By 6 o’clock each Tuesday morning in the summer, the hillside that slopes gently upward from the edge of the South Umpqua River is a patchwork quilt of, well, quilts. Blankets and quilts and maybe the odd beach towel or T-shirt or unfolded bandana.
These are the placeholders, the makeshift property lines drawn by those whose love of music and communal gatherings is deep (crazy?) enough to motivate them to rise with the earliest birds to claim their turf in front of the Stewart Park band shell on the Roseburg waterfront.
It will be another 13 or 14 hours or so before one of the national acts that comprise Music on the Half Shell’s summer lineup casually strolls onto the concrete pad, under the yellow and white striped shell, and says “Hello” (or, often, “Wow!”) to the assembled crowd.
There will be showers taken, hairs combed, lunches packed, kids sent off to school, work days started and ended, antipasto platters assembled, wines selected, coolers packed and so much more activity between this insane morning blanket dropping ritual and the first chord of the first song.
But Music on the Half Shell is one of Roseburg’s most popular community events, arguably the most popular. And regulars have their favorite places to sit and spread their picnics.
So territory must be claimed early.
If there is any event that serves as a microcosm of this community, that tells visitors, “This, people, is what Roseburg is all about,” it is Music on the Half Shell.
The concert series was the brainchild of local citizens, and its first year was a relatively modest affair. But as the volunteer committee’s fund-raising efforts grew, so did the quality of the lineups.
The list of artists who have performed in this venue over the last 25 years is diverse and impressive. Pick a genre, and some of its biggest names have played under the Half Shell. (Just don’t pick hip-hop as your genre. Or metal. Or opera. There may be a few others, but this is a family affair and the acts do need to have a broad appeal, after all.)
O.K. forget the pick-a-genre thing altogether; just have a look at a small sampling of Half Shell guests:
Bruce Hornsby, Emmylou Harris, Leo Kotke, Richie Havens, Alison Krauss, Dr. John, David Sanborn, Robben Ford, Charlie Musselwhite. Leon Russell, Jonatha Brooke, Keb Mo, Roseanne Cash, John Scofield, Dianne Schuur, Aimee Mann, Shawn Colvin and many more.
Many of the above have played more than once, and in most cases, they were the ones asking if they could return.
Did we mention these concerts were free? Robert Cray for free? Little Feat for free. Dixie Chicks for free?
That’s one of the quintessentially Roseburg things about Music on the Half Shell. The best things here truly are free, or can be had for a bargain. All these years later, the Half Shell continues to be supported entirely by community sponsorships and by the bills and coinage that concert-goers drop into buckets passed during each concert.
Did we mention that you could have seen Lyle Lovett for free here? Do you know how much a Lyle Lovett ticket would cost you elsewhere? Significantly more than nothing, that’s how much.
The thing is, despite all those fanatical blanket droppers, you don’t need to rise with the birds to find a place on the Stewart Park hillside. There’s plenty of room for drop-ins.
So pack your cooler (beer and wine are permitted), drop in and enjoy some great music and a perfect summer slice of Roseburg. The series runs Tuesday nights through August 9th. Start time is 7:00 PM sharp.