Members of War, Tommy Chong jam out at vineyard concert

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter



If you go

• What: Vineyard Jam Music and Comedy festival, featuring The LowRider Band, Tommy and Shelby Chong with Ukulele Ray’s Sgt. Pepper Tribute, Roger Fisher and Barracuda (Heart tribute), Geoffrey Castle Band, Adrian Xavier, CoLoSo.

When: 2 to 10:30 p.m., Saturday.

Where: Heathen Estate, 9400 N.E. 134th St., Vancouver.

Parking: General-admission parking at Prairie High School (11311 N.E. 119th St.) with free shuttle to site (10 minute ride). Onsite parking with VIP admission only.

Tickets: $45 for general admission (lawn seating, offsite parking); $75 for chair seating and offsite parking; VIP packages start at $100.

On the web:

“Why can’t we be friends?”

That’s a sweet, sunny, reggae-lite anthem from 1975 by a band with a contrasting name: War. And, four decades later, it’s still a question.

“Politicians are not going to save the world, but music certainly will,” harmonica hero Lee Oskar said during a phone interview.

In the late 1970s, Oskar pointed out, War released an album called “Galaxy.” It was playing off the movie hit “Star Wars,” but the album cover made a deeper point: Lining up for the escape flight from Earth to some fresh, ideal “place in space” is literally everybody — all races and colors and types, including a handful of sci-fi monsters and one white-sheeted member of the Ku Klux Klan.

“We take our problems with us wherever we go,” said Oskar.

But Oskar added that he’s disgusted with the most recent outbreak of racial violence in America. “There’s so much animosity and fear,” he said. “Nazis and others who are threatening and demeaning people based on their race — that’s not acceptable. Not in my world.”

In Oskar’s world, he and his longtime buddies keep taking the stage and jamming like they’re kids, he said. “We grew up playing together, and it always feels good,” he said. “I’m proud to say it’s always in the moment. It’s always creative, always a jam.

“If we can play together and communicate like this, maybe that makes it a better world,” he said.

Then why such a conflicted band name? Back in the day, he said, “Everybody was walking around saying ‘peace,’ but nobody was at peace.” Sound familiar?

LowRider Band

War climbed to stardom in the 1970s, fell again in the 1980s (thanks to fewer hits as well as several departures and deaths) and reformed in the 1990s. But they lost the right to their original name in court, and retitled themselves after one of their biggest hits: The LowRider Band. (Meanwhile there’s a touring version of War, too, boasting one original member).

The LowRider Band, featuring War founders Oskar, guitarist Howard Scott and drummer Harold Brown, will ride into Heathen Estate winery on Saturday to headline a daylong music-and-comedy “Vineyard Jam” that’s a first for that new Clark County venue.

Also appearing are comedians Tommy and Shelby Chong. Original Heart guitarist (and Seattle native) Roger Fisher will play with Heart tribute band Barracuda. Vancouver reggae band CoLoSo, Seattle singer-songwriter Adrian Xavier and electric violinist Geoffrey Castle with his band are on the schedule too. And, a splendid time is guaranteed for all by Ukelele Ray and his 50th anniversary Sgt. Pepper tribute.

Splash for new winery

All of which is intended to create an attention-grabbing splash for Heathen Estate, a new arrival on the Clark County winery scene. It’s the project of Sunny Parsons, who’s been creating unique beers for the past five years under the name Heathen Brewing, out of his own converted barn at 5612 N.E. 119th Street in the Pleasant Highlands neighborhood.

But because Heathen Brewing is only a tasting room and pickup location for customer orders — not a restaurant or tavern — it’s mostly flown under the public radar, Parsons said. Heathen’s real connection with customers is its downtown location, the Feral Public House at 1109 Washington St.

Last fall, Parsons bought a 20-acre winery-to-be at 9400 N.E. 134th St. — the site of the short-lived Village Vineyard — and started planning big things there. “I’ve been talking to anybody and everybody” about hosting musicians, artists, local vendors and as many as 1,500 guests, he said. That’s the legal limit for Heathen Estate.

Parsons found a partner: the Cascadia TV Network, a new Vancouver-based media group with similar startup ambitions. Cascadia helped Parsons recruit the day’s talent and will be on hand to record the show. Also cosponsoring the event is Portland classic rock radio station KGON and pot shop The Herbery (marijuana sale or consumption is not permitted at the event). Several food carts will be on hand to keep folks fed all day long.

“It’s not cheap, these big bands we’re having,” said Parsons. “We’re not going to make any money, but I’m learning a lot. This is our first big event. We just want to get our name out there.”

Offsite parking

The main complication, Parsons said, has been figuring out what to do with 1,500 people’s cars. The solution is mostly off-site parking with free shuttle service. If you’re springing for VIP tickets you can park onsite; otherwise the parking is all at Prairie High School, 11311 N.E. 119th St. The shuttle will ferry you the short distance (about three miles) to and from the winery.

Otherwise, Parsons said, “I would have had to borrow my neighbor’s field” to provide sufficient parking. “We want this to be a really good clean experience.”