Winter may be the perennial slow season for live music fans, but no one told Central Oregon.
Though the area’s big summer festivals and concerts have yet to be revealed, there are already plenty of upcoming shows and releases on the books to get excited about in winter and spring. Here’s what to watch (or listen) for in early 2017:
4 Peaks Music Festival: The family-friendly, four-day event moves to a new home for its 10th anniversary year, after nine years at the Rockin’ A Ranch in Tumalo. This year’s festival takes place at DM Stevenson Ranch, a roughly 150-acre property located off Knott Road about a mile southwest of the Deschutes County landfill, from June 15 through 18.
Festival promoter and founder Stacy Totland said the new location will allow for expanded camping, more activities, a larger kids area, more vendors and crafts. Organizers will also offer yurts for attendees to rent this year for higher-end camping.
“We loved being in Tumalo; we loved it for nine years there. And it’s just time to move on,” she said.
Advance holiday passes are available at eventbrite.com through Jan. 13, and cost $145 plus fees for the full festival, with RV passes for $110 plus fees and young adult passes for $70 plus fees. Early-bird tickets go on sale March 1. The lineup of performers will be announced soon, Totland said.
Les Schwab Amphitheater: Central Oregon’s largest outdoor venue had an arguably slow 15th anniversary season when compared to past years — 10 acts, including a double-header featuring Atlanta, Georgia, jam band Widespread Panic in early July. But the venue has already confirmed four acts for summer 2017 (though announcements won’t come probably until mid-January at the earliest, according to amphitheater manager Marney Smith).
As for the concert-going experience itself, expect more improvements to the venue this year. The Take Note initiative, introduced last summer with the aim of reducing waste in the amphitheater, will continue with the addition of more refillable water bottle stations in the amphitheater.
“Every year we make improvements to the accessible seating area,” Smith said. “Just anything we can do to make the experience more enjoyable for our guests is our top priority.”
As always, Smith is pushing for more country acts (“It’s a very difficult genre to book, but that is one of the requests we get most frequently,” she said). The venue also will try for comedians again this year. Visit bendconcerts.com for show announcements as they roll in, or keep checking these pages for more.
Volcanic Theatre Pub: Three years in, Volcanic Theatre Pub has become a go-to for fans of just about any genre of music, including hip-hop, bluegrass, funk and the heaviest of metal. That legacy will continue in its fourth year, with shows already booked through June and more announcements on the way.
Highlights coming up fast in January include reggae-fied Talking Heads tribute Talking Dreads (Jan. 13); Massachusetts blues guitar shredder Albert Cummings (Jan. 20); and funk/jazz saxophonist Karl Denson and his band Tiny Universe (Jan. 31). Then in February, longtime Jerry Garcia Band keyboardist Melvin Seals returns with Dead-inspired group Terrapin Flyer (Feb. 9).
March highlights include acoustic/electronica supergroup Dirtwire, featuring David Satori of Beats Antique, Evan Fraser of the Dogon Lights and Mark Reveley of Jed and Lucia (March 7); and one-man band That 1 Guy, who brings his Magic Pipe back to VTP for the third time March 31. And looking even further ahead: “Simpsons”-inspired “heavy nedal” band Okilly Dokilly sets Ned Flanders’ words of wisdom to raging guitars at the venue May 2; and singer-songwriter James McCartney (son of Paul himself) plays the venue May 9.
Midtown Ballroom : With help from local promoters Red Light Productions, Random Presents and Parallel 44 Presents, the Midtown Ballroom complex of venues (also including the Domino Room and the Annex) stayed busy in 2016 with a number of high-profile shows, including Suicidal Tendencies, YG and Built to Spill among many, many others. That should continue this year, with the venue already booked through March.
The venue looks set to continue its streak of great hip-hop shows, with outsider rapper Mickey Avalon returning to the Domino Room on March 25. Houston rapper Riff Raff, who released his second album “Peach Panther” last year, will bring his twisted lyrical vision to the Domino Room on Feb. 24.
Funk and soul fans can look forward to the return of Orgone to the Domino Room on Feb. 14, on a bill also featuring Monophonics. Boston funk institution Lettuce will make its Bend debut at the Midtown Ballroom on March 12, with Russ Liquid Test opening.
Finally, continuing the streak of punk rock legends (C.J. Ramone, D.O.A.) to hit the venue last year, bassist Mike Watt of Minutemen and fIREHOSE fame brings his latter-day trio The Missingmen to the Domino Room on March 1.
Musicians to watch in 2017
¡Chiringa!: Since forming on Cinco de Mayo 2012, ¡Chiringa! has built a reputation as the local name in Latin dance music, period. The band shook things up in March when it debuted its first full-band, original compositions at a show at Silver Moon Brewing. Then in July it performed a fundraising show for its first full-length album. The money raised allowed the band to record basic tracks for nine new songs with Matt Engle at Musitech studios in Redmond in November.
