I first saw the Yard Dogs Road Show at WOW Hall last year with two very good friends of mine. I had no idea what I was getting into, as I had never heard of the Yard Dogs before. The opening band, the Dela Project, had the most creative percussionist I had seen. One of the members did a complicated tap/stomp dance around the audience while playing the kazoo. The second opening act was a local belly dance troupe, and they were entertaining in a different way. One of the dancers shimmied a little too vigorously and knocked over a table holding a pair of candles. The stage curtain caught fire, and the brave girl powered through with her dance while stage hands tried to put the fire out behind her. (The stage did not burn down).
As soon as the Yard Dogs Road Show began, I knew I was in for a treat. It was a combination of burlesque, soulful cabaret music, crazy lights, wonderful costumes, and sword swallowing. It epitomized what I had imagined running away to join the circus would be like. I was a devout fan before I even found characteristics that made them appealing to my more rational sensibilities: They were a collaborative, grassroots group of artists that were more like a family and had managed to put on their road show for well over a decade on their own terms and with no financial backing except what they got from their fans. Brilliant!
I’ve seen quite a few concerts, plays, and musicals since I’ve lived in Eugene. The most memorable for me was watching “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Hult Center in 1996. It was the original Broadway performance featuring Ted Neely as Jesus. I was absolutely blown away by the performance. Seeing Ted Neely in the flesh was a huge bonus for me. I’ll never forget that experience.
The week before I moved away from Los Angeles my friend loaded up my iPod with tons of music he thought I would like. I spent my first few weeks in Eugene discovering all that new music on my iPod while I simultaneously discovered my new town. I would look up the artists I especially liked online to get more information about them. One of these artists I’d never heard before but decided I liked was Laura Viers. I looked at her website and discovered she would be playing a show at Sam Bond’s Garage just two short months away! I was thrilled that someone I wanted to see would be in Eugene. I’d grown accustomed to seeing live music all the time in Los Angeles, so discovering that Eugene has a great (and inexpensive!) music scene was really exciting for me. I’ve seen bands at Sam Bond’s quite a few times, most recently just this past weekend, and I love going to shows there. I love how small and friendly it feels.
Making the move from Seattle to Eugene was an adjustment, especially in regards to the music scene. I am someone that likes to go to at least one live show a week, and Eugene had MUCH less variety of shows and venues to see live music. Don’t get me wrong though, while Eugene is no Seattle in that regard, it still has some great bands come through and some great places to see them. There is something about seeing live music that you can’t get anyway or anywhere else. The shared experience with the other people in the crowd, the energy you get from the performer and the energy you give them, the general sense that what you are seeing or hearing in this moment won’t happen again (you can’t just hit play again). Eugene still offers this experience to me, and for that I am grateful.
As a both a regular live music attendee and as a local DJ I feel like overall Eugene has a good vibe musically. Most people are hyper aware about music, and that creates a great environment to see or perform in this town. There is a wide variety of music presented also: funk/soul, world, rock, bluegrass, folk, hip-hop, etc… with crowds for all of them.
One of my favorite venues in Eugene is Sam Bonds, it is a nice size and has a great feel to it. They also get pretty great artists and it usually is not that expensive. WOW Hall is another great venue, despite it having a strange bar situation (you can only drink in the basement). There are a bunch of other venues I go to but the reason I go to them is more based on the artist performing.
The most recent show I went to was Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 at WOW Hall. Seun Kuti is the son of famed afrobeat musician Fela Kuti and Egypt 80 was actually Fela’s band so it was a show that had authentic afrobeat musicians. WOW Hall was packed with people ranging in ages from about 8 to 60 (they can allow kids in at WOW Hall under 21 and even18 because the bar is in the basement). Afro beat is a very upbeat and fun music so just about everyone in the room was dancing pretty intensely. Seun also was performing with a tremendous amount of energy, feeding off the crowds excitement. Quite a good show!
My first concert in Eugene was Macklemore in WOW hall. It was the best concert i have ever been to. Coming from Bend, OR, going to a concert like Macklemore’s was a first. During the songs each person would jump to the beat, which made the floor feel like a trampoline. It was the coolest experience because it felt like everybody was one. It was outstanding.
One of my favorite performers is Macklemore, a Seattle-based artist, and I had seen him twice with my friends from Minnesota. My first concert in Eugene was Macklemore at WOW Hall. It was a nice way to connect my life in Minnesota with Eugene.
With the recent addition of Matthew Knight Arena the Eugene Music Scene has greatly increased, as has the number of big name artists stopping through. With shows like Elton John, Avenged Sevenfold, and Lady Antebellum so far this school year it has been quite an amazing. WOW Hall and McDonald Theatre also offer a great of mid sized artists especially ones in the Electronic Music Scene such as Steve Aoki, Dillon Francis, Skrillex (who it seems may need a bigger venue now) and many more. Overall Eugene has quite a delectable music scene which ranges from screamo to folk to electronic and everything in between.
Since I arrived in Eugene my freshman year of college, I have been witness to some of the best concerts at various locations here in Eugene. My favorite venue being the Cuthbert, tucked away by Autzen, I saw a show of Damian Marley and Nas, and can honestly say that it will be one that I will never forget. The one aspect of the Eugene music scene, is because of its small size, you get a more intimate experience with the artist, I even got to hang out with rapper Wiz Khalifa, when he came in 2010 to the WoW Hall. Artists love to come to Eugene, Kid Cudi who has come two years in a row, states at his shows that, Eugene is one of his favorite cities to play in because of the crowd, which makes me love and appreciate this city more than I could have imagined before. Excitedly, we are getting more and more different types of shows and I cant wait to see who will pop up this spring when the weather begins to get nicer!
The music experience in Eugene has been pivotal for my enjoyment and the creation of some of my friendships. With several venues in the area there never seems to be a weekend where there isn’t a show of some sort. In fact, the first concert I ever went to was in Eugene, at McDonald Theatre. I’ve since been to many more concerts at WOW Hall and the Lane County Event Center. Each place has its own vibe and character. I’ve been able to see some of my favorite artists, learn about new ones, and experience live music such that I can now more fully appreciate the artistry and passion that goes into creating music. By going to shows with friends it’s nice to have a night out with a common purpose, feeding off one another’s enjoyment to make the night just that much better.