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With pandemic tension still on the rise and escalating vandalism continuing to plague Downtown Portland, live music is no longer something we just take for granted. It is an absolute necessity to keeping sane in this bizarre dystopic multi-verse. But through this cataclysmic lens there is still a light that continues to shine brightly.

Hailing from the island of Oahu, Ron Artis II has been making waves that have been reaching far beyond those Hawaiian shores. As one of 11 talented siblings raised in a supportive musical household surrounded by love & creativity, it was only a matter of time that he’d cross the ocean and into hearts across the nation. With Portland’s Jack London Revue reopening with limited capacity, Ron Artis II & the Truth quickly sold out the venue and due to audience demand, scheduled 4 more shows throughout the week as well.

It feels as if a lifetime has past since I last walked down that dimly lit staircase and into that underground temple of music. A month of anticipation boiled down to this one climatic moment. The few tables that were spaced throughout the venue floor created a certain exclusivity that would be our welcome back into the world. The first notes that cried out from Ron’s 6-strings gave rise to a raw energy that would only be equaled by the soulful voice that accompanied it. At his left, Ernie Ecraela, smiling ear-to-ear, closed his eyes and let his bass speak for him while drummer, Jarod Manis brought the audience into a rhythmic trance.

The band focused on a selection of songs off of their latest album, Soul Street. And before breaking into an impassioned rendition of “Searching for Answers”, Ron asked the crowd to search deep within themselves and find the light within. This theme of positivity flowed from song to song and rose like the tide at noon slowly reclaiming a sandy shore. The band continued to turn up the heat with a breathtaking performance of “The Truth” with each of the trio showcasing their individual mastery of their instruments as well as their unspoken, kinetic bond through the rhythm.

Their emotional performance of the ballad, “Photograph of Love” from his album, Julia, brought the audience to tears as Ron emphasized the love for his wife and that true strength is having the ability to express your feelings to the one you love without question. Before performing their latest single, “This is America”, Ron announced a young guitar prodigy by the name of TJ Edwards would be joining them on stage and who, after witnessing his virtuosity, there was no question. They continued into the upbeat “Walk That Walk” and after a blistering solo and a laugh, Ron announcing to the crowd, “If you’re not breaking stuff you’re not having a good time!”

Ron Artis II & the Truth’s music is born with unquestionable faith and fueled by the Aloha spirit. Through the bright times and the struggles, their lesson is clear: “If you want to make a difference, you have to live it.” So be a little light in the world. Be safe, stay positive and catch these incredible musicians the next time they’re passing through a town near you.

Raul Soria Jr.

Photojournalist - Portland

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