By When asked how to describe the Bend Roots Revival to someone who has never been, co-founder and manager Mark Ransom had this to say: "When someone asks you what a poem is about it's kind of like, well, you have to read the poem, right?" Since that description is pretty enigmatic and wonderful, it would be nice to leave it at that, but in case more information is needed, more will be given.
The (refreshingly) free event is a three-day music festival on Shevlin Hixon Drive, with six stages between the Art Station and the Deschutes Brewery Warehouse. The music genres are wide and free ranging, with more focus given to quality AND quantity over similar-sounding bands on the same stage. Bend Roots Revival got started in the same way most wonderful things do...with friends.
Ransom explains: "So, another local musician, who I'd been friends with for a long time, by the name of Brett Allen, around 2004-2005 he and I were talking about the number of really awesome internationally touring acts that were coming to town. They were getting off of the tour bus at the Les Schwab amphitheater stage, doing a show, and then getting back on the bus and going to the next town, and we were like, 'That's kind of cool,' but there's also this rich art community here, and we wish there was more of a stage for them. To its credit, though, Les Schwab has been great doing the summer Sundays shows with local bands. Anyway, our first event was a block party at Parrilla Grill. It was just 12 bands on a Saturday. We called it the Bend Roots Festival, but at our next planning meeting, someone said 'It's more than a festival, it's more like a revival.' The title stuck."
Mark Ransom looks at the festival as an amazing congregation of people, but also as something more: "It's always a fun party and it's always a fun celebration of the local scene. What people don't know is that when they come to the Roots Festival, it's a free event, but they're supporting performing arts education in Bend, and that's really more important than anything else."
Also in the business of musical education is Joe Schulte of String Theory Music, which teaches guitar, banjo, mandolin, cello, bass, violin/fiddle, piano, voice, and group performance to students of all ages. He is in an interesting position for the festival. He plays in Moon Mountain Ramblers, Tone Red, and Popcorn, which are all performing at the festival...on the same day.
Joe explains the differing qualities of his three bands: "Moon Mountain Ramblers were started almost 15 years ago when I was just starting to learn the mandolin. Dan McClung and I connected through a note he had left on a local bulletin board. We quickly made a friendship and had similar musical tastes, got some others on board to achieve full bluegrass instrumentation, and formed MMR, which to this day used those genres as a strong base for our general sound. Tone Red has a very different sound from MMR, being more electric, rock, and blues, rather than acoustic bluegrass and swing. Crystal Pizzola is our strong front singer in Tone Red. Born with a beautiful strong voice, she seems to turn heads no matter where, or what she sings. In Popcorn we like to say we play acoustic instrumental covers of the songs you do, and don't want to hear. We like to have tons of fun in this band and bring humor into our stage act. Much of the humor comes simply from our song choices such as "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" or "Hit Me Baby One More Time" while also jumping into serious rock tunes like "Under the Bridge" or "War Pigs."
Schulte and The Ramblers have a long history with Bends Roots Revival. Schulte explains: "Being a longtime staple band of Bend and also being friends with Mark Ransom, The Moon Mountain Ramblers have had the honor of playing every Roots Fest to date. I feel the Ramblers have carried the torch and have really helped the other two bands get in with the town's music scene, jump starting their 'acceptance' and popularity."
As Ransom compares this three-day event to a poem, he has a moment of intense clarity. "Just come to the event and wander around," Ransom says. "Take it in and be a part of it. It's an organic thing." We really want to tell you more, but we just can't find the words.
Bend Roots Revival
Friday, Sept, 25, 4 pm-midnight
Saturday, Sept. 26, 10:30 am-midnight
Sunday, Sept. 27, 10:30 am-10 pm
313 Shevlin Hixon Dr.
See website for full schedule: bendroots.net.