As we enter into the slow season for concerts, it seems like a good time to take a breath and take stock of what’s coming up in the world of live music in Central Oregon.
Except there is no slow season for concerts in Bend and beyond, as I’ve pointed out many times over the years. Even though the big concert series at Oregon Spirit Distillers, Athletic Club of Bend and Les Schwab Amphitheater have yet to announce shows (or in the case of LSA, have only announced two shows), there’s plenty to keep you busy between now and June.
By nature of when shows get announced, this preview mostly focuses on the first half of the year, with a few exceptions. If you need some help planning your music experiences, let GO! give you some insight into 2020.
Les Schwab Amphitheater
Bend’s largest outdoor venue is gearing up for its 18th full season (19th, counting the abbreviated inaugural summer in 2002) amidst impending changes. The amphitheater is working toward extensive renovations, including making it more accessible for people with disabilities; continuing measures to protect the riparian areas bordering the venue; increased security measures such as magnetometers (metal detectors like the ones you see at airport security); and adding more clearance under the stage to accommodate more touring artists. The venue is still in the permitting process for these improvements, director Marney Smith said, and construction probably won’t begin until after the 2020 season.
The summer concert season also marks the end of the amphitheater’s contract with Portland-based promoter Monqui Presents. Big changes may be coming in the future related to this, so stay tuned as the year progresses.
But on to the music. Two shows have already been announced, including indie rock darlings and oxford comma haters Vampire Weekend on Aug. 9 and a reggae package headlined by Rebelution and featuring Steel Pulse, The Green, Keznamdi and DJ Mackle on Aug. 30.
A number of other artists have confirmed but have yet to announce shows at the venue, Smith said. As always, Les Schwab is looking to bring in a mix of old favorites and new genres, including the ever-elusive country acts (the stage renovations will help bring in more of these artists, Smith said).
“I think it’s important for people to know that we hear the requests, and we work diligently to try to get country on our stage,” Smith said. “We think we’ll make some people happy this year.”
Fans may have noticed that the in-person ticketing operation for Les Schwab shows moved from the Ticket Mill to Grafletics, located next to Tumalo Art Company in the Old Mill District. But Grafletics will close this month to make way for the new Ticket Mill, which will feature a full store selling Old Mill gift cards, sundries, souvenirs, concierge services, snacks, drinks, chairs for concerts and of course, concert tickets for shows. The new spot will soft-open Jan. 15, with a grand opening Feb. 14.
“One of the things that … the majority of the venues that we’ve visited have been doing is eliminating the front-facing box office,” Smith said, “which to us is something that’s really important: to be able to answer questions face-to-face and for people to be able to walk up and purchase tickets in-person and know that they got their actual, valid ticket to a show, in light of all the scalping activity and resale markets online. So we will fight tooth and nail to keep that no matter what.”
Bend Radio Group and Oregon Spirit Distillers
Bend Radio Group will mark its third year hosting shows at Oregon Spirit Distillers this year. Following more debate about the city’s noise ordinance in late 2017 that led to temporary change of occupancy permits being limited to three per venue per year, the group moved most of its concerts from the Century Center to Oregon Spirit Distillers. So far, the venue has been a great fit, said Bend Radio Group owner Jim Gross.
Gross said to expect about nine shows this year, most at Oregon Spirit Distillers. A few may land at the Century Center, as the Rubblebucket show coinciding with the Outside Games did in July, he said.
Once again, expect two distinct concert series: a country-leaning series spearheaded by KSJJ 102.9-FM, and a more alternative/indie rock-leaning series from 92.9-FM. Concert announcements should start trickling in around February, Gross said.
While there will be two series, there should be plenty of overlap. Alt-country rising star Tyler Childers, who closed out last year’s season, straddles the line between country and rock, and was one of the radio group’s most successful shows.
