Honestly, I didn’t know the answer to this question prior to writing this article. But it’s a question I’ve had and one I’ve wanted to explore within a community of artists and a genre of music I’ve barely had any encounters with since moving back to Bend during the pandemic. My main connections to what a DJ or electronic music “scene” looks, sounds and feels like are definitely based off my experiences living in Portland: shows by Believe You Me PDX, Sundays at White Owl Social Club and some unforgettable nights at the Holocene.
Just a lil’ PSA for you who are like, “Who is this chick and why does she have a right to critique a scene she hasn’t experienced here?”… Fair! I would say my ideal DJ scene would be to teleport to Berlin in the early ‘90s or be a fly on the wall at some of Moby’s first gigs in NYC… But the point is, a lot of us have different terms with what a “scene” might be within a music community—or what Electronic Dance Music sounds like. Some of us think a scene might be something so deep underground you’re lucky if you get to experience it (I got to experience this in Florence, Italy, of all places). Others might view it as a movement around a style of progressive music and people that is simply just happening, pushing the music forward. We also might not even know that there was a scene until it’s gone.
But here, now, today, on Earth, post-pandemic, approaching the year 2023, I feel something happening here in our little (not so little anymore) Bend, Oregon,—especially for us feelers, cravers and lovers of music. If you’re wanting that deep bass, nsst-nsst, dance music, human connection and experience — my answer is, YES—that within itself is here. Some of it’s happening downtown and some out in the woods! I reached out to a handful of our local DJs and event production companies to help me answer this question.
If you want to dance your a** off, you got to try and catch DJs like Mitchell Virkelyst (MiTCH PLEASE on Soundcloud), Giancarlo Gatto (DJ GQ/ gots2be on Soundcloud) or Raul Segoviano (GITANØS on Soundcloud). Head to spots like The Capitol, Midtown/Domino Room, Silver Moon Brewing—I’ve heard even Avid Cider throws some bangers. But if your vibe is to just kick it and grab a glass of wine/catch someone casually spinnin’ you should catch a set by Brian Sprague (Briantology on Instagram) and head to venues like Velvet and Dogwood. You can even catch some OG vinyl spinnin’ at Bar Fiori with DJs like Adam Howell and Generic Listening (@adamphowel and @genericlistening on Instagram).
Some go for the old school soul/‘80s electro/funk, some go hip-hop, some go full-fledge techno and house music. Jeshua Marshall, talent buyer/booker and event coordinator for Silver Moon Brewing, stated, “The EDM and hip-hop shows we have been booking have been bringing hundreds of people out. Bend is a microcosm. I think there is a need for dance music and alternate styles of EDM and hip-hop here.”
Local DJ Brian Hebert, Ground$core on Soundcloud, mentioned, “I've been digging Open Space Event Studios! We're so lucky to have a space like that where a promoter can create whatever vibe they want.” Hebert also has a residency at Dogwood every fourth Saturday and DJs at Mt. Bachelor frequently.
And that isn’t the only outdoor space that came up. Jen Voth (Jenesis on Souncloud) — the only female DJ I found in my research (hell, yeah)—said, “I have helped put together several renegade raves out in the woods. Those occasions are always special. There is nothing quite like the juxtaposition of electronic music in nature. Renegades are a way of bringing people together because it is truly an environment for liberated human connection. Stepping out of the societal public space to come together in nature sets the stage for finding deeper meaning within community.”
Giancarlo Gatto stated, “There are definitely shows and people supporting music that is not mainstream dance music. Lots of grass roots productions.” Gatto and I also chatted about how Bend is getting recognized for its electronic music scene. Can we get a moment of silence for Hayden Homes Ampitheater, please? It’s pretty progressive for Bend’s largest stage to bring names like Flume, ODESZA and RÜFÜS DU SOL.
“For some reason electronic dance music is not embraced in the same way rock or country is,” Gatto said. “It was funny that the only issue last summer with all the shows at the amphitheater was a noise complaint article after RÜFÜS DU SOL. Bass seems to annoy people more than guitars.”
Many local production groups are actively pushing this along: Global Based, Kismet Productions, SoMuchHouse, 1988 Entertainment and Mobile Dance Party, to name a few. Not only are some of these groups and venues heavily pushing the evolution of the music, they are simultaneously pushing the evolution of culture and diversity. When I asked the up-and-coming Latino DJ, Raul Segoviano (DJ GITANØS), about where he feels the most welcome, he declared, “I really enjoy Seven. Seven always has Latino music and DJs in their rotation constantly. Inclusivity in dance music and nightlife is very important and I hope to help fill that void as much as I can considering I’m one of the few minority DJs in Central Oregon.”