Get Thee to Salem: Cherry City Music Fest, April 9-11

With all due respect to our state capital, it’s just not all that often that I find myself feeling hugely envious of an event they’ve got that we don’t*. It happens, for sure: The Armory gets shows that skip right over us. Truly fascinating performers get booked for the state fair. Nifty things I notice when I’m working on the Summer Guide calendar pass me by when they finally come around, and I curse myself (mildly). And sometimes, something truly unexpected catches my eye.

This weekend is one of those times. As a press release rather colorfully puts it, downtown Salem is about to “transform into a bubbling cauldron of bleeding edge independent music” as the Cherry City Music Fest takes over.

No joke. A whopping 140 bands — Americana, blues, classical, country, electronica, folk, hip hop, jazz, Latin, metal, pop, psychedelic, punk, reggae and rock bands — are converging on 15 venues over three days. Among the lineup you’ll find new bands from former Sassiest Boy in America (no, I’m never going to stop thinking that’s funny) Ian Svenonius (Chain and the Gang) and Calvin Johnson (The Hive Dwellers); Eugene locals including Eleven Eyes, Disco Organica and Halie Loren; Portland indie standouts from The Thermals ** to Horse Feathers (sharing a Friday night bill, no less) to Talkdemonic to Super XX Man; and more bands you’ve never heard of than you can shake a stick at.

Some bands are doing double duty on Saturday, playing the festival and then booking down to Eugene for night shows: San Francisco’s Maus Haus plays at 6 pm in Salem, then at the WOW Hall later that night, while Eugene’s Ingredients will hurry from a 4 pm Cherry City show to a show with the Dead Americans at Luckey’s.

The festival’s Web site says it has a three-part mission: to provide an opportunity for musicians, support local businesses and give proceeds to nonprofits the Mid-Valley Video Festival and Isaac’s Room. I’d bet, though, that there’s a fourth part that goes unlisted: to do something really, really cool that involves a shit-ton of musicians and plays mix and match with venues and styles.

Now who wants to pick this ball up and throw a similar festival in Eugene?

* Sensitive Salemites, please note: I promise you I am not dissing Salem unilaterally. I am referring solely to the specific sort of events that convince me, myself and I to get on the ol’ I-5 for the bazillionth time. I’ve spent a lot of time on I-5. Sometimes I think I have the scenery memorized. Sometimes I really want a teleporter. Actually, very often I really want a teleporter.

** The new Thermals album, Now We Can See, just came out last Tuesday. In fact, they’re playing tonight in Portland. I would like to be there. Barring that, I would like to be in Salem tomorrow night. Neither of these things is going to happen, so I’ll be listening to the record on repeat until at least next Tuesday. If you like the Thermals, you’ll like the record: They’re not exactly reinventing the wheel, but that’s why I like ’em so much. They write Thermals songs: Hutch Harris yelps conversationally, the songs bounce along smartly, the lyrics are a touch cynical and a touch hopeful and a touch political; it all adds up to something that had a very small WOW Hall audience dancing as cheerfully and enthusiastically as possible last time the band played here. How I wish they would come back. (I intend to write an actual review of this album once I’ve had more than, y’know, a day with it. For right now, it’s just crush at first listen. It happens.)