The band played another fundraiser in December, and is now working on putting the finishing touches on the material with Lino Alessio at his studio in Sisters. Occasional member Samuel Thompson flew up from Los Angeles for the fundraiser and laid down trumpet and keyboard parts, Amini said. The band is looking at either spring or summer 2017 for the as-yet-untitled album’s release, and may donate part of the sales to local nonprofit Rise Up International and efforts to help protesters at Standing Rock.
“It’s all original except for one cover tune — we recorded ‘El Cuarto de Tula,’” Amini said. “This is one of our cover songs that has been in our repertoire probably since at least four years ago when we got together, so we thought it would be cool to tie in at least one of our standard cover songs and pay some homage to the music that’s informing a lot of our music too. Apart from that, (it’s) all original music, which is a mixture of Latin funk rock and some other crazy things, I’m not sure what to call it.”
Elektrapod: After losing a founding member in 2015, Bend’s funktacular six-piece jam rockers bounced back with a busy 2016 that included the release of its first album, the live set “Alive in Bend”; touring in Oregon, Washington and California; and performances at Oregon Winterfest, 4 Peaks Music Festival and Bend Roots Revival.
The next step is this year: record and release the first Elektrapod studio album. Guitarist, bandleader and songwriter Gabe Johnson — also well known for his promotion work with Parallel 44 Presents and In the Pocket Artists — said preproduction has begun in the band’s home studio while keyboardist Evan Read-Mullins finishes building his professional studio. When that’s complete, recording will begin in earnest with Nashville producer and Johnson’s longtime friend Nicholas Bullock at the helm.
“I think it’s decidedly a studio record,” Johnson said. “It’s gonna be very different than the live record in that there’s gonna be concise, in many cases very radio-friendly production of songs that we’ve written.”
Johnson said Elektrapod is aiming for a May album release. In the meantime, the group will keep plenty busy. Upcoming shows include supporting Washington, D.C.’s Pigeons Playing Ping-Pong in Eugene and Portland on Feb. 10 and 11, respectively; and a free fan appreciation show at The Capitol on Feb. 25.
Woebegone: Now for some upcoming local albums that have release dates. Woebegone — featuring Ian Cook, Kirk Skatvold and Andrew Carew of Larry and His Flask — emerged in early 2015 as one of the area’s most exciting new rock bands. But aside from a handful of shows since then, the band has stayed largely quiet on the performance front while writing and recording its first studio album — and as LAHF re-emerged from hiatus and hit the touring circuit again in 2016.
With the upcoming 16-track “Supple Rock” — named for the band’s self-descriptor for its soulful mix of classic rock, country and alternative — Woebegone is looking at a much busier 2017. The digital album will be released Friday, with physical copies available at the band’s album release show at Volcanic Theatre Pub on Jan. 14. Recording stretched out over most of 2016 at drummer Dayne Wood’s studio.
“There’s so much life in between, so it kind of was like — it took a lot longer than we really expected,” Cook said. “But I feel it was a labor of love, and I think that taking that time helped the record in its own way, but I don’t think we’ll be taking that long next time around.”
Indeed, Cook said the band already has a “whole ’nother album and a half worth of material just ready to go.” The band plans to tour after the album release, though nothing is set in stone yet.
The juggling act between Woebegone and LAHF (not to mention other LAHF off-shoots such as Guardian of the Underdog) will continue through 2017 as well. The long-running roots-punk stalwarts recorded two new songs at the tail end of 2016 that are waiting for release. Cook said the songs could be a prelude to a new Larry album, which would be the band’s first since 2013’s “By the Lamplight.” The band also has a summer tour planned around its appearance at the Muddy Roots Festival in Tennessee.
Moon Mountain Ramblers: One of Central Oregon’s longest-running bands returns after a six-year wait with its fourth studio album “A Little After Midnight.” The 13-track set will drop at an album release show at The Old Stone Performing Arts Center on Jan. 28.
It’s taken five years of on-and-off recording to get to this point. In that time the five-piece newgrass band continued to be a regular presence at most of the area’s outdoor, festival-type shows in the summers, and maintained a healthy schedule of wedding gigs and other private events.
When mandolinist Joe Schulte moved his music education business, String Theory Music, to its Wall Street location two years ago, the band was finally able to record everything live.
“And that was our main goal, to try and have the album come across with a good live feel because we’ve always been a live band, and when you get in a studio it’s a totally different ball game — like the skill that you need and the whole deal is totally different,” vocalist/guitarist Matt “Mai” Hyman said in an interview with GO! Magazine in late October. “But we still always are like, well, we want to sound like we sound because it sounded pretty good at practice, you know? So trying to capture that but trying to get through the technical aspect of how to do that and get comfortable doing it.”