As a fan, watching the Salem music scene blow up in the late eighties and early nineties was a thrill every night of the week. The Ranch and Peppertree continued to rock heavy on Portland Road. Westside Station hosted transcendent shows with bands like the Dharma Bums and Cherry Poppin Daddies. Boon’s Treasury had regular music and big shows were thrown at Mission Mill. The Armory was still a spot on the map for Portland promoters. Mostly headbangers, the bands continued to draw large crowds and play loud shows. With all the options, Salem seemed to satisfy the area with live music.
Then things got even better. Mike Jones opened the Grand Theater with a steady stream of touring bands every weekend and local bands like the Violets and Carmina Piranha. Tommyjohn’s replaced the Rolling Bagel and found obscure acts that surprised everyone. Midweek shows downtown became the norm and Salem regained the reputation it lost in the 70s as a destination for entertainment. All was well in the world, and it would last forever.
Or at least until the turn of the century. By 2000, everything changed. With so many choices, attendance started dropping. Bored kids would trash bathrooms and upset venue owners. The ban on cruising had taken it’s toll on Ranch and Peppertree. Westside Station expanded their stage for larger touring acts and switched directions to cover bands. A wild Daddies show at the Mission Mill ended a streak of all-ages shows. Tommyjohn’s closed. Jimmy’s Guitar shuttered under controversy. Mike Jones gave up on the Grand Theater and took his record label to Portland. He felt like the Grand had turned into a day care center. Other than cover bands, live music became harder to come by. The scene fell into a state of hibernation.
After years of dormancy, new music began to emerge downtown. In 2004, sporadic shows started up at the Cyrus Reed Ballroom. Punk shows took the stage at the soon-to-be Ike Box. Acting to avoid the downward spiral of the late 90s, fandom turned to promotion during a library fundraiser. In an effort to engage a younger demographic for collecting ballot signatures, it was decided to plan an event downtown that would feature local and national talent. With help from Julian Snow and Dino Venti, a concert was planned at Cyrus Reed Ballroom. Captain Beefhart’s Morris Tepper, Peter De Groot’s Anbot Rodroid, and the Julian Snow Trio played to 300 people and the effort to connect community through music was initiated.
It took a few more years to host another show from a totally unexpected path. Area filmmakers were asking for opportunities to make music videos. After pairing directors with bands to shoot a video, Mix-n-Mash 2007 was planned to show the videos. Cherry City Music Festival was born.
Scott Hartmann met up with The Funhouse Strippers in Ranch Record’s basement and shot “Murderer’s Thumb”, a high energy punk song about David Ballantyne’s(?) thumb.
Another great music video was produced by Sean Farris and his magic elves. Stop motion animation paired with outer space music by Millrace made “Garden Gnome” entrancing.
Fifty bands were scheduled in eleven venues over 2 days in October. Seven of those still exist today. The Gusto Brothers, Phamous Phaces, Typhoon, Kalaloch, Easterly, Potatoe Famine and Marci Curtis Band are still kicking it like they were a decade ago. Randy Byrnes and Mark Seymour are still playing solo gigs. Ike Box, Boon’s Treasury, Stitch’s (?), Grand Ballroom and the Beanery are the only remaining venues. A moment of silence is reserved for Coffee House Cafe, Grand Vines, The Big Kahuna, Copperjohn’s, Six UltraLounge and all the bands that are no more.
In the weeks leading to the 10th Cherry City Music Festival March 31, April 1 and 2, more stories from the Salem music scene, past and present, will be shared on the web site in celebration of the community built by live entertainment in Salem.
Do you support live music in Salem? Hundreds of bands and thousands of fans gathered at the Cherry City Music Festival over the past 10 years. Your donation helps make this year extra special and keep concerts free. Please chip in for a grassroots event that is still exists after a decade.
Visit Shotski’s every Saturday until the Festival for the Cherry City Music Preview Series. Eight weeks of free concerts are performed on the newest stage in Salem.
Mix-n-Mash returns to Salem February 24-27 at Shotski’s.
Sign up for the Music Festival and we’ll try to get you a stage.
Here are a few more photos from the first Mix-n-Mash in 2007.
2007 line up:
40 Hundred Thousand Locked Up Guns
Eskimo and Sons
The Last Slice of Butter
Jr. and the Farm
The Duafa Project
Martyrs of Sound
Nodding Tree Remedies
Hot in Pursuit
Parfait a.k.a. Le Verbe
Marci Curtis Band
Altar of Thrond
Boy Named Sue
I’m a Tornado
Sunday Straight Jacket
Guards of Metropolis
Ray Charles Manson Family Feud
The Gusto Brothers
The Funhouse Strippers