This past year proved to be a catalyst for several local bands, whether it was hundreds turning out for the lavish CD release show at Crux Fermentation Project for sonic folk band Wilderness, or alt-rock group All You All opening for Portland's The Helio Sequence at The Tower Theatre, 2013 was a year of moving forward, and moving up.
Many local bands already have ambitions and big plans for 2014:
Former Los Angeles pop rocker Jared Smith's move to Bend paid off big time when his alt-country band Wilderness turned in Homeward from the Battle, one of the best local albums in recent memory.
"I am amazed and humbled by the help and support we received from the community," commented Smith. "We were a relatively new band, so when I set out to make this record, I couldn't believe the response. So many people donated their time, space and creative energy."
Surprisingly, Wilderness' first year of playing gigs in Bend may have been crazier than anything that ever happened to them in California. Smith had a hard time picking his favorite moment of 2013.
"Maybe it was when Wesley Ladd almost beat up our first bass player, Aaron Moore, for using the back door at The Horned Hand, even though it was clearly marked that NO ONE should go out that door," joked Smith. "Or maybe it was when we played outdoors at Crow's Feet Commons for their anniversary party while it was 10 degrees outside. Or maybe when we played at nine in the morning at Crux for the Tough Love bottle release."
For 2014, Smith says there might be another album this summer, as some old songs he's had knocking around get re-worked with the band. They are also planning a regional tour with Portland friends, The Cabin Project.
Perhaps the busiest band in Bend this past year was alt-rock group The Rum and The Sea. Featuring longtime Bend artists Jason Schweitzer and Brian Hinderberger, The Rum and The Sea booked gigs at nearly every business in town with enough space for them to fit.
"Our two main goals in 2014 are to finish up the album we've been working on, and to play as many festivals as we can," said Schweitzer. "We have three different songwriters in the group, and have been working up a lot more originals. The covers are always fun, too: we want something that everyone in the audience will recognize, but we're getting to the point now where we can do a few hours just with originals."
The addition of Tyler Canfield on banjo is expanding the group's sound.
Instrumental rockers Isles dug their heels into the Workhouse near Sparrow Bakery, playing multiple shows there over 2013, including an exciting album release party. But neither that, nor their July Fourth rooftop improv show were the most memorable.
"One of our favorite moments would be the show in the woods we put on this summer," explained guitarist Elijah Lee. "It was kind of a miracle that the show ever even happened because of some problems we had with the generator."
Though the group released Viracocha—a collection of improvised tracks—it didn't quite finish the more ambitious undertaking of a planned concept album. Lee says 2014 will be the year for that, and fans shouldn't expect it to be anything like their instrumental works.
"One of the main differences is whereas there was an absence of vocals on Viracocha, the new album—with a working title of Wounded Tropic—has a strong lyrical presence in nearly every song. Wounded Tropic imagines a massive disaster, resulting in the complete destruction of an indigenous population."
After publicly kicking off its existence as a band by playing live on Bend's community supported radio station KPOV, country bluegrass outfit Second Son became a fixture on the local concert scene, effectively turning the town's venues into figurative rickety old back porches.
Second Son is quickly building a following with lyrics truthful to the human condition and easy-going banjo and lazy harmonica; the result of which is rustic, heartfelt music.
Though the band doesn't have plans to record music in 2014, Second Son is looking forward to carving out a larger piece of the local concert pie.
"We really just want to play our music for people and hope they enjoy it," said guitarist and vocalist Micah Peterson.
Bend's resident reggae group, 2nd Hand Soldiers, is a standout from the bluegrass and folk rock that dominate venues on most nights in Bend—and it hopes to expand that presence in the coming year.
"Our favorite moment in 2013 was playing at the Fall Festival," said lead singer Darian Long. "It was our biggest crowd yet! It was so great to see so many amazing people dancing and enjoying our music, and especially the great response to our first original, "Piece of Mind."
With an eye on expanding that catalogue of original music, 2nd Hand Soldiers' main goal for 2014 will be hitting up a studio and getting some of those originals tracked and ready to release.
Perhaps Bend's most eclectic band, Broken Down Guitars rode the wave of its 2012 triumph in the Bend edition of the Last Band Standing competition into the release of their debut album, Passports, this past spring. And, in support of that album, the alt-country band played its fair share of local shows this past year.
"Playing up at Elk Lake Lodge was our highlight, "said guitarist and lead vocalist Stacie Lynn Johnson. "The crowd was huge!"
Johnson also says Broken Down Guitars is looking to keep its mojo going in the new year, though the plans might not involve Bend so much.
"In 2014, our focus is on booking gigs out of town," said Johnson. "We are looking to play in Eugene, Hood River, Portland, Ashland. It's been hard for us because we play such a wide array of music. Venue owners and booking agents want to know what kind of music we play. When we say it's varied and seriously has something for everyone, the reaction is either they love it or they think I am full of it."