I can't even remember the last time I saw Phantogram headlining on a festival lineup, can you? Plus, Pretty Lights! And here we are in 2023 with the throwback electronic-dream pop pioneers headlining the first Cascade Equinox — which has partnered in conjunction with Bend's long adored 4 Peaks local musical visionaries — right in our backyard this fall during the autumnal equinox. On the weekend of Sept 22-24 we'll have local, regional and national artists at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond — not only serving music of multiple genres (indie electronic, dance, synth-pop, R&B/soul, bluegrass, folk and reggae), but also providing a pro-level festival experience with visual art installations, a "Healing Garden" with varieties of modalities to unwind and relax, including sound healing, Reiki, Acupuncture , massages and deep level Akashic recordings.
Cascade Equinox is headed by Executive Director Toby White who started Gem & Jam festival in Tuscon, Arizona. White, who know lives in Bend, started the Gem & Jam in 2005 and re-defined festival philosophy. After a year of programming and studying the local music scene, Cascade Equinox was born. Here's a chat with White.
Source Weekly: How is Cascade Equinox different from Gem & Jam?
Toby White: Gem & Jam has become a niche event. Over the years that festival has become very specific with its music and intention. Cascade Equinox is much more diverse in all facets. We are catering to a much larger demographic with the new festival that will have something for everyone.
SW: What brings the Gem and Jam's Arizona roots to Central Oregon?
TW: I moved to Bend a couple of years ago. I realized that Central Oregon was really lacking any festivals like this, and being my home now, it made complete sense. My partners also saw the opportunity and we got excited about the chance to start a new event.
SW: How did the conversation start with 4 Peaks?
TW: Since living in Bend I've been able to meet and connect with Stacy [Koff] and see what she's been doing for years up here. We have a lot of unilateral similarities in our approaches to putting on events. We connected well and saw that bringing our teams together seemed like the right way to go.
SW: What was your approach to the programming process?
TW: We really wanted to offer something unique that everyone could resonate with people in the local and regional community, as well as with the national base. We saw that Central Oregon wasn't really going heavy on electronic music and all of my partners' roots also lie in many different genres of music, so we looked to bring a lineup that had a lot of crossover in genres. We didn't want to really stay in one lane.
SW: What were some of your first concerts that left a mark on you to inspire you to create a music festival?
TW: I grew up on the East Coast, so for me, Phish was my biggest musical inspiration growing up. I unfortunately never got to see the Grateful Dead, but they also helped form who I am in the music world. Once out of high school, I delved much deeper into different styles of music, like the Greyboy Allstars and the original acid jazz pioneers. I was also really into reggae, bluegrass, and even later started putting together events with electronic music. It all sort of made sense to bring it all together.
SW: What's the vibe and breakdown for Cascade Equinox?
TW: The vibe is going to be a bit of everything. We will have a higher-end element in the Grove, which will have wine, beer and cider tasting, craft cocktails, boutique market vendors and lounge area. We will also have a zone specific to kids, including carnival rides as well as art galleries, the Nomadic Marketplace, workshops, Healing Garden and a ton more.
The vibe is really different in all the areas including the stages. There will be a day parking area that will have easy access in and out, as well as parking for all the different camping areas. We are working on shuttles to and from Bend daily.
SW: What are song groups/artists you're most looking forward to/excited about?
TW: I'm excited to see the return of Pretty Lights, Phantogram, Big Wild, Dirtwire, Trevor Hall, LP Giobbi, Gone Gone Beyond and so much more. I'm really excited about this lineup!
SW: The festival world has boomed since the pandemic, especially here in Central Oregon. What makes Cascade Equinox unique?
TW: I think having the event at the end of the festival season is an advantage and coinciding with the Equinox allows us to celebrate the seasonal shift. We plan to honor that aspect and our goal is to produce a festival that has some elements that aren't typical to your normal music festival.