Wild Hare Music Festival Brings Solid Country-focused Lineup to Canby, OR with Lucero, Jaime Wyatt, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers and More (FESTIVAL REVIEW/PHOTOS)

Just under thirty minutes outside Portland, Oregon sits the small agricultural town of Canby. Though it may be close in proximity, spend any amount of time in Canby and you will see it is a world away from the twee hipness and liberal attitude of Oregon’s largest city. This factor also made Canby an ideal location for a country-leaning music festival that packed far 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 brought a compact yet impressive lineup that veered from straight country to outlaw to Americana and even blues-rock.

While Friday brought out a heavy crowd primarily to catch the young breakout country act Zach Bryan alongside other rising talents like Vincent Neil Emerson and Morgan Wade, Saturday saw its crowd trickle in for a full day of music that included something for everyone. Once the earlier bands finished up at the small side stage, the action moved to the main concert field. From here on out, organizers opted to have two stages rotating to ensure zero downtime between sets.

Zach Bryan

Boise, Idaho’s Tylor & the Train Robbers played a mid-afternoon set that balanced influences of outlaw, 90s country, honky tonk, and rough and tumble road tunes. The clear standout in their set was “Custer County,” a foreboding tune with foot-stomping action and a full-on jam-off between harmonica and guitar to take it on home. After Myron Elkins delivered a healthy dose of bluesy licks, Jaime Wyatt took the stage and played an impressive set that showcased her skills as a songwriter and singer 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 the Waylon Jennings-esque “Hurt So Bad” all captured her ability to bring twangy country together with soulful vocals and infectious melodies. Texas artist Red Shahan would give his fans a hard-rocking set with a country edge, nailing songs like an especially epic and sprawling “Culberson County” and “Javelina” that featured big slide guitar solo work and chunky organ playing.     

Jaime Wyatt

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers ramped things up with a set that showed just how far this humble band has come in recent years. Backed by her incredibly tight band, Shook injected a bit of dark punk energy into a set that leaned heavily into her 2022 album Nightroamer while also including songs off Years and Sidelong. Shook’s style of brooding, lonesome vocals stood out in the way her band amplified it through twangy pedal steel and truly solid guitar solos. Throughout their set, the band would layer in elements of grunge, punk, and even shoegaze, bringing it all to a triumphant close with the blown out and blissed out instrumental that featured plenty of shredding to close the sharp set.

Lucero would keep the party going with a set that was raw and lean, even if the band was missing their keyboard player Rick Steff. Sipping whiskey and in fine spirits, Ben Nichols delighted the hardcore fans as he led the band through a set of material new and old. Playing as a quartet meant that the band dipped into their alt-country roots and away from the Memphis soul they have occasionally dabbled in 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 that carried a powerful guitar sound reminiscent of the Drive-by Truckers. They would round out the set with some of their older fan favorites, including “Texas & Tennessee” and “Nights Like These” to make for one of the harder rocking performances of the day.

Lucero

Before the Marcus King Band closed the night with an explosive set of jammy blues-rock and soul, the crowd was treated to a raucous set from Portland’s own TK & the Holy Know-Nothings. Playing as if they were trying to win over every single member of the audience, the band fired on all cylinders as they balanced smart and occasionally humorous lyrics with rollicking instrumental antics. It seemed as if the band was gradually building up energy and intensity with their unique style of Pacific Northwest country-rock. This included funkified organ playing, slide guitar solos, thick bass grooves, and gritty vocals, all of which came together and had nearly everyone in attendance bouncing around in delight by the end of it.

It seems that many festival promoters have scaled back to smaller, one or two-day events this summer. When done well, the result can be something that feels less like a marathon and sensory overload than traditional multi-day music festivals. Wild Hare succeeded in this, bringing a well-curated lineup of acts to a location that was unexpectedly ideal for a festival. Besides perhaps a lackluster beer selection (we are in the Pacific Northwest after all), Wild Hare gave fans a festival experience that was laid back and undoubtedly allowed for some musical discovery alongside enough bigger acts to make it a draw.

All photos by Greg Homolka

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