In case you missed it — and I don't know how that's possible, given the buzz — word came last week that Bend will host the first-ever National Beard and Moustache Championships, thanks mostly to our fair city's bevy of beer-drinking opportunities.
That's beards and beer, two great things that go great together, but also go quite well with rock 'n' roll.
You see, beer and rock is a time-tested pair, forever linked in the dark, dingy places where we indulge our hearing-impaired selves. On the other hand, beards and rock have a more undulating relationship.
Every decade or two, it seems, hirsuteness makes a comeback among musicians, but it usually has approximately the same staying power as the famously fake-singing, smooth-faced duo Milli Vanilli.
From where does rock 'n' roll's tenuous connection with facial hair come? That's a good question.
Buckle up, kids, it's time for a Feedback (Partially Fake) History Lesson!
(Imagine here those wavy things they do on TV whenever there's a flashback or a fantasy sequence. In between, picture me stroking my villous chin. There. We're set.)
According to exactly no research whatsoever, the first musician to sport a beard was Gorf, a caveman who discovered rhythm during the Paleoriffic Era. Gorf totally rocked, and by that, I mean he invented drumming by hitting a rock with another rock.
He did so in hopes of attracting Uga, a woman from the next cave over whose forehead sloped more gently than the bunny hill at Mt. Bachelor. Alas, even as Gorf tried to pound his way into Uga's heart, she showed no interest, not because of the hair covering his face, but because he was a drummer, and drummers don't get chicks. Ask any drummer.
But also, she hated the beard.
It was Gorf's experience that prompted musicians for, oh, let's say the next few thousand millennia, to keep their faces clean. From Jubal's harp in the book of Genesis, to the Gregorian chants of Medieval times (not the restaurant), and from anti-moustache activists Bach and Beethoven to the American jazz artists of the early 20th century, not a one of them ever grew even so much as a whisker.
None of that is true, of course, but it's a 25-inch column, so bear with me; we have to skip over a lot of stuff. Plus, if Jubal or Bach or Jelly Roll Morton had a beard, we wouldn't be able to pin the modern facial-hair uprising on The Beatles. And if we learned anything in 2009, it was that The Beatles deserve credit for every positive thing that has happened since 1962.
In their early years, the lads from Liverpool set the world on fire with their mop-top haircuts and close shaves, but in 1967, they took on a macho look, appearing on the cover of “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” wearing what appeared to be caterpillars on their upper lips. By 1969, John Lennon and George Harrison were crossing “Abbey Road” with hair down to their shoulders and full facial rugs to match.
Soon after, The Beatles split up, although Harrison would go on to a successful solo career, starring as the Sasquatchian title character in the popular film “Harry and The Hendersons.”
The years after The Beatles were known as the 1970s, and it was pretty much a law for dudes to have beards at that time. In fact, the U.S. Constitution required that any dude caught without a beard during the '70s be forced to listen to the entire Captain Beefheart discography while sober. Civil liberties groups argued this punishment qualified as cruel and unusual, and it probably was. But it was effective, and beards adorned the faces of everyone from Jim Morrison and Brian Wilson to Kris Kristofferson and Kenny “Friggin'” Loggins.
And then there was ZZ Top, a Texas blues-rock trio with two members who wore beards nearly to their bellybuttons, and one who didn't. But the one who didn't was named Frank Beard. And now my head hurts, so I'm going to stop right there.
In the post-ZZ Top era, rockers recoiled from having facial hair. Throughout much of the '80s, it was cooler to look and sing like a lady, so many guys chose makeup over a beard. Even the 1990s — a golden age of slovenly, smelly fashions — couldn't usher in a new shaggy season, despite strong efforts from Built to Spill frontman Doug Martsch, whose neck often looks like it's been hiding out for months in an off-the-grid cabin in the northern reaches of his native Idaho.
In fact, only in the past few years has the woolly look truly returned, and with a vengeance. Indeed, a new wave of tufted troubadours has earned a genre term: “beard rock.”
Hey, it beats “crab-core.”
The patron saint of the beard rockers is Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine, aka Whispery Jesus, and Beam's army is as vast and diverse as it is bushy: My Morning Jacket's Jim James and Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell carry the Southern rock flag. Robin Pecknold's Fleet Foxes sing a mean set of throwback harmonies. Devendra Banhart is a freaky folk singer. Mark Everett from Eels and TV On The Radio's Kyp Malone handle the oddball pop-rock area. Those guys from Against Me! are punk's hirsute honchos.
Heck, flip back to Page 3 of this GO! Magazine to see an impressive beard on the Reverend Peyton, who'll bring his Big Damn Band to Bend on Monday.
Speaking of Bend, our town's own connection to big-time pop music, reggae-meets-hip-hop star Matisyahu, has one seriously scraggly beard. It's a result, I suspect, of his famously steadfast adherence to Hasidic Jewish rituals and beliefs.
And with Les Schwab Amphitheater's concert season just around the corner, how does this sound for an awesome weekend? Matisyahu comes “home” and performs on Bend's biggest stage on Friday, June 4, then goes out and wins the beard/moustache contest on June 5.
Wouldn't that just give you a warm, fuzzy feeling?