Fellow denizens of RecentlyOvercastlandia, know this: No matter what the sky does to us over the next few days (and no matter what Pope Gregory XIII’s calendar says), Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to Central Oregon’s concert season.
That’s because in most years, Memorial Day weekend is when Bend’s biggest concert venue, Les Schwab Amphitheater, roars to life. And this year is no exception. There are three great concerts happening over the upcoming long weekend: The Decemberists and Spoon tonight, Ryan Adams on Saturday and Robert Plant & The Sensational Shape Shifters Monday.
Those shows are just the start of a big summer of both ticketed and free shows at the Schwab. We’ll cover all that later, but for now, let’s dig deeper into this weekend’s acts. Below, I’ve included a few words about each artist, plus a YouTube playlist of 10 of their best songs. Perfect for
killing off the rest of your Friday soundtracking your hard-working Friday afternoon!
The Decemberists (tonight)
Led by folk-pop laureate Colin Meloy, The Decemberists — perhaps Portland’s most Portland-y band — have been one of the most consistent acts of the past dozen years or so, with seven fine-to-classic albums under their belt. Their most recent, “What a Terrible World, What a Wonderful World,” finds the band augmenting its usual folk-song model with choral vocals, horns, piano and more. Tonight, The Decemberists will play the Schwab for the fifth time; expect lots of witty between-song banter from the charismatic Meloy.
This Austin, Texas band has one of the most recognizable aesthetics in indie rock, thanks to the distinctive songwriting of founder and frontman Britt Daniel, whose songs are rough-hewn and tightly wound. But they’re irresistibly rhythmic, they crackle with nervous energy and they’re reliably melodic, though sometimes in an unconventional way. Spoon’s most recent record, “They Want My Soul,” is the sound of a band reinvigorated after a four-year hiatus. It’s one of Spoon’s best, and that’s saying a lot.
Ryan Adams (Saturday)
Ryan Adams couldn’t even legally drink alcohol when his alt-country band, Whiskeytown, emerged from North Carolina’s fertile music scene in the mid-1990s. By the 2000s, he’d gone solo, and ever since, he has released a staggering number of albums, most spilling over with great songs. (His hyper-prolific pace has resulted in a few duds here and there, too.) Adams’ self-titled 2014 record is his best in years — it earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album — and his current live show is a stunner.
Robert Plant (Monday)
For more than three decades, Robert Plant has been proving there’s life after Led Zeppelin. From his successful solo career in the 1980s to his ’90s albums with Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page to his blockbuster collaboration with Alison Krauss, Plant has masterfully navigated life after fronting one of the biggest bands of all time. His 2014 album “Lullaby and… the Ceaseless Roar” is a warm, wonderful slice of cosmopolitan folk-rock that received excellent reviews: “An album to get lost in,” said Allmusic.com.
You can find the rest of Les Schwab Amphitheater’s 2015 lineup — including Phish, Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss, Ben Harper, Sheryl Crow, Wilco and more — here. And don’t forget about the venue’s free Summer Sunday concert series, which features Sunday-afternoon concerts that are pet-friendly, picnic-friendly and free for all to attend!
Keep an eye on this blog … we’ll have a roundup of free live music in Central Oregon this summer in the coming weeks!