The keg of GoodLife Brewing Compnay's special edition honey porter—made from a recipe used by chefs at the White House—was tapped at 5 p.m. Friday night. Fifty minutes later, it was empty. But the dining room of GoodLife remained packed for the next hour plus as Bend's indie-alt-pop-rock band Wilderness absolutely killed it. Yes—all those genres apply. All in all it was a great night and we're psyched y'all came out to our party.
The porter was smooth and sweet. One of the easiest-drinking porters I've ever had. But it was the music that stole the show with tunes worthy of the executive branch.
With his eyes closed tightly, guitarist and vocalist Jared Nelson Smith wailed on his strings and made everyone take notice of the band in the corner. Smith seemed to travel someplace else in his head while he played—a trait common among many great guitar players. But before his anthem-like solos could meander too far, the pop sensibilities of Wilderness's music reeled him back in for songs that—had it been a bit quieter in the venue—would have made for perfect sing-a-longs.
That's because Wilderness' music is a bit of a paradox. The group blends sweet harmonies with aggressive rock. Half the time you don't know if you're listening to rock and roll or buttery pop. But Wilderness pulls off the two sounds with delightful precision, never letting one overpower the other for too long. They are definitely a rowdy band, but rambunctious because they're having fun, not because they're angry. In fact, all you have to do to induce one of the members to smile is to make eye contact with him while he's playing. It's like you're instant friends.
With an album on the way, Wilderness is just about ready to bring that sound to your living room or car. But those who were at GoodLife that night can attest—it will be near impossible to duplicate what we saw on Friday with a digital file.