“You had everybody from Deadheads to cowboys to lumberjacks to everybody — it was just no age (limit), no real ilk except for a passion for that type of troubadour, Americana that seems to float in that zone between all of it, between country and rock,” Gross said. “... One of the great things about being here in Bend is that you’ve got all those different groups of people living next to each other, sitting at the bar together, watching concerts together, and everybody gets along.”
Volcanic Theatre Pub
Volcanic Theatre Pub enters its seventh year as Bend’s busiest music venue in 2020. Much has changed for the theater: In recent years, the venue has beefed up its music offerings and slowed down a bit with theatrical offerings. Owner Derek Sitter listed the business for sale in late 2017, and while it’s still listed, Sitter is still behind every booking and most of the day-to-day operations of the place — you can find him manning the door or the bar most nights there’s a show going on.
Sitter, with some help from promoters Parallel 44 Presents and 1988 Entertainment, has musical acts booked at VTP through early May, with more on the way.
This month will see modern rockabilly/punk pioneers The Reverend Horton Heat return to Bend for the third winter in a row Jan. 30. The trio played the Domino Room previously (although the shows were still booked by VTP), but will move to the more intimate confines of the theater this year.
South Carolina reggae/rock/hip-hop hybrid The Movement will get irie at the theater Feb. 20. Bend reggae/rock heroes Indubious and ex-Jah Roots singer Josh Heinrichs will also perform.
Massachusetts blues shredder Albert Cummings returns to VTP on Feb. 28. The guitarist and songwriter, who has worked with Double Trouble and B.B. King, debuted at the theater in 2017.
Punk and alternative rock fans will have a lot to look forward to as the year goes on. VTP recently announced San Diego post-hardcore band Hot Snakes, featuring members of Drive Like Jehu and Rocket from the Crypt, will headline March 7. New Zealand power-poppers The Beths, which played one of VTP’s best 2019 shows, will return to the venue April 17 to deliver a taste of its upcoming sophomore album, currently being recorded. And classic surf-punk group Agent Orange will return to Bend to headline VTP on April 22.
The venue also throws its support behind local acts, and one show in particular deserves mention. Bend power-pop/roots rock quartet AM Clouds will finally release its long-awaited debut album, “Rainmaker,” at the theater Jan. 31. The Color Study and Cosmonautical, two of the local rock scene’s rising stars, will also perform.
Of course, this is just scratching the surface. Visit volcanictheatre.com to scope the full schedule so far.
Bend’s historic theater boasts another busy schedule of events in early 2020, from returning annual traditions to even more rock ’n’ roll acts than in previous years.
Among the returnees, the fifth annual Bend A Cappella Festival hits the theater Feb. 20 through 22. Vocal group Nomadic kicks off the festival Feb. 20. A singer showcase and reception will be held at the theater Feb. 21, followed by the Sing-Off Competition hosted by emcee Deke Sharon on Feb. 22.
On the rootsier side, soul, blues and Americana singer Martha Redbone will bring her mix of Native American and Western musical traditions to the theater Jan. 16. Redbone, of Cherokee, Choctaw, African-American and European descent, released the John McEuen-produced album, “The Garden of Love — Songs of William Blake,” in 2012.
Husband-and-wife banjo duo Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn return to the Tower on Feb. 19. Fleck, known for his work with the New Grass Revival and The Flecktones, and Washburn, of The Sparrow Quartet and Uncle Earl, last brought their dueling banjos to the Tower stage in early 2016.
We Shall Overcome, spearheaded by producer and musical director Damien Sneed, will hit the stage March 12. The show is a celebration of African American musical traditions, including gospel, jazz, Broadway, classical and spiritual traditions, and covering artists ranging from Aretha Franklin to Stevie Wonder.
Guitarist Dweezil Zappa, son of Frank, heads up the venue’s rock offerings Feb. 7. Deadheads should head to the theater Feb. 10 for a dose of Dark Star Orchestra. The Tower also will pay tribute to rock ’n’ roll’s early days with the multimedia show Live from Laurel Canyon on March 5.
