Eugene doesn’t see as much live music as it should; a lot of major bands skip over our humble town, stopping in Portland and San Francisco but nowhere in between.
But scanning the local music listings to see what’s coming to bars and venues will only give you a cursory overview of what Eugene has to offer musically. Eugene has had a vibrant house show scene for as long as it’s had houses and bands, and the tradition remains strong today.
House shows are what they sound like: shows at any space where people live, whether that is someone’s basement or a co-op like the Campbell Club that regularly hosts events. There are even houses scattered around town that have turned themselves into miniature venues.
These shows are often free, generally wilder, boozier and more unhinged than your typical bar or venue show. Don’t look for any famous names, though: these are usually locals-only affairs, occasionally with a little-known touring band thrown in.
There’s a catch: house shows don’t usually promote themselves due to the fact that they’re generally in residential areas and likely to generate noise complaints. The more people who attend, the noisier the event, so house venues won’t exactly be calling up the local papers to buy some ad space.
But if you’ve been around enough and know the right people, it’s pretty easy to integrate yourself into the house show scene. Here are a few pointers on doing so.
- Seek out local bands. Local bands, big and small, can generally be found playing at bars or opening for bigger bands at places like the WOW Hall or Hi-Fi Music Hall. University events like the Willamette Valley Music Festival and Campus Block Party are also great places for local bands to cut their teeth.
- Follow those bands on Facebook. Bands generally promote their house shows. Be warned, though: Many house shows are small and exclusive, so don’t expect bands to tell you everything.
- Get to know people in the music scene. If you want to catch every last house show in town and be one of those “five people” who bands bring to private parties, talk to the bands or people in the crowd. Where there are local bands, there are often booking agents, fellow musicians, venue owners and other insiders. Also, bars usually don’t have “backstages,” so bands will typically mingle with the crowd when they’re not packing up their gear.
- Start a band! If you’ve got the ambition, it’s easy to make it in the Eugene scene, though you probably have to follow some of the prior steps to make enough connections to get gigs. You might be thinking: “But I don’t have the talent or training!” First off: talent doesn’t exist. Second: anything goes at house shows. If your band is just you and your friends squeaking straws through drink cup lids around a microphone, people will probably still dance.
Get to know a few of Eugene’s venues:
To know Eugene is to get fully acquainted with its myriad music venues. From the flagship concert halls to the downtown jazz lounge to the massive performing arts auditorium, there are plenty of destinations for vibrant nightlife, live music shows and the innumerable Pink Floyd/Led Zeppelin cover bands. Here’s a quick guide to some of the Emerald City’s music venues.
The W.O.W. Hall (291 West 8th Avenue)
A long-time staple of the Eugene community, the building known as the W.O.W. Hall was formerly a Woodmen of the World Lodge, which is how it acquired its namesake. In 1975, it was set to be sold and potentially demolished before community members intervened, organized a Community Center for the Performing Arts, a non-profit corporation, and organized a “WoWathon” to raise $10,000 in 13 days to purchase the institution. Today, the W.O.W. Hall books everyone between hip-hop acts like Freddie Gibbs, Aaron Carter and indie acts like Seattle’s surf-rockers La Luz and Portland’s Dandy Warhols.
Face for Radio, The Blind Spots, The Shifts (folk/rock/ska/punk; August 27)
Del The Funky Homosapien (alt hip-hop/funk; September 16)
Laura Marling (folk; September 28)
Danny Brown (hip-hop; October 8)
Pigs on the Wing (Pink Floyd cover band; October 14)
Car Seat Headrest (lo-fi indie rock; November 17)
Aesop Rock (hip-hop; November 25)
Hi-Fi Music Hall (44 East 7th Avenue)
Before Hi-Fi opened in summer 2015, the building was a county-themed bar called “Rock’n Rodeo” and a string of other failed music venues, who’ve booked names like T-Pain, Waka Flocka Flame and Riff Raff, but still failed to remain open. Within the first few months of Hi-Fi’s opening, it’s had an impressive lineup with bands such as Cold War Kids, Blitzen Trapper and Mudhoney. This summer, Hi-Fi has been visited by Swedish pop group Miike Snow, Portland sweethearts The Thermals, and folk-punk act AJJ (fka Andrew Jackson Jihad).
Thomas Mapfumo with Norma Fraser (Zimbabwean reggae/Chimurenga; August 27)
Joseph (acoustic folk; September 10)
Fruit Bats (indie rock; September 23)
Blitzen Trapper (Americana/rock; October 20)
Blind Pilot (indie pop; October 23)
Moon Hooch (jazz fusion; November 6)
The Cuthbert Amphitheater (2300 Leo Harris Parkway)
Located in Alton Baker Park near the Autzen Stadium, the Cuthbert is one of Eugene’s largest venues with a capacity of 5,000, most of which is a product of its lawn seating arrangement. Food booths and beer gardens outline the venue. Earlier this summer, national treasure “Weird Al” Yankovic graced the stage.
Deftones (alt-metal; August 27)
Gov’t Mule (Southern rock; September 1)
Pretty Lights (electronica/dance; September 4)
Mad Decent Block Party: Dillion Francis, Evergreen, Tiesto, others (electro/house/post-punk/trance; September 9)
Life in Color “Kingdom”: Zomboy, Kayzo (electronic dance; October 7)
McDonald Theatre (1010 Willamette Street)
In 1925, the McDonald opened as a movie house. Owned and operated by the Kesey family, the venue is home to an eclectic array of acts on any given day of the week, including music, stand-up comedy (both Mike Birbiglia and Chris D’Elia have stopped by), film screenings (the Alexi Pappas-Jeremy Teicher vehicle Tracktown premiered there earlier this summer), a private wedding, male strippers and a high school prom.
The Mavericks (Americana/country; September 8)
Get The Led Out (Led Zeppelin cover band; September 14)
Magic Men Live! (male stripping show; September 15)
Animal Collective (experimental pop/freak-folk; September 26)
Machine Gun Kelly (trap rap; October 1)
The Head And the Heart (indie folk; October 9)
The Boreal (450 West 3rd Avenue)
The Boreal, an all-ages, drug-and-alcohol-free venue, is a welcome alternative for the city’s youths, albeit admittedly a trek in relation to campus, as it’s located near the Washington-Jefferson Skatepark. The Boreal has an intimate, living room-sized set-up and feels like a house show more than any other destination in this list. The venue’s lineup emphasizes local punk, metal and hardcore acts, but has recently booked psych-rock acts like Snow White and VCR and indie-folk group Chastity Belt.
PWR BTTM/Bellows/Lisa Prank (queer pop/pop punk; November 7)