I could devote a weekly column to the continuing saga of Derek Almond of Caf & eacute; Sol & eacute; and his determined, seemingly never-ending quest to establish a stable, all-ages live music venue in downtown Spokane. Almond's stamina, devotion and patience have been routinely put to the test as he grapples with the complexities of the process -- complexities that have caused scores of lesser mortals before him to throw their hands up in frustration. The technical and legal hoops are many, and the rewards (monetarily speaking, anyway) are few. But the need in Spokane is great. Young people, in particular, not only need exciting-yet-safe entertainment options, they need to feel that Spokane as a community supports live, original music and other vibrant forms of self-expression. That is, unless we as a community don't mind losing all of our best, brightest and most creative to Seattle, Portland and elsewhere.
Almond knows all this. It's why he's devoted the last few years of his life to establishing such a venue. Now it looks as if his dream is about to be realized. For real, this time. Almond has a new space, a new landlord (forward-thinking developer, Ron Wells, no less) and the support of just about everyone in town. His music calendar kicks off this Friday night with a performance by two local bands, Kitten Killers and Honest Abe and the Gettysburg Addresses.
The new Sol & eacute; is a 2,500-square-foot transformed warehouse space within the cluster of buildings on the northeast corner of Monroe and Second Ave. It's big (300-body capacity) with lots of brick, a skylight and remarkably good acoustics. Entering through its alley access door, you immediately get a sense of the venue's potential -- as a live music club, as an art space, as anything Almond imagines and works to make a reality. And this tireless sound and food connoisseur certainly has no shortage of ideas or ambition.
"It's a blank canvas," says Almond. "It's what I've been wanting all along. I'm going to be filling a niche here. In fact, I'll be filling several niches."
Almond says he plans to have something happening at Sol & eacute; every night except Sunday. His weekly music schedule thus far consists of live concerts on Friday and Saturday nights, an acoustic open mike on Tuesdays and a Thursday hip-hop/techno night.
"There will be things happening here all the time -- not just at night. And not just music, either. I'm hoping to get a Sol & eacute; marketplace going in here on Saturday afternoons starting in November, kind of like the farmer's market but geared more towards artisans and artists. There is a definite need for Sol & eacute;. And there's a need for Sol & eacute; in the Davenport Arts District. Mr. Tux used to park their limos in here. And now it's a space that can benefit the community in so many ways."
In addition to providing Almond with a large, affordable space in the heart of downtown, Wells & amp; Co. have sunk thousands of dollars into the property to improve the aesthetics, the acoustics and to bring it up to code.
"Ron Wells has been very supportive," says Almond. "I can't say enough good things about him. He's treated me very professionally. He's even fixing up this huge neon sign for me to hang outside."
When irresistible force Derek Almond meets the previously immovable object known as Spokane's all-ages club conundrum, something's going to give. My money's on Almond.
"Ron has faith in me," he says. "The community has faith in me. I'm downtown, and I have limitless flexibility. I'm looking at becoming a Spokane icon, here. People will know Sol & eacute;."
The Tannahill Weavers' two founding members, Roy Gullane and Phil Smillie, have been playing the music of the Scottish highlands together for more than 25 years. That relationship forms the foundation of the group's impeccable timing and masterful instrumental interplay among guitar, fiddle, flute, cello and keyboard -- as well as the Scottish staple, the bagpipes. The Paisley, Scotland-based quintet will make three stops in our region next week, beginning with a show at the Cutter Theatre in Metaline Falls on Wednesday night.
Gullane first got into music as a teen because of rock 'n' roll bands like the Beatles. "It was more of a case of the music getting into me," he says in his thick accent. But it was the traditional sounds of his native Scotland that proved most formative. The Tannahill Weavers blend impressive renditions of traditional Scottish songs with sublimely crafted original compositions.
"You'll hear some good highland music, and we'll hopefully make you laugh. We're looking forward to getting there, where we've never been. But the key is getting asked back again."
The group tours all over Europe and the U.S. "We're travelling about half the year," says Gullane. "If you add it all up, it's about the same as a 9-to-5 job." (Nice try -- few 9-to-5 jobs include perks like playing in ancient European castles, magnificent concert halls and at folk festivals around the world before thousands of fans.)
Last year, the group was touring stateside during the post-9/11 madness and found playing music during a time of such universal shock and emotional disarray extremely difficult. Gullane says the current tour has, conversely, been a very positive experience for the group, without any major mishaps to report -- thus far.
"Give it time," he adds with a chuckle. --Clint Burgess