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A blissful benefit 

by Mike Corrigan


The press kits I get from local power trio Vertigo Bliss are exquisite. Bound in translucent, hot pink plastic envelopes, protected from the elements and rough handling, are show flyers, band bios and picture-laden CD media kits. Everything a music writer needs for a story in one good-looking and thoughtfully presented packet. Kudos, gentlemen.


But effective self-promotion aside, the guys in Vertigo Bliss also deserve accolades for their unswerving dedication to the Toys for Tots charity. This Tuesday night, Dec. 11 at the Met, three of Spokane's top original bands will perform at the second annual ROCK FOR TOTS benefit show featuring Vertigo Bliss, 10 Minutes Down and Paradox. All proceeds from the concert will go to purchase presents for Spokane area children through the Toys for Tots program.


The event is Vertigo Bliss singer/guitarist/songwriter Dave Kotlan's baby.


"We have fun with it, and you know what? People are so receptive to it," he says. "I went hanging posters today, and everybody was so nice. Even in the chain stores where they're not really supposed to hang stuff, they were really getting behind it."


Aside from helping out a deserving charity, the concert is also a way for locals to check into some of the hottest bands on the Spokane scene.


"You know how it is," Kotlan says. "Everybody plays free gigs around here. This is a higher profile one, and hopefully it'll shed some light on the scene and do some good for the community at the same time."


Vertigo Bliss is comprised of Kotlan, drummer Steve Hurlburt and bassist Denny Holler. The band traffics in big, fat, ringing guitars, anthemic arrangements and a thundering bottom end. Their CD entitled Focus has been a consistent top local seller at area music stores since its release early last year.


The seven-man local ska/punk band 10 Minutes Down has been dominating the local club scene lately with a relentless schedule that has included pretty much every nook and cranny performance space in town. They've recently performed at Thirsty's, Outback Jack's, the Big Dipper, Double Dribble, Ichabod's -- you name it, they've probably played it. They've even had the distinction of playing at the Gorge amphitheater not once but thrice as part of the Vans Warped Tour. Their second CD, Fluke, is also selling well locally.


The third band on the evening's bill is Paradox, the Mead high school band that made such a big splash at last summer's Battle of the Bands competition in Riverfront Park.


Last year's event, according to Kotlan, was a huge success.


"We raised approximately 1,000 toys for area children," he says. "But this year, donations are needed more than ever. With the recent tragedies in our nation, local charities are suffering. And we want to make this a great Christmas for our city's kids."


Local Marines will also be on hand to accept any donations of new, unwrapped toys.


"We certainly don't expect people to bring a toy," says Kotlan. "Especially since they're buying a ticket to the show. But if they do bring one -- great."





Rock for Tots at the Met featuring Vertigo Bliss, 10 Minutes Down and Paradox is on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 pm. Tickets: $8, advance; $10, at the door. Call: 325-SEAT.





A Choir of Rock Angels


Clearly, the rumors of symphonic rock's death have been greatly exaggerated.


In an apparent attempt to surpass Mannheim Steamroller as the strangest Christmas entertainment attraction of all time, composer Paul O'Neill of the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA has turned this season of humility, reflection and thanksgiving into an opportunity to trot out the glitz and the glamour, rock-opera style.


The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is coming to town Friday night with a holiday music offering that is anything but traditional.


Weary of The Nutcracker and those endless adaptations of Dickens' A Christmas Carol? Well, O'Neill and his group of flowing-haired rock ubermensch have got a holiday alternative for you. One with power chords, squealing guitar solos, foundation-shaking percussion, Meat Loaf-esque vocal histrionics, choirs of men and children and fog. Lots of fog. And somewhere amid all this flash and bombast is the story of an angel sent to Earth to discover the true meaning of Christmas.


TSO press materials describe the show as "a full-scale musical production which brings together the stirring elegance of a classical orchestra along with the power and fury of a hard rock band surrounded by stunning lighting."


As a value-added bonus for you heavy rockers out there, the troupe just announced last week that Al Pitrelli (best known for his beguiling and subtle guitar work with the metal band, Megadeth) will be joining the TSO tour this year.


So if like O'Neill, your musical inclinations were formed by the likes of Queen, Yes and Jesus Christ Superstar, the TSO's "Christmas Eve and Other Stories" just might be the thing to shake off those holiday doldrums. If not, well, then you might just have to go home and put on Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas instead.





The Trans-Siberian Orchestra performs "Christmas Eve and Other Stories" at the Opera House on Friday, Dec. 7, at 8 pm. Tickets: $29.50-$39.50. Call: 325-SEAT.





Elsewhere...


The Shop coffeehouse has a couple of cool shows starting tonight with the Bucket Riders and Indie Dados. The show starts at 7 pm (you can also catch the Bucket Riders at Mootsy's on Friday night). On Saturday night, Tremolo and Montana troubadour Jenn Adams perform at 7 pm. Cover is five bucks.


An all-ages shindig over at the Big Dipper on Friday night will feature Elderstaar from Spokane, Downfall from Coeur d'Alene and Slick 60 from Vancouver, B.C. The show will start at 9 pm and will cost ya just $7 at the door.


Also on Friday night, Ichabod's North presents Calgary band Downway with Jetlag and Seawolf opening the show, which starts at around 9:30 pm. Cover? Most likely around five bucks.
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