Saturday was the day Typhoon Pabuk, apparently, began to wreak havoc with the 2013 Bend Roots Revival.
First came the creeping wall of dark clouds. Then the howling winds. And finally, the rain. The miserable, miserable rain.
There were two stages that bore the brunt of Saturday evening’s winds: Casey’s Corner, on the southwest corner of Pakit Liquidators’ property, and the Junkyard Stage on the southeast corner. The former was simply the festival’s first line of defense against the elements. The latter was located at the eastern end of a channel between a building and a fence that turned out to be a pretty effective wind tunnel.
My first stop Saturday was at the Junkyard Stage, where the Travis Ehrenstrom Band was bundled up and playing some easygoing roots-pop jams. Ehrenstrom’s album “Remain A Mystery” is one of the better local releases of 2013, and he played a handful of tunes from it before doing a couple of covers. First up was “Give Us Light,” a song by local band The Mostest and, I would imagine, a tribute to Revival founder (and Mostest main man) Mark Ransom. Ehrenstrom’s band just happened to include not only Ransom on guitar, but Mostest members Pat Pearsall on bass and Kaleb Kelleher on drums. “I’ve never played this song before,” Ehrenstrom said, “but these three guys have played it a lot.”
The other cover was the Bob Dylan / The Band classic “I Shall Be Released,” which never gets old no matter how many times you hear it. Here … hear it again.
The wind tunnel pushed Ehrenstrom and his band around a little bit, but it was nothing compared to what happened to The HardChords over at Casey’s Corner. The new rock-rap group — MC Gainon backed by live instruments, essentially — was cruising impressively through an energetic set when they lost power to some of their gear. The outage came right on beat, and for a split second I thought the song had simply ended, but the confused look on the faces of Gainon and guest vocalist Stacie Johnson of Broken Down Guitars quickly made it obvious there was a problem. While they were working to identify and fix the problem, I wandered into the Pakit Ballroom to watch The Kronk Men, and apparently while I was gone — this is what Gainon told me — the wind picked up the tent covering Casey’s Corner and deposited right onto the head of drummer Brent Barnett. The band ended its set with a handful of people standing on stage and literally holding the tent in place, as seen here.
I missed all that, because I never made it out of the Ballroom. The Kronk Men were that great. There’s not a ton to say: Three dudes, guitar/bass/drums, rocking out instrumental surf-punk style. Loud, heavy, jagged but tight. Controlled chaos. Once known as Central Oregon’s noisiest scuzz-punk band, The Kronk Men have evolved into a no-frills beast of a band, and they’re fun to watch. I was sitting next to a guy who didn’t know their name. He asked me who they were and told me they were awesome; later, I ran into him outside telling other folks how great this band was that he’d just seen. A Kronk Men Konvert!
As soon as the mighty Kronk played its final note, I went out to the Junkyard Stage, where a good-sized crowd had gathered to watch Wilderness battle the wind tunnel. The band was playing songs from its excellent album “Homeward From the Battle” and stirring up an understated dance party when the enduring image of the festival, for me, happened. All of a sudden, a giant cloud of dirt and dust came rushing onto the stage from the wind tunnel to the west, causing various Wildernessers to turn their heads and scrunch up their eyes. Frontman Jared Smith, on the other hand, turned his face directly into the gust, its force blowing his hair back as he continued to play guitar. For whatever reason, my mind saw that as the embodiment of all that is great about playing music as a unit. You play because it’s fun. You grow together because you play. And when it’s going well — and it’s going well for Wilderness — there’s very little that can make you want to stop.
The HardChords and Wilderness seemed to be the tipping point for Roots organizers, who began moving outdoor sets indoors. Latin dance band Chiringa hustled its gear from the BIGS Stage to the Bend Circus Center. Rich Hurdle & Crescent Jazz moved from Casey’s into Pakit Ballroom, where it got to play its Django-style hot jazz for a sizable audience. Folk-bluesman David Bowers moved from the Shakedown Stage to the ballroom, where he played in an off-stage spot while roots-rockers Avery James & The Hillandales — Junkyard Stage refugees — set up onstage. The night’s BIGS Stage headliner, Mosley Wotta, canceled its set because there was nowhere they could play until 1:30 a.m. The ballroom was booked back-to-back-to-back until then.
And I took refuge in the Bend Circus Center, where Sisters folk singer Brad Tisdel was playing a mix of originals and covers. It was an interesting scene; juxtaposed against the wet and windy mess outside, the calm, quiet and warm room felt like another world. Tisdel told a funny story about singing Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” during a jam session, but mostly he saved the charm for his songs, which received some very nice pedal-steel embellishment from John Shipe, who would play his own set a half-hour later. Here’s a Tisdel original called “Into the Bold”:
Once again, word on the street was that the later sets — Chiringa, plus ElektraPod and the Acorn Project in the ballroom — fueled an impressive wee-hours party. That’s great. I was at home resting up for one last day of Roots, figuring the weather couldn’t get worse.
Addendum: Here’s video of Avery James & The Hillandales performing, followed by a 30-second look around the inside of the dimly lit (but disco-balled) Pakit Ballroom. It’s a very cool space.