Bring on the night. Nightlife in Bend is peppered throughout the downtown area (and a few, but not many non-downtown locales) but for whatever reason, it's on the fringe of downtown that live music is taking hold. On Saturday, April 26, in only a matter of a block, or maybe a block and quarter, there were four venues, with four different musical acts all playing simultaneously. All four joints were pouring beers, and all four were pretty much packed.
As is standard on a Saturday night, the Domino Room was bumping. It wasn't a national touring act rocking the stage but rather Bend's own hip-hop super group, Person People. While the rumors we reported of Talib Kweli and KRS-One appearing on PP's new album turned out to be unfounded, it seems that the seven hip-hoppers and their live band don't need the assistance of rap legends to find greatness.
Across the street, the other familiar Greenwood Ave. music mainstay, Silver Moon Brewing Co. had its usual throng of Saturday night revelers getting down to the jams of Mark Ransom and his band the Mostest.
Just next door, a rare player in the nightlife scene, the Tulen Center, was open for business as the 4 Peaks Presents folks were hosting a genre-crossing performance by sudden Bend favorites, Poor Man's Whiskey. The Tulen Center, used primarily for the likes of yoga classes and martial arts, is an untapped resource in the live music community. With a cozy, but hardly tiny stage, a wood floor, surprisingly good acoustics, and a reception desk that doubles as both a bar and a mixing booth, the Tulen could easily serve a great mid-sized venue.
To top it off, the gritty, smoky, yet loveably down home M&J Tavern was full of PBR tall-can drinking folks digging tunes from the youngsters of the newly formed Empty Space Orchestra (you'll meet them in the Local Music Issue in a couple weeks), whose tip jar (that seems to be a standard form of payment at the M&J) contained a decent amount of singles.
There you had it: All ages hip-hop at the Domino, local jam band sounds at Silver Moon, dance party bluegrass rock at the Tulen Center, and chilled out instrumental experiments and beers in the can at the M&J. You could stand in the middle of the street and hear all four bands all at once - the sort of mishmash you might catch by rolling down your windows at a stoplight to hear the car stereos of the vehicles on each side of you. People were standing on street corners and sitting on curbs while lighting each others' cigarettes in the spaces between the venues. It was a real "scene." It was about 500 or more people getting down to four different bands in four different places all on one block. You can go to Seattle and maybe find more hiply dressed concertgoers, but probaly not find such a high concentration of live music.
For a night we had evidence to throw in the faces of those who make a career of bitching about how much the nightlife sucks in Bend and how the only music worth seeing is in Portland.