Hit Machine performs regionally, pandemic or not
A widely popular band with a Columbia County connection emerged intact from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to entertain throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Bart Hafeman, who lives in Scappoose, created Hit Machine, a band that takes on many styles of music and has performed for 21 years.
"Hit Machine has always been about, obviously, music, and having a great time with the public," Hafeman said. "We try to span all generations in our shows so we can give everybody a good time."
Hafeman added, "Just as important as the music, we always have a vision of spreading to the crowd love, life, joy, peace, unity and positivity. Those have been goals of mine as a frontman."
Hit Machine plays a range of music.
"We started as a cover band, so that means just doing other people's music," Hafeman said. "We tried to stay with major hits that were really popular."
While the band has covered vintage acts like the Bee Gees, Prince and Michael Jackson, it has also performed more current music, such as Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake.
"We recently added 'Hound Dog,' just because lots of people are going outside with their dogs," Hafeman said, "That song is an old Elvis deal.
"Music is a just a tool to reach people and give people an experience that's unique."
Hafeman's connection with Columbia County goes back to his childhood — he's a nearly lifelong resident.
"We moved to Columbia County when I was 6," Hafeman recalled. "I've been here largely my whole life. All my first musical experiences were right here in Scappoose."
Hafeman took piano and drum lessons in his earlier years, he added.
"The community was great in giving me opportunities to exercise my gifts that were developing, like the early versions of the Scappoose Pow Wow and various community events," he said.
Hit Machine has played throughout the Pacific Northwest and has entertained at corporate shows, from Nike to Intel to Columbia Sportswear.
The band has performed at the biggest events in the Northwest, including the highly popular Fourth of July fireworks show at Fort Vancouver.
Hit Machine recently performed at the St. Helens Fourth of July event, held at Columbia View Park.
"That was an amazing show," Hafeman said. "We felt like we really punched a hole in all the COVID stuff."
Hit Machine did its best not to let months of COVID-19-related restrictions get in the way of entertaining the community.
"My saxophone player and I went on Facebook live for 50 days in a row, just to give people some entertainment to keep their hopes up and their mind sharp," Hafeman said. "We would just go on for anywhere between 25 minutes to an hour."
The band would also do concerts from different settings, trying to interact with the people.
"When summer (2020) hit, I transformed the back of my box truck into a mobile stage," he said. "Everything was set up inside with sound and lights."
Hafeman continued, "We would go into neighborhoods like in Sherwood, Tigard and Happy Valley. We would do hour-long concerts for people — we would sometimes do five shows a day like that, in different neighborhoods. All we did was just put out a tip jar and ask for tips. People would come forward, throw their tips in, and tell us how much it meant to them. It was amazing. It was really super-cool."
Asked if he is confident going forward, considering health and safety restrictions in Oregon have eased, yet the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 is on the rise, Hafeman said, "Yes and no. I am enjoying this time of things picking back up, which is great. That brings me a bunch of joy."
Hafeman continued, "I'm excited, but cautious. I think how we move through fall in Oregon will tell us a lot."
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