After years of frustration with a lack of venues and opportunities to play music in Bend, Elijah Goodall and his band Isles decided to take matters into their own hands. Last year, they pieced together some of Bend's alternative elite for a small-scale festival held about 45 miles out of town, up the scenic and wooded Cascade Lakes Highway. This year, with the support of Rise Up International, 14 acts, including a handful from out of town—Just Lions of Portland, Minor Islands from the Bay Area and Lo & Behold from Redding, Calif.—will gather again to play the kind of loud, alternative music that isn't always the most popular at local events.
"As a band, we like doing unorthodox things," explained Goodall, his geometric tattoos peaking out of the neck and rolled-up sleeves of his black hoodie. "Where we live, there's not a lot of opportunity to do cool things or relevant things when it comes to music and arts and culture. You're really limited. Our modus operandi is to do anything we think is a good idea, so we're setting up a festival in the middle of the woods and we're playing some music."
Goodall makes it clear that Wedding in the Woods won't be your average Bend event, just like Isles isn't your average Bend band. Isles is an ambient, cacophonous mountain jutting up from a sea of banjos and mandolins and WITW is the counterculture call-and-response of experimental music to the traditional bluegrass-centric Bend festival lineup.
"There is a huge lack of variety for what gets sanctioned in Bend," explained Goodall. "It's certainly not a genre that ties all the bands together. It's more the kind of musical culture shared among the bands and a DIY nature. Everyone who is out there is responsible for everything we do, not only the songs but the marketing, the branding, the image. It might be because we're control freaks or it might be because we're multi-talented," he laughed. "It might be because we believe enough in what we're saying that we want to make sure the message gets across."
That message and those loud noises seem like a secret society mating call, a counterculture of subversion.
"Going on a hike and getting a beer and getting your dog a beer is all great, but if that's all you're doing—getting beer for you and your dog and going on hikes—then you're probably missing out on some things," said Goodall.
While Portland doesn't have the same challenges, Chandler Strutz of Just Lions, who has been playing bouncy '90s pop in Portland for six years, expressed empathy for the limitations of the Bend music scene.
"The Portland scene has its ups and downs. We have a crazy huge array of bands/genres and a really wonderful and supportive music scene. Most shows I go to I run into 15 or more people from other bands, and not usually bands that sound like the ones playing," explained Strutz. "On the flip side, there are so many bands out there it's hard to distinguish yourself. There are tons of rad bands that have been around for five or more years that people are JUST hearing about for the first time. It's really easy to get discouraged when you're pouring everything you have into a project, and it's not catching on."
Goodall hopes that this festival will help brew a storm, and tear at the fabric of Bend's musical and artistic predictability.
"You can do whatever you want under the gathering of a wedding," said Goodall. "It's the festival we want. If we're going to get to what Bend claims it would like to be, a lot of artists have to push the boundaries in order to break into something else."
He also assured the Source that he got his officiating ordination, and that Isles' bassist and his partner are ready at a moment's notice to tie the knot, just in case.
Wedding in the Woods | Fri.-Sat., Aug. 22-23
For directions and further festival information visit witw.weareisles.com.
Bar for those 21 and older is cash only.
4 pm-Kylan Johnson
4:45 pm -The Gold Rust
5:45 pm-Lo & Behold
6:45 pm-Feeding Frenzy
7:45 pm-Sweet Bonnie Gayle Band
10:00 pm-Just Lions
11:10 pm-Minor Islands
1 pm-Copper Moons
3 pm-The Gold Rust
4 pm-Minor Islands (Solo)
6 pm-Lo & Behold
7 pm-Don Quixote
8:05 pm-All You All