HELIX — Wheatstock Music Festival has continued to harvest success since its inaugural event 12 years ago.
This past spring, DeWayne Dunlap announced that Americana band Reckless Kelly — calling them “the hottest band out of Austin, Texas” — would be headlining the 2019 festival. Also, Austin’s George DeVore — referred to as a “pop-powerhouse” — is returning for a fifth time.
This year’s event is Saturday, Aug. 17 from 3-11 p.m. at Quantum 9 Arena, Helix. There will be a beer garden and Andrae’s Kitchen will be on-site.
Tickets are $30, or $35 if purchased at the gate. Free camping is available. Also, VIP packages are $99, which includes general admission, a meet-and-greet and event swag. Admission is free for active military personnel and kids 12 and under.
What started out as mostly featuring area musicians, as the festival has grown it has brought bigger names to the stage. Honoring its roots, Wheatstock still showcases regional musicians. This year’s lineup includes Pendleton’s Imperial Twang, The Wasteland Kings from out of La Grande, and The FrogHollow Band and Shop Singers, both of Walla Walla.
Sometimes referred to as Pendleton’s quintessential party band, Imperial Twang didn’t have a name when they played their first gig nearly 15 years ago. Audience members at Hamley’s Slickfork Saloon wrote down ideas on napkins.
Songwriter and co-frontman Jef Farley told the East Oregonian in a 2009 interview that they had hundreds of suggestions and took months to settle on a name. Whatever you call them, Imperial Twang is said to light things up “with a witty blend of country, folk, Americana, and rock and roll.”
Although no longer on the Wheatstock board, Farley is one of the festival’s founders. The idea sprouted as a way to raise money for the music program at the Helix School District. In addition, it provides support to Divide Camp, a wilderness retreat for veterans. In addition to the fundraising aspect, Farley wanted a chance to play at the same venue with his brother’s band.
With influences from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Tom Petty and Muddy Waters, The Wasteland Kings headlined Wheatstock in 2010. They offer a mixture of rock, Americana and folk, while adding their own unique twist. Playing together since 2008, they pack the house in bars, clubs and festivals across the Pacific Northwest.
The gritty blues vocals of Kris Mallory and Holly Sorensen brings an edge to The Wasteland Kings. The group also features Mike Mallory, Mark Emerson and Al “Too Loud” MacLeod. They also “tone it down” a bit when performing as The Acoustic Kings.
Originally formed in 1994 as a party band for a New Year’s gig, The FrogHollow Band has hopped across multiple genres and onto the stage with national music acts. They’ve opened for Foghat, Blue Oyster Cult, James Otto, Phil Vasser, Molly Hatchet and more.
FrogHollow is said to present a “contemporary twist on old school country.” In addition to performing original music, the alternative country group offers up covers of current and classic rock and country tunes, along with Red Dirt favorites.
“These boys aren’t from Texas but at least they got a fiddle in the band,” Dunlap said.
A handful of years ago, a pair of garage-playing guitarists recruited bandmates and formed as the Shop Singers. Attracting lots of attention for their eclectic mix of alternative country, folk, rock and punk, the group was voted as the best local band in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin‘s 2018 Best of the Best!
Returning to the Wheatstock stage for a second year in a row, the band has played across the region in bars, wineries, private parties and at The Gentleman of the Road Festival. Their high energy set with all original music, Dunlap said, will leave people wanting more.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.wheatstock.org or search Facebook for Wheatstock Music Festival.