Did you know real estate’s age-old axiom also applies to music festivals?
It’s true: Location, location, location.
Mark Ransom knew last year that the Bend Roots Revival would have to move in 2010. He founded the annual, three-day celebration of local music and art in 2006 and is bringing it back this weekend (see “If you go”). Its old home — in and around Parrilla Grill and The Victorian Cafe on Bend’s west side — was ideal in the event’s early years, when it was a low-key gathering of a few dozen musical acts.
But people loved it. And people came, and stayed all weekend, and spilled into a busy nearby intersection, sometimes with a drink in hand. And the size and scope of the lineup expanded, with more bands and louder sound systems. The neighbors were cool about it, but Ransom worried about becoming a bother.
So, after last year’s Revival, organizers — local community radio station KPOV is a major engine behind the festival — began looking for a new space but struggled to find something just right. They considered partnering with McMenamins and using neighboring Troy Field, but preferred to work with local vendors and to stay out of downtown.
“We didn’t want this thing to become like many of the other festivals in Bend,” Ransom said last week. “We’re trying to brand ourselves as something that’s slightly different and unique.”
Enter Dave Hill, 51, who grew up in Bend and has lived here for the past 25 years. Hill is a strong supporter of the local arts scene (he attended — and loved — the Bend Roots Revival in past years), a live-music fan, and owner of the property at the corner of Century Drive and Commerce Avenue, home to the old Brightwood Mill.
Neither man remembers quite how it happened, but word got to Ransom that Hill’s property might work as a new home for Bend Roots, and that Hill was open to the idea.
“Somebody we jointly knew told Mark that he should come check (it) out, and he stopped by one day. I think it was a Sunday morning,” Hill said. “This place was still kind of torn up. You had to have a certain level of vision. I think Mark was a little skeptical, but as we continued to work on it, I think he saw how it was coming together.”
Today, Hill calls the property Century Center, and it’s a cluster of retail buildings that surrounds a courtyard big enough for the Revival’s stages, food vendors (Parrilla and Victorian are still on board, despite the move) and general milling around. It’s self-contained; no streets run through, and neighbors will be shielded from the noise by buildings and tall walls. And it includes a 6,000-square-foot, 750-person-capacity event center that Hill plans to make available for rent to anyone who wants to put on a concert, business meeting, conference and so on.
Time will tell if it’s the perfect location for Bend Roots, but at the moment, Ransom is excited.
“There weren’t many options, and Dave’s offer to use this place was a huge boon for us,” he said. “It was a blessing. We wanted to be able to keep the ability for people to walk and ride their bikes, and we wanted to reduce the impact on the neighborhood. We have room to grow. If we would’ve ended up doing something different, we likely would not have been satisfied. We could’ve done it, but my biggest fear is that we would’ve taken a step backward, fragmenting what we’ve brought together. I don’t feel that way now.
“There’s some soul in that location because it was a viable economic part of the community as a mill, and the transformation into a performing arts area, it’s a reflection of the way Bend has evolved,” Ransom said. “It resonates with Bend Roots’ core values. It is Bend’s roots. That’s a really important part.”
For his part, Hill is happy to help Bend Roots keep as much of its identity intact as a festival can when it moves from one spot to another.
“I’m glad to help, and I’m glad that it’s still in the same neighborhood,” he said. “When I heard they were looking at Troy Field, I thought, ‘Oh, it’s going to evolve into another downtown festival. It’s going to lose its local flavor to the west side.’ So I’m definitely pleased we were able to keep it over here. I think it really goes along with the grass-roots feel of the whole thing.”