Frequency contributor Ethan Maffey checked out the Bend Spring Festival Saturday night and filed this report. Be sure to read all the way through and then check out the video Ethan shot of Eugene’s Rootdown:
This past weekend, the popular Bend neighborhood NorthWest Crossing hosted a scaled-down version of the typical seasonal downtown festival. From the looks of things on Saturday, the smaller festival seemed to be a complete success, and possibly the best indicator was the scheduled music that evening.
First to take the stage was local singer-songwriter Reed Thomas Lawrence, in one of his final Bend shows before his planned relocation to Los Angeles this summer. Still hanging on to a bit of the reggae-pop sound from his last album, the man they call RTL has clearly begun to incorporate more blues and traditional rock into his catalog. New and unreleased material was featured throughout much of his set and, though it was performed with a band put together only days earlier, easily Lawrence is ready for the big city.
After a free-verse introduction by RTL during his final song and a quick stage change-out, Eugene’s reggae/pop/rock band Rootdown — fronted by former solo artist Paul Wright — was ready to finish off the festival crowd and did so with surprising prowess. During Lawrence’s set, Rootdown bassist Jackson Michelson ventured in front of the stage and joined a lady who was enjoying the music with her own brand of dancing. Unsure of whether this represented the headlining band as dorky attention-grabbers or simple lovers of life and fun, I reserved making that call until their set … and it didn’t take long for me to get an answer.
While Rootdown’s music hasn’t pushed any envelopes or carved out brand new sounds, what it has done is present the genre with thoughtful accuracy and brilliant honesty. The performance of tracks from their latest album, “Summer Of Love,” delivered such upbeat messages and rhythms, most festival goers couldn’t help but jump in the air with pumped fists or split index and middle fingers, resonating the peaceful and yet energetic feel of the music. The members of Rootdown are genuine guys who love what they do, communicate that to the audience with every smile and perform each song with the kind of energy found at a Michael Franti concert. Their stage direction is tightly executed and they engage the crowd with charisma that shows off their charm. By the end of the night, I had become a big fan and unashamedly asked them autograph my CD.
If you missed this show, you can still catch an acoustic performance from Rootdown May 9 at The Kilns here in Bend, before they venture as far away as Alaska on their college campus tour … and I suggest you do.