the Grove

EMMA ROUTLEY/THE CHRONICLELeft, Anni Piper performs at the Village Green Resort in Cottage Grove during the inaugural Blues Festival.

 COTTAGE GROVE – Aussie-born blues artist Anni Piper’s rebellious spirit seems like a nice fit here in Oregon.

“People in the Pacific Northwest don’t give a damn what anybody else thinks, and I love that,” Piper said, moments after headlining the inaugural Village Blues Festival at scenic Village Green Resort.

Piper moved to Portland three years ago. After growing up in Australia, she moved to Florida in 2014 and lived in Cocoa Beach for three years. “I do miss the Florida weather,” she said. 

But she loves the Portland music scene, and last year the title song of her new album, “Blow Up Doll,” was a semifinalist among 18,000 entries in the 2019 International Songwriting Competition. 

“It’s funny how that song was written,” Piper said. “It was inspired by a comment made by a former partner, and I said, ‘You make me feel like a blow-up doll’. That’s when it hit me that I had to get out.” 

The Village Blues Festival was somewhat of a showcase for the women of blues, including singer Joanne Broh of the Pacific NW Women’s Blues Revue.

For 20 years Broh was a Springfield school district nurse. She’s now enjoying her third year of retirement from that position.

“It was a great job, but enough already, you know what I mean?” Broh said.. “So now I can do music full time.”

During COVID-19, most musicians are struggling to find any work, but Broh was actually booked solid last week. 

“I played at PublicHouse on Wednesday, then at Silvan Ridge Winery on Friday, then I did the Fifth Street Public Market earlier today (Saturday) before this,” Broh said. “But now I have a little break before I play again.”

Many different combinations of women team up to play for the Pacific NW Women’s Blues Revue. On Saturday, Broh took the stage with Sonny Hess and Kathryn Grimm — the first time that trio has been together. 

“Sonny started this and has been launching the careers of female musicians for a long time up and down the Pacific Northwest coast,” Broh said of her bandmate, who lives in Portland, where she owns the Blue Diamond Blues Club.

Broh said she always enjoys working with other musicians. For many years off and on, she has played with Jerry Zybach, whose band Fret Logic played just before the Pacific NW Women. Eugene-based Fret Logic actually was a band that sort of happened by accident. 

“A year ago, we were just going to do a couple of gigs, but people liked us, so we kept it going,” Zybach said. 

He said it was fun to be playing in Cottage Grove, so close to home. 

EMMA ROUTLEY/THE CHRONICLEBlues fans spread out across the field at Village Green Resort on Saturday.

“I went to Thurston High School. I grew up in Springfield until I was 18,” said Zybach, 65, who now resides in Eugene after living in Montana, Seattle, Portland and Bend. 

“I had regular jobs for quite a while, mostly in construction. I was a framer and a painter until I was 38, then I became a full-time musician.”

Zybach, a founding member of the Rainy Day Blues Society, is also involved in Habitat for Humanity, Project Homeless Connect for Lane County, and Musicians Emergency Medical Association.

Bandmate Mike Hatgis, who spent 26 years working in the circulation department at the Register-Guard, said it was a pleasure being a part of the inaugural event.

“Absolutely,” said Hatgis, “we love these outdoor events, they’re great.”

Both Zybach and Hatgis said they weren’t too bothered by a power-box problem that interrupted their set 3-4 times. 

“We didn’t want to ruin the atmosphere,” Hatgis said. “It wasn’t like it was anybody’s fault, it was just one of those things.”

The weather was perfect. The venue was ideal. The vibe was cool, as a handful of dancers kept the fans – the vast majority of them wearing masks and staying physically distanced – entertained.

It clearly would have taken more than a little power-source problem to spoil this party.



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