Ties it all together. It's been almost a year since organizers of the 4 Peaks Music Festival stood onstage at the end of New Monsoon's headlining set and took a bow. They'd taken a ranch in Tumalo and turned it into a certifiably well-done music and camping festival - the only such event of its size in the region - and produced a vibe that was like a county fair for people (from kids to the silver-topped tourists) who would never dream of going to a county fair.
In a letter to neighbors of the pastoral Tumalo area neighboring the farm deemed "Rockin' A Ranch," 4 Peaks organizers announced last week that the 2009 festival will move to a yet-to-be-announced location for the festival's third installment. Wherever the festival lands, it's sure that this down-home vibe will follow, which is something any music festival strives for - a sense of identity in a crowded summer music market place.
Along with massively expanded campgrounds and a new site plot, the festival also wrangled in some larger scale touring acts (Zilla, Flowmotion, Hot Buttered Rum, and, of course, Poor Man's Whiskey, among others) while remaining within its means and also true to roots and jam music genre on which it was built. Tea Leaf Green is at the top of the bill for the festival, taking the penultimate lineup slot on Saturday night. The San Francisco piano-driven jam rock quartet released a new record (Raise the Tent) this week and their stop off at 4 Peaks is just one of the band's festival shows this summer, a season that saw them taking the stage at big-name events like Rothbury, Floyd Fest and the Mile High Music Festival, among others. Tea Leaf Green might be the reason a good handful of music nuts from Bend and far beyond flock out to the 80-acre ranch, but the quartet might not be what people walk away talking about. There's sure to be some chatter about the Everyone Orchestra, the band comprised of, well...just about everyone that is set to close out 2008's 4 Peaks Festival and basically tie the whole two-day shindig together.
Eugene native Matt Butler is the organizer/conductor of the Everyone Orchestra, a project he brings to festivals across the country in which he packs the stage with musicians from bands on the festival lineup for a balls-to-the-wall jam session. There's no rehearsal, other than a quick team meeting in the minutes before the EO takes the stage, no set list, and sometimes no discernible songs through the entire set. It's precisely as chaotic as it sounds, and perhaps more so. Butler doesn't seem to mind the chaos.
"It's chaos management in a lot of ways," he says of his production, "I never know what's going to happen until it's already happening. I just create a framework that's an organizational musical structure to get everyone on board. And then we, well, just go."
The Everyone Orchestra is often a culmination of the festival itself, serving to capture the temporary home festival goers have occupied for the preceding days.
"At a festival like 4 Peaks, which is a really intimate gathering, the whole idea is to have one last shot through the canon," Butler says.
There's a good chance that by this point you've already landed on the EO MySpace page, trying to get a listen to said chaos. Stop. Hit the mute button. Close the laptop. Yank your Internet cord out of the wall. Recorded versions of past Everyone Orchestras are, well, pretty damn weird and Butler admits as much, but what can you expect from a musical project that at times includes as many as 50 musicians? The Everyone Orchestra is meant to be a spectacle and spectacles don't sound great on MySpace - spectacles need to be seen.
"Sometimes I call it 'music sports' because it's like Frisbee. If you're not watching out for the Frisbee, you're going to get hit in the head," Butler says, "It's a very experimental thing."
You'll notice he didn't choose, a sport like, say...football in his analogy. Butler seems like a Frisbee kind of guy, which is to say he's a jam band kind of guy. Frisbee is to the jam band arena what NASCAR is to the pop-country world, think of it that way. The list of those who've played in the Everyone Orchestra over the years is a verifiable "who's who" of the jam band world, with members of Phish, Grateful Dead, String Cheese Incident and many others having sat in at one point or another. It's for this reason, as well as many others, that Butler is an unquestionable authority on jam bands.
Butler speaks at length (and at a pleasantly rapid pace) about the jam band and jam festival scenes, both of which some critics say are fading, but Butler says it's more changing than dissipating. He also has endless amounts of flattery to direct toward Poor Man's Whiskey (read more about them in the Liner Notes column), a band that he feels, quite accurately, is becoming a de facto "host band" at 4 Peaks. He then takes a moment to gauge Bend's beloved 4 Peaks.
"A lot of times these smaller festivals like 4 Peaks are scaled right and they have a lot more heart than really big ones. There's just something about the intimacy," Butler says.
4 Peaks Music Festival
Friday-Saturday, July 25-26. Rockin' A Ranch, 19449 Tumalo Reservoir Rd., Tumalo. Visit 4peaksmusic.com for details.