Music marches on

Despite a few troubling signs in music scene, 2012 ended on a good note

By Ben Salmon / The Bulletin / @frequencyblog

Published Dec 28, 2012 at 04:00AM

How healthy you think Central Oregon's music scene was in 2012 depends on how closely you look.

The wide-angle view reveals a pattern of big shows filling big venues with big crowds:

• Bend's Midtown Ballroom hosted packed houses for Beats Antique, Macklemore, Social Distortion, Yonder Mountain String Band and Snoop Dogg.

• Les Schwab Amphitheater's 10th season drew more people than any since 2008, anchored by vast Memorial Day weekend crowds, including more than 6,000 people for Tenacious D.

• The Sisters Folk Festival sold out in advance for the first time ever.

• And pop-rock band Hot Chelle Rae drew what appears to be the largest concert crowd in Central Oregon history Aug. 3, playing before an estimated 11,400 people, mostly teens squealing loudly and their parents.

Add in a huge uptick in the amount of live hip-hop and electronic music coming to Bend, plus the sprouting of a handful of promising local bands, and you have the foundation for a good year on the local scene.

But zoom in a bit, and you'll find some troubling signs, too. Most came in the latter half of 2012, with most affecting smaller venues and/or places that host local bands and smaller touring acts.

In September, disputes between the Century Center and its neighbors about traffic and noise forced the last-minute cancellation of one of the music scene's centerpiece events, the locally focused Bend Roots Revival.

In August, The Horned Hand was cited for violating Bend's noise ordinance. In November, the venue canceled a metal show to avoid more heat. And throughout the final quarter of the year, a chilling effect hit area music venues, some taking a break from live music while a small coalition of music lovers asked the city to revise its ordinance. (It tabled the discussion until 2013.)

In December, however — of all the months, right? — came signs of a warming trend. New spots are opening their doors to live music. Once-quiet venues have scheduled shows. Bend Roots Revival has found a new home. And a judge dismissed the The Horned Hand's citation, citing a lack of clarity in the law.

Snow is falling, but soon spring will come and the local landscape will thaw.

Music is perennial. There is no stopping its bloom.