After a successful debut at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds and Events Center in 2022 — a 10-year anniversary celebration that was 12 years in the making, thanks to Covid — Harefest, the mother of all tribute band festivals, will be back for its 11th iteration in July 2023.
That’s right: It “goes to 11” — a reference to This Is Spinal Tap, the cult 1984 mockumentary film about a fictional English hair band, which Harefest cofounder and co-owner Jason Fellman says organizers plan to lean into heavily in promoting this year’s festival.
“Spinal Tap is very popular with the Harefest crowd,” Fellman said with a laugh. “Even if they don’t know the film really well, you can say, ‘It goes to 11,’ and they’ll get the joke. They’ll even know where it comes from.”
Spinal Tap will also be woven into the fabric of the festival with None More Black, a tribute to the titular band from the film, which will perform at the newly revamped kickoff party on Thursday, July 13, along with ’80s hit band Radical Revolution.
Other acts returning to Harefest this year or coming for the first time include Queen Nation, Stone In Love (a tribute to Journey), Pigs on the Wing (Pink Floyd), Appetite for Deception (Guns N’ Roses), Hysteria (Def Leppard), Shoot to Thrill (AC/DC), Barracuda (Heart and Led Zeppelin) and Eagle Eyes (The Eagles).
Also gracing the Harefest stages will be Third Stage (Boston), Petty Fever (Tom Petty), Dr. Crüe (Mötley Crüe), Jukebox Heroes (Foreigner), Best of Both Worlds (Van Halen), Glass of Hearts (Blondie), Taken By the Sky (Fleetwood Mac), Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne) and Space Cowboy (Steve Miller Band) and more.
The tribute artists take their work seriously, striving hard for authenticity in their performances, showmanship and appearance, and many of them have cultivated a fan following all their own, distinct from the original bands they emulate.
This will be Harefest’s second year at the fairgrounds, which includes an expansive overnight area for RVs and tents (including a collection of highly sought-after glamping sites surrounding the rodeo arena). Overnight guests will also have the option of staying Thursday for the new kickoff bash.
Other new additions include Saturday night’s headline closeout with a special multimedia-infused set from Pigs on the Wing, the highly acclaimed Pink Floyd tribute act, and a reworking of the festival layout that will make both of the main stages the same size and place them side by side.
Fellman says this change was intended to address some of the congestion that would occur when festival-goers had to pivot to different stages between sets last year.
“We’ve always felt that, especially with something like Harefest, every band is a headliner, you know what I mean?” Fellman said. “Every band is worthy to be on the main stage. And that impacts the customer experience too, because now every band is having that main-stage level of production.”
Even the third stage, located behind the fairgrounds’ Main Pavilion in what Harefest calls “Hippie Hollow,” will be the same size as last year’s main stage, Fellman added.
Last year’s popular FastBar wristband payment system will now be expanded to include food vendors in addition to drinks and merchandise, Fellman said, creating a virtually cashless experience at Harefest.
And, all overnight spaces will be by reservation only this year (not just RV spaces), with a variety of sizes to accommodate vans, campers and rooftop tents.
Sadly, organizers did announce late last year that, due to circumstances outside their control, Harefest’s sister festival the Wild Hare Music Fest would not be returning in 2023.
Last year’s unforgettable iteration featured a fast-rising Zach Bryan in the middle of his ascent to superstardom last year, as well as the talents of Marcus King, Morgan Wade, Lucero and many others before a sellout crowd.
Fellman said he could not go into details regarding the decision, but that it involved market factors.
“It’s not anything related to any kind of falling out with relationships, nothing within our business, nothing with artists,” he said. “There’s nothing bad that happened between people. It’s a market situation.
“It’s not really our place to say [what happened] other than it was not an easy decision. Because, obviously, last year was awesome, and we would totally do it again if we thought we could do it successfully.”
Fellman did leave the door open to to the possibility of Wild Hare Music Fest returning in the future.
And he said that he and his production company, J-Fell Presents, along with Harefest cofounder and co-owner Joan Monen and General Manager Kyle Lang, are committed to continue to deliver the same kinds of top-shelf experiences longtime guests have come to expect at both Harefest and Wild Hare Music Fest.
“Just because that festival is not moving forward doesn’t mean that you’re not going to see other offerings from our company that feature those same kinds of vibes and artists,” Fellman said. “You haven’t seen the last of us in the genre, but this year, we’re focusing on Harefest.”
Harefest 11 will return to the Clackamas County Fairgrounds and Events Center in Canby on July 14 and 15. Tickets are now available at harefest.com/tickets.
Harefest is a 21-and-over event. For more information, including a full festival lineup and venue map, visit harefest.com.
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