For me, nothing screams “summertime” more than sitting under the sky listening to live music from some of my favorite artists. Even though it’s chilly and decidedly wintery outside right now, I recently started thinking about summer when the Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend announced their first two concerts for 2016: Alabama Shakes and Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals.
The amphitheater has been bringing great music to Bend for 15 years, and it’s no surprise that the venue has steadily increased in popularity and become a summer staple for both locals (like me) and visitors alike. Its sweeping lawn and location right on the beautiful lifeline of Central Oregon – the Deschutes River – make it almost magical. Its history, both short and long, reminds me of the richness of this region as a whole.
Les Schwab Amphitheater is part of the Old Mill District, an area in the heart of town that has a history reaching back to the early 1900s when two of the world’s largest sawmills opened on the banks the river. In 2001, part of that land was made accessible and usable to the public when the amphitheater was developed. This venue was named in honor of a remarkable Central Oregonian, Les Schwab. Not only was Les a logging-camp-educated, natural leader and a winner who liked to share victories with others, but he was the founder of Les Schwab Tires, one of the largest independent tire businesses in the country.
Celebrating its 15-year anniversary in 2016, the amphitheater has welcomed big names over the past decade and a half such as The Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Coldplay, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Death Cab for Cutie, Keb Mo, Wilco, Cake, She & Him, Sugarland, Brooks & Dunn, Jack Johnson and many more.
There’s no shortage of great music to choose from each year. My family and I enjoy as many concerts as we can during the summer months. Perhaps the most memorable recent experience was attending Willie Nelson with my mom and dad, who were visiting from out of town last summer. I grew up taking road trips to Eastern Oregon with them, always listening to Alabama, Willie, Marty Robbins, Gordon Lightfoot and the like in the cassette tape deck of our station wagon. This was the music of my childhood. Taking my son (who pretended to hate it just like I did at his age) and sharing this iconic artist in such a beautiful setting was priceless. I even made him dance with me during “Always On My Mind” (I’m such an embarrassment).
I’m looking forward to making more memories this summer at a venue that is truly unlike any other. From the picturesque setting to the wide range of musical acts, Bend wouldn’t be the same without the magic that the Les Schwab Amphitheater brings.