7 ways to make your Bend vacation sing
Bend’s music scene has grown by leaps and bounds in the 21+ years I’ve lived here, and spring is when excitement starts to build.
That’s when concert announcements start trickling out for venues like the Les Schwab Amphitheater and the Clear Summer Nights concert series. Festivals share their upcoming lineups, and everyone starts itching to do a little toes-in-the-grass dancing on warm summer nights.
If all of that is music to your ears, here’s a roundup of what’s happening right now in Bend’s music scene…
Scope out the lineup at the Les Schwab Amphitheater
The largest of Bend’s music venues, the Les Schwab Amphitheater attracts big-name talent like the Dave Matthews Band, Paul Simon, Alabama Shakes, and more.
The 2019 lineup is still being nailed down, but currently includes Jason Isbell & Father John Misty (June 9), The Roots (June 15), Rebelution (June 23), Ziggy Marley & Michael Franti (June 27), Lyle Lovett and His Large Band (June 29), Slightly Stoopid (July 13), The B-52s with OMD and Berlin (August 10), Avett Brothers (August 13), Josh Groban (August 20), Cake (August 24), and Gary Clark Jr. (September 14).
Odds are good they’ll announce at least a couple more acts before the season gets underway, so follow them on Facebook to make sure you see all the latest announcements.
In the meantime, check out this post from 2018 so you’re up to speed on all the dos and don’ts at this awesome venue.
Savor some Clear Summer Nights
Before the Les Schwab Amphitheater existed, Bend’s outdoor music scene revolved around the stage at the Athletic Club of Bend. Sounds weird to have concerts at a gym, but the ACB remains one of my favorite spots to catch live music during the Clear Summer Nights concert series happening every summer.
It’s a smaller, more intimate venue that attracts some pretty epic talent. The 2019 lineup includes Sublime with Rome (June 22), Kris Kristofferson & The Strangers (July 2), Lord Huron with Shakey Graves (August 8), and John Butler Trio & Trevor Hall (August 20).
These shows tend to sell out, especially the coveted dinner seats. If one of these acts piques your interest, nab tickets now so you don’t miss out.
Don’t forget the smaller venues
Some of Bend’s best music is happening in tucked-away venues you might not even realize play host to terrific talent.
Oregon Spirit Distillers boasts a popular series of country music acts that’ll have you kicking up your boots and knocking back some of the best craft spirits around. The 2019 lineup so far includes Cody Johnson (July 19) and Tyler Childers (August 1), and you’re likely to see more acts added before summer starts.
The Midtown Ballroom has more than 100 years of history in Bend and hosts a variety of musical acts ranging from metal to hip hop and everything in between.
The musical calendar at Volcanic Theatre Pub is always packed with concerts from up-and-coming acts as well as established artists.
Start feelin’ festive
There’s nothing like a music festival, especially when it’s a multi-day event like 4 Peaks. This year’s festival spans June 20-23 and boasts four stages and dozens of bands performing against the backdrop of snow-capped Cascade mountains. There’s tent camping along with luxury yurts and RV sites, or you can opt to pop in and out for individual shows.
If you’re looking for more of a street festival vibe, Bend has ‘em for all seasons. The Bend Summer Festival takes place in July and brings a variety of musical acts to stages scattered throughout Downtown Bend. Ditto that for Bend Fall Festival and Oktoberfest, both of which include live music lineups guaranteed to have you dancing your pants off.
Fun, free, and family-friendly
Enjoying its 29th season in 2019, Munch and Music is Bend’s quintessential, free, family-friendly musical event. The weekly series spans July 11-August 15 and happens every Thursday in Drake Park. Keep an eye on their website, as this summer’s musical acts will be announced soon.
The music is free, but you’ll also find tons of booths with food and crafts for sale, plus kids’ games and entertainment. If you’re pinching pennies, bring your own picnic and stake out a spot in the grass for one of the cheapest dates in town.
Where music meets outdoor rec
Bend is best known as a mecca for outdoor play, so why not combine that with music for the ultimate Bend experience?
Wanderlust Tours offers a special Art in Nature series featuring outdoor performances paired with scenic adventure. There’s a private piano concert at Summer Lake, a mountain lake paddling tour that includes a piano concert, and a lakeside dinner concert with Bend Camerata. Prices and dates vary, so check the individual event listings for details.
On a more low-key note, there’s the annual Pickin’ & Paddlin’ event hosted by Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. The event began years ago with a couple kayakers creating tunes on the back deck after a long day on the river. Now it’s a community celebration that raises funds for the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance. It features live music along with boat demos and general revelry. Tickets are $10 for adults (kids 12 and under are free) and most events sell out. Keep an eye on their website for this year’s dates and bands.
Not just a summer thing
If you’re fretting that live music is just a summer thing in Bend, never fear. There’s plenty happening all year round, even when chilly weather drives the shows indoors.
Get your culture fix during the Bend A Cappella Festival at the historic Tower Theatre, or scope out offerings from OperaBend, High Desert Chamber Music, or the annual jazz festival held at the Oxford Hotel.
And since I can never mention it too much, be sure to check Visit Bend’s event calendar to find out where to catch live music no matter when you’re planning to visit.