Sixty-three year old John Hancock has been pickin' and grinnin' for as long as he can remember.
"I've been playing guitar as far back as my memory goes," Hancock said recently in an interview with the Source, "I don't know. I grew up with it. I'm originally from way, way back east and my whole family is musical. We've been around music our whole lives and bluegrass is where we started and stopped."
So when he and his wife, Nancy, looked at a 40-acre piece of property out by the Bend airport, the first thought that came to mind was that it would make a really good venue for a bluegrass music festival. After buying the land, they set to work on creating what Hancock calls the "best bluegrass festival in Oregon" (though he admitted he might be bias), the High and Dry Bluegrass Festival.
The first item of business was to make a list of what they didn't like about other music events. Ultimately, they would avoid doing anything on this list. The item on top: price.
"Our mantra is 'ten bands for ten bucks.' One of the things that we did not want to do was gouge people to get in the door."
Hancock isn't kidding. This will be the third year of the fest, and ten bucks will still get you ten bands. Those ten bucks could even get you your own little 15 minutes in the spotlight. You see, the folks over at High and Dry do things a little differently than other music festivals. They have a main stage, where the featured artists play, but they also have what they call the "tweener" stage. Instead of having a band play their set and the audience sit around and wait for 45 minutes while they set up the instruments for the next group, there are some lesser-known locals who play on the tweener stage to fill the time slot. Those lesser-know locals? Yeah, that's you.
"Any local group that wants to go up and stand in front of the people and make a big fool out of themselves gets fifteen minutes on the tweener stage."
When you're not pickin' and singing your bluesy country heart out in the spotlight on the tweener stage, you'll be spending your time enjoying the featured bands doing what they do best. The lineup this year is set to include Oregon favorites like the Great Northern Planes, Bluestone County, the Misty Mamas, and even Bend's very own Moon Mountain Ramblers. You can view the entire lineup on the High and Dry website (www.highandrybluegrassfestival.com).
There are a few extra costs after you get in the door, though, but they're all optional. A few food vendors are available for those who need a bite to eat. There are also commemorative High and Dry Bluegrass Festival t-shirts (the art for the shirts this year was designed by local artist Kurt Silva). And, oh yes, there's a raffle. Better yet, there are two raffles (a one dollar option and a two dollar option for the larger items). So if you want ten bands and a chance to win a guitar for twelve bucks, then High and Dry has still got you covered. And besides, all of the proceeds are donated to the Cascade School of Music.
Even if you can't set up camp for the entire weekend, you can still drop in for a day to experience the festival.
"Friday night's a pretty good show," Hancock commented. "Saturday night is the main event, but Friday night's cool because everybody stays up way too late and winds up being beat to hell on Saturday. Friday night is the most fun."
Sounds like a hootin' and hollerin' good time to me.