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Two Steps Forward

Sometimes you just need to stop and hear the music
Holler House

“No big bands ever play Eugene.” 

I frequently hear variations on this sentiment repeated by local music fans — and it drives me nuts. 

This year alone saw SZA, Brockhampton, Travis Scott, Tori Amos, Kehlani, Tyler the Creator, Ty Segall, Protomartyr, Shins, Bedouine, Foo Fighters and A Perfect Circle come through town. That’s just off the top of my head — a deeper dive would produce even more, but as it stands that’s a list of some of the year’s biggest names in music. 

Did all these shows sell as well as they should? Many did, some didn’t, but that’s another issue. The issue is closely connected, however, to the persistent notion “no big bands play Eugene.” It’s hard to sell tickets to audiences that refuse to see the bounty that’s offered to them. 

So grow up, Eugene. You’re more than the college freshman that never goes west of Hilyard and yet complains there’s nothing to do here. We aren’t Seattle, San Francisco or Portland, but we’re a damn fine music town, and it’s time we started acting like it. 

My list of best 2017 shows from touring acts includes DC’s Priests and Tennessee’s Nots at now-defunct all-ages Whiteaker music venue, The Boreal (RIP). The Priests show also featured an opening slot from fantastic Portland post-punkers Lithics. Other great shows included indie rockers Ty Segall and Protomartyr at Hi-Fi Music Hall. What were some of your favorites?

The local scene also saw growth in 2017. Eugene post-rockers This Patch of Sky toured nationally behind These Small Spaces, their debut on mid-major label Equal Vision Records. The year also saw new releases from Endr Won, VCR, Gazelle(s), Paleons and the always prolific Sammy Warm Hands to name only a few. 

My pick for best local show would be the July 4 Mini-Merica music fest at Hi-Fi, which showcased a dizzying array of local talent. If you have yet to see Stones-y local rockers Holler House, Portland/Eugene post-rockers Childspeak, Thom Simon, Surfsdrugs, Egotones or the circus-y punk rock Pancho + The Factory, do yourself a favor and catch them in 2018.

Speaking of Pancho + The Factory, intel says they’ve been hard at work somewhere deep in the Whiteaker on a debut recording due sometime next year. Eugene’s local scene is really great right now. Catch it while you can. 2018 also promises an album of original music from Eugene’s Halie Loren.

2017 wasn’t all good news: the end of The Boreal, the displacement of Black Forest (gotta love their free show policy), the dissolution of fantastic local hardcore act Novelas, an on-balance underachieving WOW Hall and a depressing lack of music venues in Eugene’s campus area. College kids, while still interested in music, seem increasingly difficult to sell tickets to. 

All this being said, Eugene’s house scene is strong, and live music at Wandering Goat in the Whiteaker is resurgent. Looking forward to New Year’s Eve Psychedelic Ball at Hi-Fi, featuring Portland’s Psychomagic and The Shivas.

Also looking forward to Queens of the Stone Age Jan. 27 at the Hult Center, as well as the two-night Burger-a-Go-Go, featuring Death Valley Girls, The Coathangers, Dengue Fever and Summer Twins, coming up in February at Hi-Fi.

It all makes Eugene’s music scene in 2017 seem a bit like its dating scene: tons of eligible singles and not enough ways to connect them. Let’s keep working.