The Kids are all right and they're all here.The youth music scene in Bend sometimes feels like one of those things that you're pretty sure exists, but you've never actually seen, so you're not sure - like a panda bear or a McRib sandwich.
After two years of trying to track down some sort of high school basement show where we could send a youthful reporter (or at least youthful looking reporter), it seemed like we'd found a real-live teen-age rock show. The show at PoetHouse Art on Saturday night was a fundraiser for Rise Up International, the Bend-based socially conscious clothing retailer and humanitarian outfit, and featured a lineup that included names like Mosley Wotta and Empty Space Orchestra, but it was the other acts on the bill like Mirf the Bing and others that filled the room with mostly high-school aged fans.
Last week, we profiled songwriter Leif James and in part of that interview that never made it to print, James said he knew where to find good music in Bend.
"You want to know where the real music scene in Bend is? It's in the high schools," James said. I knew he was on target and was aware that bands like Space Hoax had popped out of the high school scene for shows at the Silver Moon and an afternoon slot at the Bend Roots Revival, but didn't know to what extent this youth movement had spread.
The prevalence of high school and slightly older-than-high school bands in Bend isn't necessarily a secret - if you yourself fall into that age bracket. But for the rest of us who decided long ago that the only music worth seeing is found in 21-and-over-only locales, it might come as a surprise. And this was certainly a surprise to the people who came to the Rise Up benefit to see either Mosley Wotta or Empty Space Orchestra (both of which have cultivated loyal followings) and found more than a hundred teenagers packed into the second-level venue.
After Empty Space (its young members looking not so young in amongst the crowd) finished their set, a quartet of young men rushed to set up their gear, mumbled their band name, which sounded something like "Reagonmics" over the crowded room and less-than-overpowering PA system, and took off on a half-hour-long set of full-throttle rockers. Well, somewhat disappointedly the band is actually called The Autonomics (and its four members were almost certainly born post-Reagan, so it all makes sense) but their music is far from disappointing. As the band of 18-year-old recent Summit High grads pounded out one rocker after another - skipping from garage rock to indie-flavored honky tonk - the kids went nucking futs and the floor bounced up and down. It seemed that it would only be a matter of time before the floor gave out and we found ourselves scattered about the Wine Shop below.
Soon after, another over-21 patron nudged me in the ribs and said, "These guys sound like how Drive-By Truckers would sound if they had ADD." And while it's never been my policy to question the attention deficiency of any act, this guy was right...at least during certain songs.
The Autonomics, fronted by a white-t-shirt-wearing Dan Pantenburg (who when tracked down a few days after the show said he idolizes both Jack White and Eddie Vedder), ratcheted up an already ratcheted-up crowd with a sped up, roughed-up take on M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes." When it came to the chorus, the kids raised up their hands in faux gun gestures, shouting out "All I wanna do is BANG BANG BANG."
And at that moment, it was clear what's great about these kids - they're having a hell of a lot of fun. I have a hard time believing anyone in the 21-and-up music scene would take a stab at covering M.I.A. And if someone did, I doubt anyone would sing along.