Fittingly, traveling south from Bend drops into a more bluesy and gritty music scene, as well as a healthy cowboy offering. There are festivals nearly every weekend throughout the summer, most falling into that unique overlap between cowboy and hippie (is that laidback, tie-dyed desperado?) Equal parts reggae, C&W and heavy metal, the Southern Oregon music scene certainly manages to balance out its various demographics—and perhaps does so best at these summer concerts.
Also, the Britt Fest is a remarkable treasure: An outdoor venue in a former gold rush town with impeccable booking choices, including well-known artists like Tori Amos, as well as lesser-known, but wildly talented ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro.
Really, it is as easy as picking whatever weekend is most convenient; there will be a great concert that weekend.
Once upon a time, blues music wasn't widely accepted. It was a dirty, gnarly, no-good occupation practiced on the wrong side of the tracks. If you want an idea what that was like, then Hillstomp is the band for you.
The Portland duo rocks the dirty stomp courtesy of the wicked slide wizardry of Henry Christianson, and the junkyard drumming of John "Lord Buckets" Johnson, whose drum set includes washboards, buckets, hubcaps and a brake drum. Equal parts Appalachian hillbilly stomp and raw northwest garage-punk, Hillstomp is one of the best live acts touring at the club level—and at a club the size of Johnny B's in Medford, you'll get the chance to get up close and personal with the blues.
Johnny B's, 120 E 6th St. Medford.
Calling Jake Shimabukuro the Van Halen of ukulele doesn't really do justice to the breadth—and jammery—of his artistry. While (Eddie) Van Halen brought a previously unconceivable level of bombast to the guitar, Shimabukuro brings gravitas to an instrument that is often a punch line—and does so with both a whimsical attitude and dizzying technical skill. Instead of strumming simple, high-pitched chords, he employs complex classical-style arpeggios and rock-and-roll finger-tapping to blaze through decidedly un-uke-like tunes, like Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." A truly remarkable one-man show.
Britt Park, Jacksonville. $29.
Green Springs Mountain Music Jam
A beautiful setting—overlooking a reservoir, and with a flotilla of kayaks and stand-up paddleboards—this is summertime and the living is easy. With a C&W lineup, and some bands edging toward bluegrass, like the mandolin and stand-up bass Eight Dollar Mountain and Bend's fiddle-happy Moon Mountain Ramblers, this is a friendly afternoon. Howard Prairie Resort, 3249 Hyatt Prairie Rd, Ashland. $10.
High Sierra Music Festival
July 3- July 6
One of the best names in touring music, Minnesota's Trampled By Turtles, plays at one of the highest altitude and most fun-spirited festivals in the western U.S. (What are we saying? In North America! Like the east coast has any good "mountain" concert venues!) With wailing mandolins and fiddles, and bellowing poetic vocals (that could easily battle rap with their home-state homeboy Bob Dylan), Trampled by Turtles are Americana, by way of smartass. And they aren't even the headliners! (That would be Widespread Panic.) Also on the four-day bill are the snappy Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, the sassy Carolina Chocolate Drops and, yes, the uncategorizable Ms. Lauryn Hill.
Quincy, CA (70 miles east by northeast from Chico, surrounded by the Plumas National Forest). adv. four-day pass, $207.50 (teens 110.50; kids, $55), parking pass, $110.
Uh-huh, never was a cornflake girl either!
Amos started her music career early, at age 5, winning a scholarship to the Preparatory Division of the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Six years later, she lost that scholarship because she insisted on learning rock music. By 13, she was playing at bars.
Amos was part of the break-out scene of female singer-songwriters in the late '80s, early '90s who stood out against a male-dominated music business—and, one that was increasingly one-dimensional in its portrayal of young women (um, picture any White Snake video; hello?!). In that group of female artists, like Traci Chapman and the Indigo Girls, Amos was particularly known for her often shocking lyrics and performances, giving a voice to issues rarely mentioned. The subject matter of some of her songs, as well as personal experiences also fueled her to co-create RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). She has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards.
On her current tour, The Unrepented Geraldines Tour, Amos is not going for shock, like she has in the past. Shock, she says, is easy. "I don't want to wear 50 (years old) how the media thinks that women in the music industry should wear 50," she explains.
As always, she is finding her own way, for herself.
The Britt Pavilion, 350 1st St, Jacksonville. $33.
Cape Blanco Country Music Festival
In the rural Hwy 101 town of Sixes, this is less salty cowboy than salt-toffee coastal. Headlined by one of the best touring country male singers (with 18 number one hits), Brad Paisley, the lineup also includes bro-country Eric Church and Randy Houser, whose vocals may be a bit thin, but his band has clearly listened to AC/DC more than once.
Sixes, Oregon. $120.
The intrepid banjo player is a regular on the stage for a reason: He is entrancing and dynamic. Nominated for Grammy Awards in more categories than any other musician, Fleck is playing an orchestral score with a full orchestra. Yeah! Amazing.
The Britt Pavilion, 350 1st St, Jacksonville. $10 - $45.
West Coast Country Music Festival
One of the most promising musical festivals in the area. It is only their sophomore attempt (last year was the inaugural year, and it was a fun and promising event), and already this Ashland-based festival is attracting some top-shelf talent. Headlined by The Sweetback Sisters, who purists may argue aren't precisely country (more honky tonk), but you'd be hard pressed to say that they are not talented and thigh-slapping fun, with pitch-perfect fiddling, and elegantly harmonized sweet and sour vocals from the non-sister singers. Other notables taking the stage are Scott Law, whose guitar playing pulls both from the Appalachian picking as well as west coast bluegrass, and Eight Dollar Mountain.
Greensprings Inn, Ashland. $20.
Jefferson State Hemp Expo
August 22 – August 24
When this two-day event started five years ago, it was a very different political frame for marijuana, and the message to legalize pot was still largely a fringe idea. But with recent voter-approved initiatives in Colorado and Washington, and a pending ballot measure in Oregon, this event has gained extra relevance. As if it needed it: The festival has been growing steadily as a well-organized and good-natured event. Although the music lineup isn't yet announced, the organizers have established a remarkable credibility for curating a lively and varied lineup. Last year, the twangy Les Claypool's Duo de Twang headlined, and were joined by steadfast rockers Floater, as well as soul-singer Curtis Salgado. These top shelf musicians were joined by some five-dozen other bands and musicians. This is one to put into the calendar in bold marker.
Mope Mountain Farm, Selma, OR. $25 Day Pass; $75 for full weekend camping.