Two weeks ago, GO! Magazine's music section was wholly dedicated to looking back at the best music of the year. Last week, I used the Feedback column to rewind 12 months, review my hopes and wishes for the local scene in 2010, and assess how those panned out. (Short version: Most wishes granted, a few came up short. Long version here: http://url.bb/wishgranted10.)
All that brings us to today, the final day of the year. Tomorrow, 2011 dawns, and in my mind, it's going to be a crucial time for Central Oregon's music scene, which has spent the past couple of years solidifying into a strong, self-sufficient unit and sending its own sound out into the world.
So what comes next? Sustained growth and development? A timid step back from something bigger? Or sticking with the status quo?
I vote for growth. I'd like to see bigger and better shows in this region, and more of them. I want more local bands playing more gigs, not only locally, but regionally and beyond. I hope plenty of new, interesting, challenging and/or weird music rears its head in Bend this year.
So it's time to look ahead. Here are a few specific things I want to see happen on the local music scene in 2011:
• New and improved Last Band Standing. I got an e-mail a couple weeks ago that this mega-battle of the bands would return for its second year in 2011, and I think that's great. Most people I've talked to about the three-month-long event agreed that, overall, LBS was good for the local music scene, in that it drew a whole bunch of people out to see local bands they wouldn't have otherwise seen.
Of course, most people I talked to — mostly members of participating bands — also agreed that LBS could be improved from an organizational standpoint. And after watching the cattle call vote-casting lines on finale night, I'd bet a lot of voters felt the same way.
So I'd like to see LBS return, and I hope it has the same kind of success and impact that it did in 2010. But I'd like to see organizers come up with a better way to cast and count votes, and I'd love for them to find a way to allow under-21 bands into the competition. And finally: Local bands only, please. No need to import bands from Portland, or any other town outside Central Oregon.
• More variety! Bend gets a bit of everything, it seems, but there's little doubt that our live-music bread is buttered with funky, bluesy, grassy roots-rock jams, plus a side of hip-hop.
And we're lucky to specialize in that area; there are a lot of veins to mine there. But where are the touring punk and metal bands? Where is the original electronica made by out-of-towners? A few years ago, all three of those genres enjoyed regular, mid-sized or big-name shows in town on a fairly regular basis. Today, they're too few and too far between.
Same goes for jazz and world music. Both get their occasional dates in the spotlight; kudos to Joe Rohrbacher for his dedication to the former and the Tower Theatre for booking the latter. And the upcoming jazz series at The Oxford Hotel, Silver Moon's Dusu Mali Band date in February, and Arturo Sandoval's Tower visit in March are good starts. But more shows like those would be terrific.
I don't know what it'll take, whether it's some new booking blood, a reopened dive bar or a promoter with a passion. And I don't know if Bend's music lovers would adequately support these kinds of shows. But I hope the local music scene offers more flavors in 2011 than it did in 2010.
• More action on the high school scene. A couple years ago, Bend's high school band scene was hopping, with groups like We Are Brontosaurus and The Snag making waves around the region. These days, you don't hear much about rock bands based in the local high schools.
Either I'm not paying enough attention to what's happening in the schools, or their rock 'n' roll pipelines have dried up a bit. Either way, having young, fresh faces playing frequently around Bend invigorates the entire music scene, so I hope we start seeing this year's model start to pop up at places like the PoetHouse, and wherever else they can get a gig.
• The return of PDXchange Program. Last time I talked to Henry Abel — founder of the PDXchange Program, which brought Portland indie-rock bands to Bend's Tower Theatre — he was unsure of the series' fate in 2011. Well, I'll stand on one of the Tower's plush seats and say that I hope Abel makes a second go of it in 2011.
Seeing bands like The Thermals, The Helio Sequence and Horse Feathers in a beautiful place like the Tower was one of the most striking things about Bend's music scene in 2010. It brought an energy to the Tower that we haven't seen in, well, maybe ever. We need more of that.
And if Abel does bring back PDXchange for 2011, we need more butts in those plush seats. If you skipped any or all of the 2010 shows, then yes, I'm talking to you. This series deserves your support.
• Memorial Day weekend shows at Les Schwab Amphitheater. Three of them. One each night of the long weekend. Just like in 2006 and 2008. (Two nights of shows, a la 2010, is pretty good. But it's just not the same.)
Piggybacking on Washington's indie-friendly Sasquatch Festival would be ideal, of course. That ensures we kick off the 2011 Schwab season with some of the hottest young(ish) rock bands going.
But even if that Sasquatch connection can't happen, having three shows on Memorial Day weekend is the best way for Bend's biggest stage to make a splash. It's like the Schwab kicks in the door, steps through and announces, loudly, that the big dog is back, and ready to rock. It creates buzz among local music lovers, and unofficially marks the beginning of the summer music season.
It's an important milestone, in other words, a vital piece of the puzzle. And one that should be a high priority for the team behind the Schwab's summer lineup.
• Continued empire building. As I talked about extensively in the Dec. 17 issue of GO! Magazine, local musicians made inroads in all kinds of places other than Central Oregon in 2010. From Larry and His Flask in Boston and Florida to Eric Tollefson in Los Angeles to Empty Space Orchestra in Seattle and Person People in Montana and Idaho, the sound of the High Desert pushed farther out than ever before.
As the saying goes, a rising tide floats all boats. So if you're in a local band, you have no reason not to root for any of those folks — or any other local artists — to become more popular outside the region. It's good for them, it's good for Central Oregon, and it's good for you and me, too.
In 2011, I hope all those bands (and others) continue to hit the pavement, rack up the tour-van miles, and spread the word that there's a lot of good stuff happening here.
• The old standbys. Here's where I list a few evergreens, things I think are always important to a thriving local music scene: Support your local independent record store, Ranch Records. Support your local community radio station, KPOV. And support the venues that are out there providing live music, especially when they're just dipping their toes in the water.
Any strong music scene needs a wide variety of venues for bands to play, from punk bars and jazz clubs to concert halls and amphitheaters. The more the merrier, I say, and the more shapes and sizes we can gather, the better. So when you see a place like the Old Mill Music Lounge (formerly the martini bar in the Old Mill District) start hosting shows, go there, pay the cover, and let them know you appreciate their willingness to open their doors to live music.
It all works together, you know: Bands need places to play, and venues need to see that live music is valuable to their mission.
And both of them need your support. So go. Support them.