Bend Roots Revival is back for its 10th annual show Sept. 23-25 and once again, the lineup is even larger and the bench is deeper. The variety of musical genres is also incredibly varied as the stages will sport the likes of blues, bluegrass, hip-hop, electronic, funk, jazz, country and back around to good, old-fashioned rock 'n' roll. With over 100 acts, the fact that the festival still manages to remain free is borderline crazy.
Roots Revival Festival co-founder/organizer Mark Ransom has seen some new changes come with 2016, even as the center of the event remains strong. "The footprint of Roots is becoming more defined (now in its third year at the Shevlin-Hixon location), and feeling like a real home," says Ransom. "Because of construction last season, Revivalists had to exit one area (pouring out their beer or chugging it) and walking up on the sidewalk around the construction to get to the "Bigs" and "Black Butte Porter" stages. This year the fest will be enclosed by one perimeter fence, and the area that was under construction last season (the grassy space in front of the newest brewery warehouse), will be an easy access pathway between stage areas."
While there are too many bands playing to even list here, there are definitely some specific ones not to miss. Deciding whether to catch local hip-hop wunderkind MOWO or punk/reggae thrashers Subliminal (both playing Saturday at 8pm on different stages) might be a tough choice, but it's a good problem to have. Plus, with other local favorites like the dynamic Corner Gospel Explosion, the brilliant Franchot Tone, the always-excellent Chiringa, the technically flawless Moon Mountain Ramblers or the sweaty dance party of Elektrapod, the festival is truly a gathering of Central Oregon's finest.
From out of town, pigWar from Portland is a band not to miss. Frontman/founder Teddy Presberg combines modern heavy soul and hard R&B with '70s-style funk to create a sound completely his own. Presberg says: "We always have a great time when we play in Bend. The beauty of the city comes out through its inhabitants. The crowds in Bend have been good to us and we're really looking forward to making our first appearance at the Roots Festival, as we've heard it's a great party. We've got a special guest singer flying in to do our tour with us, and the festival slot will be our last show of the run, so it should be fire."
Here's some other stuff not to miss: The Forgotten Classroom is a badass group of middle school kids who rock covers of stuff like, "All Along the Watchtower" and "Wish You Were Here." Speaker Minds is a seven-piece hip-hop/funk band from Portland that sounds like a mashup of The Roots and Digable Planets. Two Dollar Bill is a bluegrass/old time band that sounds like it came out of the Great Smoky Mountains yesterday with something to prove. The list goes on (like, seriously, it's a long list), with each band sounding as interesting and dynamic as the last. Don't even get me started on how great Redwood Son, Jive Coulis Thomas T. & The Blue Chips, Helga and Butterfly Breakdown are. For real.
This year will also see several new areas and projects. Ransom breaks it down a little: "There's a new Community Art Garden and Kid Zone. Patrons will have the opportunity to participate in a community canvas project (which will become the backdrop for the Black Butte Porter stage); to help make a documentary film about Bend Roots, and to silk-screen their own t-shirts. There will be photo booth backdrops created by kiddos in the community, many kids' activities, and yoga with Julie, Chant and yoga with Santiago, and Circle Singing with Shireen. Since Roots benefits performing arts education in Bend we are offering several free community workshops this year on songwriting, ukulele, singing, drumming, guitar and kids music. This is new and very exciting to me—and a way to build support for Rise Up and our local arts-outreach mission."
As many longtime residents get priced out of town and the cost of living in Bend raises not by the year but by the day, it's amazing that a festival like this can still be free to the public. There is a lot of money to be made at Bend Roots Revival, but that would be missing the point. The word "Roots" is right in the title, and Bend's roots have never been about price gouging or massive and thoughtless expansion. The roots of Bend are its people and its community, and this festival is a gift to both.
Friday, Sept. 23-Sunday, Sept. 25. All Day
399 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr., Bend
Check bendroots.net for times, bands and events