Southern Oregon Music Festival draws bands from 27 states — almost as many bands as years the festival has staged music.
Over the past 28 years, festival organizers have honored its Dixieland roots while broadening the musical entertainment to include jump jive, blues, doo wop, rockabilly, swing, zydeco, R&B, funk, rock ‘n’ roll and jazz of all styles.
The festivities begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, continue to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, and feature almost 100 sets of danceable, live music at five different venues — all within walking distance of each other in downtown Medford.
Look for familiar and new festival bands playing at KOBI's Studio C, 124 S. First St.; Howiee's on Front, 16 N. Front St.; and the Grand and Petite ballrooms and Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine inside Inn at the Commons, 200 N. Riverside Ave. Free shuttle service will be available every 30 minutes at each venue.
Three-day, all-event festival passes are $90, $20 for ages 12 through 23. Kids 12 and younger get in free if accompanied by an adult.
All-day passes for Friday, Saturday and Sunday are $35, $50 or $30, respectively. Prime-time tickets are $30 for Friday or Saturday and include admission to all events after 5 p.m. at any venue.
Tickets can be purchased at any of the five venues.
Newcomers to the festival include jazz and swingsters Cocuzzi Courtet; early jazz, country blues and roots band Jacob Miller and The Bridge City Crooners; jazz, Dixieland and ragtime group Blair Crimmins and The Hookers; blues duo Twice As Good 2XG; trumpet player Brian "Big B" Casserly; and rockabilly, swing and rock 'n' roll band Gino and the Lone Gunmen.
Familiar faces include clarinetist Bob Draga with his hot new quartet on the jazz festival circuit; fiddler Tom Rigney and his Cajun and roots music band Flambeau; jazz and classical band The Midiri Brothers; Coos Bay's '50s band The Young Bucs; High Sierra Jazz Band; swingster Dave Bennett and his Quartet, along with Bennett and The Memphis Speed Kings, playing classics by Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and more; Cajun, zydeco and New Orleans R&B band Gator Nation; the Oregon Coast Lab Band and its jazz and big-band sound; and the energetic High Street Party Band.
Bennett switches from clarinet to piano to play with The Memphis Speed Kings. It's as if his alter ego is among the rock 'n' roll greats.
The Rogue Valley's own jazz singer Kacie Garner-Bowers will perform at 5 p.m. Friday with Bob Draga and High Street and at 12:30 p.m. with High Street Party Band in the Grand Ballroom at Inn at the Commons. Garner-Bowers is a member of Ashland band Band du Pays Swing and performs with sax player Paul Schmeling and his trio.
New this year are tributes to musical greats.
Cocuzzi Courtet will present a tribute to jazz singer and pianist Nat King Cole at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the Grand Ballroom. The Dave Bennett Quartet will pay tribute to jazz clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman, known as "The King of Swing," at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the Petite Ballroom and 9:30 p.m. Saturday in the Grand Ballroom.
Bennett performed a Goodman tribute at Carnegie Hall in New York City, playing Goodman's clarinet.
Gino Meregillano of the Lone Gunmen and other various artists will present a tribute to Johnny Cash at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Howiee's on Front.
A festival tradition, the Clarinet Clambake — featuring Draga, The Midiri Brothers and Pieter Meijers of High Sierra Jazz Band — will perform a clarinet serenade at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Grand Ballroom. Affectionately referred to as a "clambake," no clams will be served, just plenty of Draga's banter with his fellow musicians for a vaudevillian-style treat.
Dinner shows with Cocuzzi Courtet, Draga and Casserly, Draga and friends, and Peter Meijers are at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday and 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, respectively, at Larks Home Kitchen.
Youth performances are a way to remind audiences to support music education. Jazz bands from Rogue Valley high schools will perform at 8 a.m. Saturday at KOBI's Studio C. The show will be followed with a performance by the Oregon Lab Band at 11 a.m. Admission is free.
The music festival launched a youth program in 1990, which soon became the underlying focus of the event. Selected festival bands arrive a week early to tour elementary and middle schools and present music education programs for students. A group of 150 students from ages 10 to 21 make up the Oregon Coast Lab Band and perform each year at the festival. The youth program makes contributions to Jackson and Josephine county schools districts by providing music instruction, instruments and scholarships. In 2007, a festival membership model was initiated to preserve these efforts. In 2011, the youth program expanded to include the music education and instrument donation program.
Look for festival finales from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Cocuzzi Courtet, The Midiri Brothers, Jacob Miller and The Bridge City Crooners and Bob Draga wrap things up at the Grand Ballroom. Gino and The Lone Gunmen, Gator Nation, Twice As Good 2XG, Dave Bennett and The Memphis Speed Kings and The Young Bucs close KOBI Studio C.
If you haven't had enough fun (or too much), High Street Party Band will perform an inspirational set of gospel at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Grand Ballroom, and The Midiri Brothers and Bob Draga will perform inspirational melodies at 10:30 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 85 S. Holly St. Admission is free at the church.
The festival's premier dance venue, KOBI Studio C, touts a 1,200-square-foot dance floor. Because it is one of the festival's larger venues, it provides ample seating on either side of the stage.
Howiee's on Front's live music venue provides seating for about 60. The restaurant and bar does not allow minors.
The Inn at the Commons offers a 500-seat Grand Ballroom and the 200-seat Petite Ballroom. Each is equipped with a dance floor.