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Time's Up: Greg Bryce of blackflowersblacksun isn't singing the blues about heading back to work 

That's the sort of excitement that gets you through a summer in the wild.Just as he's done every spring for nearly two decades Greg Bryce

click to enlarge That's the sort of excitement that gets you through a summer in the wild.
  • That's the sort of excitement that gets you through a summer in the wild.
That's the sort of excitement that gets you through a summer in the wild.
Just as he's done every spring for nearly two decades Greg Bryce will soon pack up and leave Bend for the remote wilderness of Alaska. With him will go blackflowersblacksun, the blues project that he's cultivated into a local favorite during his past couple of winters gigging around town. It will be November by the time Bryce brings his National guitar back to Bend, but it's likely his reputation for down-home blues (as well as his drummer, C.J. Davis) will still be waiting for him.

Bryce, who looks and speaks somewhat like a slightly weather-worn Luke Wilson, spends his summers working as a wilderness firefighter in the remote village of Galena, Alaska. And by remote, he means honest-to-God in the middle of BFE. Bryce tells me that Galena isn't accessible by road and that the only way to reach the town is a 200-mile trip by air, or a 400-plus mile boat ride along the Yukon River. While he does bring his guitar in tow, there aren't any opportunities for Bryce to bring blackflowersblacksun onstage. He does, however, find some inspiration out in the wild.

"I definitely draw from those experiences from being cut away from the people you care about and your home, because I live six months a year like that," Bryce says, "I've lost every girlfriend I've ever had because I'm gone half the year. A person draws from their own experiences, if it's love and it's loss, then that works."

The notion of love lost is heard loudly in the music of blackflowersblacksun, whether it's Bryce's smoky voice and lyrics laid over the electrified, slide-induced howl of his National with Davis' Mississippi barroom drums charging in unison, or a grooving solo acoustic number. Davis says that Bryce's time in Alaska has a more literal impact, as illustrated by the fact that he wrote a song about a chainsaw.

Originally from Detroit where he grew up a fan of acts like the Stooges and MC5, Bryce arrived in Bend in 1990 because it was close to Smith Rock, and it was a place where he thought he could live. It wasn't until the past few years that he's put serious effort into making blackflowersblacksun, the band with the lowercase, emo name and a blues spirit.

"Bend was a really good place where you could turn up with a couple hundred bucks and live indoors right away. And the people were pretty normal compared to a lot of other places," Bryce says.

Note the past tense - not sure if he'd still agree that you could turn up with a few hundred bucks and make it here now that 18 years have passed, or if he'd maintain, for that matter, if Bendites are still particularly normal. But what is certain is that Bryce's rough and ragged, yet pure style of blues has been embraced over the past year or so, and don't be surprised if there's a strong contingent of fans at his show to send him off in style at Silver Moon Brewing Co. Friday night or again at the M&J on Monday.


8pm Friday, March 14. Silver Moon Brewing Co. 24 NW Greenwood Ave., 388-8331.
8:30pm Monday, March 17. M&J Tavern, 102 NW Greenwood Ave., 389-1410.

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