Wild Hare Music Festival brings strong country-focused lineup to Canby, OR featuring Lucero, Jaime Wyatt, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers and more (FESTIVAL REVIEW/PHOTOS)
Just under thirty minutes from Portland, Oregon is the small farming town of Canby. While it may be nearby, spend any time in Canby and you’ll find it’s a world away from the hip, liberal attitude of Oregon’s biggest city. This factor also made Canby an ideal location for a country-leaning music festival that packed way more into the lineup than your standard bro country affair. Held July 15-16 at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds just off 99E, the Wild Hare Festival featured a compact but impressive lineup that veered from pure country to outlaw to Americana and even blues-rock.
While Friday drew large crowds mainly to catch the young breakout country number Zach Bryan alongside other emerging talents like Vincent Neil Emerson and Morgan Wade, Saturday saw its crowds pour in for a full day of music that included something for everyone. Once the previous bands finished on the small side stage, the action moved to the main concert field. As of now, the organizers have opted for a two-step rotation to ensure zero downtime between sets.
Boise, Idaho Tylor and the train robbers played a mid-afternoon set that balanced influences from outlaw, 90s country, honky tonk and rough, tumbling road tunes. The clear star of their set was “Custer County,” an ominous melody with foot-striking action and a full jam between harmonica and guitar to drive it home. After Myron Elkin delivered a healthy dose of bluesy licks, Jaime Wyatt took the stage and performed an impressive set that showcased her songwriting and singing skills as well as the talent of her band. Songs like “Rattlesnake Girl,” “Your Loving Saves Me,” a creative take on Gram Parsons’ “Return of the Grievous Angel,” “Neon Cross,” and Waylon Jennings’ “Hurt So Bad” all captured her ability to associate twangy country with soulful vocals and contagious melodies. Texas artist Red Shahan would give his fans a hard-rock set with a country twist, nailing songs like a particularly epic, sprawling “Culberson County” and “Javelina” that featured heavy slide guitar solo work and chunky organ playing.
Sarah Shook and the Disarmers stepped things up with a set that showed just how far this humble group has come in recent years. Backed by her incredibly tight band, Shook injected some dark punk energy into a set that leaned heavily on her 2022 album. night owl while including songs off Years and Oblique. Shook’s dark, lonely vocal style stood out in the way his band amplified it through twangy steel pedals and really solid guitar solos. Throughout their set, the band layered in elements of grunge, punk and even shoegaze, bringing it all to a triumphant ending with the breathy, blissful instrumental that featured plenty of shredding to close out the sharp set.
Lucero would keep the party going with a raw and lean set, even though the band was missing keyboardist Rick Steff. Whiskey-sipping and high spirits, Ben Nichols delighted die-hard fans as he led the band through a host of new and old material. Playing as a quartet meant the band delved into their alt-country roots and moved away from the Memphis soul they had occasionally touched on during their later albums. Highlights included “Cover Me”, “Slow Dancing”, “Sweet Little Thing” and even a brand new song called “Buy a Little Time” played for the very first time which carried a powerful guitar sound reminiscent of Drive-bys Truckers. . They would round out the set with some of their old fan favorites, including “Texas & Tennessee” and “Nights Like These” to make for one of the toughest performances of the day.
Before the Marcus King Group closed the night with an explosive set of blues-rock and soul jammy, the crowd was treated to a loud set of Portland’s own TK and the saints know nothing. Playing as if they were trying to win over every member of the audience, the band fired on all cylinders balancing clever and sometimes humorous lyrics with exuberant instrumental antics. It seemed like the band was gradually gaining energy and intensity with their unique style of Pacific Northwest country-rock. It included funkified organ playing, slide guitar solos, thick bass grooves, and gritty vocals, all of which came together and had nearly everyone in the audience bouncing by the end.
It seems that many festival organizers have returned to smaller, one- or two-day events this summer. When done right, the result can be something less marathon-like and sensory-overloading than traditional multi-day music festivals. Wild Hare achieved this, bringing a well-curated lineup of acts to a location that was surprisingly ideal for a festival. Besides perhaps a lackluster beer selection (we’re in the Pacific Northwest after all), Wild Hare gave fans a laid-back festival experience and no doubt allowed for musical discovery alongside big enough players. to make a draw.
All photos by Greg Homolka