Get Your Stomp On Sound Check's legs are tired after this weekend and here's why: We were out running our not-so-in-shape bodies around town lending our ears to whatever free (or at least affordable) music we could find. With the mercury stretching its neck into the mid 60s and the sun peeking out for more than it has in weeks, Bendites emerged from their homes, shedding winter jackets and pretending that summer has finally arrived.
Once we arranged our sweatbands properly, we jogged down to the Mirror Pond Plaza for the first-ever Downtown Sound gathering. We caught an earful about the horn section attack of Necktie Killers from a loyal fan while we watched a retooled Empty Space Orchestra (now with guitar and vocals!) play a well-received set to a swirl cone mix of 150-or-so local heads and curious fanny packing tourists.
With our heart rates in the 140s and anti-chafe cream applied liberally to our thighs, we strode to the Old Mill District for the Balloons Over Bend festival where Leif James' Springsteen-esque voice was melting nicely into his folk-rock strumming. He even tossed in bluesy takes on American traditionals (made famous by the Dead) like "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad" and "I Know You Rider."
Gatorade be damned, we slammed a couple pints (needed the carbohydrates) and returned to Downtown Sound where the sun was setting, beanies were topping heads and the stage featured hip-hop artist Benzo hyping a depleted crowd and one terrifyingly confident and vodka-soaked young woman dancing in front of the stage with a toddler in one arm and a middle finger extending from the other. Gary Busey-style partiers aside, Sound Check did nonetheless give Downtown Sound a passing grade for its first time out.
With cold air blowing in, we donned our matching tracksuits and Prefontained it over to the Domino Room for the Hillstomp and David Bowers Colony show. We quickly discovered that the Colony, playing Bowers' patented indie Americana riffs with the rock sensibilities of The Band, might be Bend's most polished local live act. After applying half a roll of duct tape to his drum kit (or, more accurately bucket kit), Hillstomp's John Johnson began pounding a beat that would take the North Mississippi blues-meets-punk duo well into Sunday morning. Sound Check wasn't in the mix of the bouncing dance floor, however, as we sat nursing shin splints, dehydration, heel blisters, foot cramps, and a number of other running related injuries.
In the morning we hobbled down to the Les Schwab Amphitheater in the hopes that our wounds could be healed by Joey Porter's tribute to Sly and the Family Stone, an act that drew the largest Summer Sundays crowd in recent memory. The act was pure Sly and went nicely with the sunshine, but it turns out that funky R&B classics couldn't bring us back into tip-top shade.
Next time we're driving. - Mike Bookey