Every year the Tower brings music from all over the world to Bend. That will continue this year with performances from Irish Rambling House (March 16), contemporary Mexican group Villalobos Brothers (May 5), Japanese taiko drum group The Yamato Drummers (April 13) and more.
Once again, this is just a taste. Visit towertheatre.org or call 541-317-0700 for more information.
Midtown Ballroom and the Domino Room will stay busy this spring with help from 1988 Entertainment, Parallel 44 Presents, Action Deniro Productions and out-of-town promoter JMax Productions. The venue’s offerings span a wide range, including outlaw country, punk, funk, hip-hop and the region’s larger electronic shows.
Plenty of familiar faces will return to the former roller rink early this year. Grammy-winning jamgrass band The Infamous Stringdusters will return to Midtown Ballroom for its fourth Bend show in three years Jan. 21. Last year the Nashville five-piece followed up its 2017 album, “Laws of Gravity,” which netted the group its first Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album, with “Rise Sun.”
On to funkier things: The Motet, last at Midtown in February 2019, returns almost a year to the day later for a Valentine’s bash Feb. 14. Then, Maryland funk/jam band Pigeons Playing Ping Pong play Midtown on Feb. 20, after playing the room in late 2018.
Jam band fans are probably on board with all of the above, but there’s two other shows they also should look forward to. Progressive/hard rock group Umphrey’s McGee returns to Midtown Ballroom on Feb. 26 after debuting at the venue last year. The Allman Betts Band — featuring Devon Allman, son of Gregg Allman, and Duane Betts, son of Dickey Betts — continue The Allman Brothers Band’s legacy at the Domino Room on March 17.
Other returning favorites include Portland marching band-turned-touring juggernaut MarchFourth, back at the Domino Room on Feb. 28; surf-folk singer-songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter at the Domino Room on March 1; and perennial Bend favorite G. Love and Special Sauce at the Domino Room on March 19.
For the EDM heads, head to the Domino Room on Feb. 13 for Loveless 2020, featuring Dr. Fresch, Bijou, Freak On and Codi Carroll.
Check out these shows and plenty of others at midtownbend.com.
More on the way
As usual, much of the live music you can look forward to in 2020 hasn’t been announced yet. Of course there’s the myriad festivals that take over downtown in the summer, including the Bend Summer Festival and Bite of Bend.
Munch & Music will celebrate 30 years of free music in Drake Park this year. The long-running, family-friendly series usually features at least six shows ranging from roots to soul to funk to hard rock (last year’s Supersuckers show was a surprise).
The 4 Peaks Music Festival marks its 13th year this year, returning once again to D.M. Stevenson Ranch from June 18 through 21. Early-bird tickets are on sale now at 4peaksmusic.com, and luxury yurt packages just went on sale this week. Stay tuned for artist announcements as they trickle in.
Expect concert announcements for the annual Clear Summer Nights series at the Athletic Club of Bend sooner rather than later. The series usually features at least four concerts encompassing indie rock, reggae, roots and more.
After launching a concert series at Seventh Mountain Resort last year, 1988 Entertainment will return to the venue this year with 12 shows from June 1 through Oct. 1, according to owner John Davis. Stay tuned for artist announcements.
Jazz at the Oxford is in the midst of its 10th season, featuring many returning favorites from past years. As usual, most of the shows have long been sold out, but a small number of tickets are still available for western swing group Cow Bop’s three shows Feb. 7 and 8. Visit jazzattheoxford.com for more information.
The Sisters Folk Festival will return for its 24th event Sept. 11 through 13, taking over 11 venues throughout Sisters. Tickets are on sale now at sistersfolkfestival.org. While you’re waiting for the main event, the organization’s Winter Concert Series at the Sisters High School auditorium can tide you over: Las Cafeteras plays Wednesday, Dustbowl Revival headlines Feb. 21 and Sierra Hull performs April 9. Visit sistersfolkfestival.org for tickets and more information.
Is that all? Of course that’s not all. Keep your eyes open to these pages for more live music announcements as they come in.