The Grove in downtown Bend is known for its modern atmosphere and futuristic music, but for one night next week, it will be the setting for an old-fashioned Western variety show.
The High Desert Buckaroo Bash will take over the bar Wednesday night (see ”If You Go”), complete with Western music, cowboy poetry and readings from the award-winning Prineville author Rick Steber. Attendees will be eligible for door prizes and can stick around to see the country-rock band Great American Taxi for free (see page 6 for more details).
The event is a fundraiser for Bend's community radio station, KPOV, and was organized by Charley Engel, aka Chuckaroo The Buckaroo, the host of the station's ”Calling All Cowboys” show.
Chuckaroo is no fake radio personality; Engel lives on five acres east of Bend and is a true enthusiast for all things Western. He said he has designed the show to capture the spirit of the Old West.
”With this show, we're trying to put together what the general public perception of what the cowboy is all about: someone who knows the difference between right and wrong, who loves the land and wants to take care of it, who loves animals and wants to have a lifestyle surrounded by that,” he said. ”Someone whose word you can take.”
Engel will host the evening's festivities, which will happen on two stages, one for the various musicians and one for the writers to read their work between music sets.
”We're trying to make it as fun as we can and interesting for everyone,” he said. ”There'll be songs that go back as early as the earliest recorded cowboy songs, and there'll be material that is brand new, written within the last year or so. There'll be covers, originals, kitschy songs ... it'll be quite a wide gamut.”
The featured writer at the bash will be Steber, who has written more than 30 Western-themed books with more than a million copies sold. His novel ”Buy the Chief a Cadillac,” based on the 1961 termination of the Klamath Indian tribe of Southern Oregon, was named best Western novel of 2005 by the Western Writers of America.
Also reading their work during the event will be cowboy poets Jo Lee Riley and Roger Traweek.
For the music, Engel has a number of friends in Central Oregon's Western music community, thanks in part to his radio show. He drew from all around the region to stock the night's performance schedule.
The bash will begin at 7 p.m. and run till 10 p.m., and here is a rundown of each of the musical acts scheduled to play:
* John Grant and The Western Revue: Grant moved to Central Oregon in 1973 and has had a band here since 1974. The name ”The Western Revue” is a play on words, because the band not only reviews the history of Western music, but also puts on quite a show.
Grant and his band mates swap instruments and play Grant's own songs as well as covers from a list of great country songs that Grant has been keeping for years. You can hear some of the tunes at cowboyjohn grant.com.
”When I'd hear a damn good country song on the radio, I'd say, 'Man, I've got to have that one in my songbook.' So I've put together about four songbooks of covers from the early 1970s to now of a wide variety of my country favorites,” he said. ”I've rodeoed for 16 years, and I come from a cowboy way of life that stems clear back to my great-grandfather, who had a place in Wyoming, and that's just been my way of life and my style of music.”
* The Anvil Blasters: The Blasters have been kicking around Sisters for about four years, said guitarist/vocalist Jim Cornelius.
The string band's music ranges from bluegrass to folk to country. The five members of the group (including Engel on harmonica) had been ”moving in different musical circles and ... gradually over time coalesced in a regular unit,” Cornelius said.
Expect a mix of originals and covers of songs by artists such as Tom Russell and Dave Stamey, he said.
* Riders in the Dirt: The four women in Riders in the Dirt didn't mean for their band to take them on national tours and to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. It just kind of turned out that way.
All four Riders work for the Forest Service, three for the Ochoco National Forest and one for the Deschutes. All are horse enthusiasts who were ”pushing cattle” one day about seven years ago when they decided to break out their guitars around the campfire, said guitarist Judy Haigler.
”Our motto is 'Untamed Melodies of the Western Frontier,'” Haigler said. The women love to sing the sweet harmonies of the songs of the Old West, be it a famous old tune like ”Orange Blossom Special” or one of member Gayle Hunt's originals.
”We have a lot of fun. We really get the audience going,” Haigler said. ”We believe in audience participation and making them have fun. The more fun they have, the more fun we have.”
* Rick Weatherson: Weatherson works as a driver for Les Schwab to pay the bills, but he still loves to get out and do some real ”cowboyin'” when he can, he said.
He worked on ranches when he was younger and used to hear nuggets of wisdom that inspired him to write his own music, he said.
”Some of these guys that I worked with gave me a line or a phrase; I'd think, 'There's got to be a song in there somewhere,'” he said. ”They're all drawn from actual experiences to try to give a person what it felt like to be riding in Central Oregon.”
The performers are looking forward to a night full of pickin' and grinnin', but they also all agreed that the cause is a worthy one.
”I think (community radio) is a great thing. It's real diverse. It's got a wide variety of topics and music and themes, and to do what they do on a volunteer basis is amazing,” Grant said. ”Nobody gets paid, and you've got all this stuff available to Bend residents.”
And it's no surprise that each of the musicians who'll play the bash wants to make sure that one of Central Oregon's few outlets for their favorite kind of music stays on the air.
”(Engel) plays a lot of the kind of music we play, which you never hear on mainstream radio,” Cornelius said. ”The kind of music that we play and that we're passionate about is the kind that you're only going to hear on satellite radio or community radio, so it's always worthwhile to support the formats that keep this kind of music going.”
If You Go
What: High Desert Buckaroo Bash
When: 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday
Where: The Grove, 1033 N.W. Bond St., Bend
Cost: $10 donation; a $25 donation buys a KPOV membership