WinterFest, aside from being a chance to show off your most fashionable beanie/scarf combo and an excuse to drink beer outdoors, is also one of winter's most high-profile music events. Last year we saw the all-female AC/DC tribute Hells Belles headline, while 2007's edition had singer songwriter Jackie Green at the top of the bill. And who could forget the Supersuckers (the self-proclaimed "greatest rock band in the world") damn near tearing down the tent in 2006?
This year's WinterFest, which has moved from downtown into an expansive chunk of the Old Mill District, continues with the festival's habit of bringing accessible Bend favorites to the stage, but with some refreshing choices. The festival organizers have built Friday night's show around hip-hop, a genre that somehow, some way has built a prominent foundation in lily white Bend. WinterFest event director Lee Perry, who incidentally doesn't find being called "Scratch" all that amusing, says that the hip-hop lineup was designed around the idea of making WinterFest more ideal for Bend's younger crowd.
Friday night is headlined by Vancouver, B.C.'s Sweatshop Union, a socially conscious seven-piece hip-hop ensemble that's played Bend enough to be mistaken for a local act. Their message is consistently positive and their rhymes clean and often erudite, making them perfect for mass consumption at an event like WinterFest. Opening the show for Sweatshop Union is none other than local hip-hop powerhouse Person People - an act that has as big of a draw in Bend as the show's nationally touring headliner and are just weeks away from unveiling their rock-solid new album at their own show at the Domino Room. Opening up the Friday night festivities is Cloaked Characters - another respected local hip-hop outfit.
On Saturday night you're probably going to regret dropping out of your high school marching band when you see just how un-dorky brass instruments can be when New Orleans' Dirty Dozen Brass Band blows some funky sounds from their horns through the brisk February air. Two summers ago, Dirty Dozen played a free show on a blisteringly hot Sunday to a massive throng of dancing Bendites at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, blasting through a soulful set that showcased the band's surprising range. An act comprised of sousaphones, trumpets, saxophones and trombones (as well as requisite drums and guitar) probably suggests Sousa marches or fight songs, rather than the funky romps that Dirty Dozen brings to the stage. For example, when they played Stevie Wonder's classic "Superstition" at their LSA show, the dynamics were soaring at such a level that it didn't really sound like a brass band at all, but rather the full swath of sounds we're accustomed to hearing in live music. And as if the night wasn't funkalicious enough, fellow New Orleans brass player Trombone Shorty (real name: Troy Andrews) and his band warm the night up with an ultra high-energy instrumental onslaught, and are preceded by Brent Alan and His Funky Friends.
While Dirty Dozen is sure to be the main draw of the weekend, there's also a steady lineup of locals playing all three days. The smaller stage should serve throughout the weekend as a who's who of local singer songwriters including familiar names like Anastacia Scott, Leif James and David Bowers, and several others.
Pull on that beanie (and the aforementioned matching scarf), and get in that one required night of outdoor winter music - whether that means MCs on the mic, a whole mess load of trombones and sousaphones or both.
For a complete WinterFest music schedule, visit www.bendwinterfest.com or consult the guide in last week's issue of the Source.