Spokane-area HASTINGS stores have a history of supporting local live music -- stocking local artists in the CD bins and providing a performance space for area musicians is all part of the equation. At the North Division store in particular, what initially came in spurts (that is, free live performances in-store) is now a weekly happening thanks in no small part to the efforts of Music Manager Brandt Burnette and his Assistant Manager Tom Stamatakos.
"Brandt and I started doing this almost a year ago," says Stamatakos. "It's all part of what we're doing to promote local and regional music."
This weekend, the parking lot in front of the North Division store will be the focal point of a three-day celebration of the blues, featuring local and regional artists Paul Brasch, the Bone Daddies, Fat Baby Dave & amp; The Painkillers, Karen Tyler, Bryan Warhall & amp; King Bee, Jeff Aker, Carl Rey & amp; The Blues Gators, The Pole Cats and Pat Coast & amp; Out of the Blue. Yes friends, this smacks of festival.
" I know that there are blues festivals all over the Inland Northwest during the summer," says Stamatakos. "But I thought I'd like to do one that would promote local and regional people and also make it free. No admission charge. All the other festivals, you have to pay anywhere from $18 to $65 to get in. This one's free, and it's right in town."
Stamatakos -- a member of the Inland Empire Blues Society -- brought the first ever Division Hastings Blues Fest together out of sheer love for the music and local performers.
"I'm a major blues fan," he says. "And there's a wealth of talent in this area, in the Inland Northwest. In fact, there are three of four people that are going to be performing at the festival that I feel could be national very easily."
The performances start on Friday evening with Paul Brasch at 6 pm. Guitarist and singer/songwriter Brasch is a fixture on the local blues scene and is a recording artist on Portland blues label, Burnside Records. His style is heavily influenced by the rousing, acoustic blues of Robert Johnson. Later, Bryan Warhall and his band, King Bee take over.
"I'd never heard of him until just awhile ago, but he's been around. He played at the store about three weeks ago, and I was really impressed with his band."
Warhall has been playing music since the mid '50s (professionally since the early '60s) and has more than just a textbook knowledge of the blues. This guy has lived it. He spent nearly a decade living in a backwoods cabin near the Spokane Indian Reservation (with no power and no running water), jamming late into the night with neighboring Indian musicians and occasionally playing the bars around Spokane. With his current band, Warhall is able to expand his blues niche into R & amp;B and jazz fusion territory.
On Saturday, the music starts at 2 pm with the Pole Cats from Clarkston followed an hour later by a "Blues for Kids" segment inside the store hosted by musician (and festival headliner on Saturday at 8 pm) Karen Tyler.
"The blues for kids thing is something she offered to do," says Stamatakos. "She does this workshop at schools and libraries in California. The idea is to get the parents and especially the kids to express themselves, to sing along with her. She gives them a little brief history of the blues and what it's all about. She has them make kazoos out of tissue paper and combs, and she adjusts really well to the ages of the kids."
But Tyler is also an accomplished acoustic blues songwriter and captivating performer, one with a strong national following in the blues community.
"Though she's not well known in town, everyone I have talked with outside of Spokane raves about her," Stamatakos says.
In the afternoon on Saturday, look for Carl Rey & amp; The Blues Gators at 3:30 pm followed by Jeff Aker at 5 pm and Phat Baby Dave & amp; The Painkillers at 6:30 pm.
On Sunday, two fiery, rocking blues bands, the Bone Daddies (at 1 pm) and Pat Coast & amp; Out of the Blue (at 2:30 pm) will finish off the festival.
In addition to in-store appearances and festivals like this one to showcase local and regional musicians, Stamatakos and Burnette started up a Web site to help promote the performances. Though Hastings is supportive of these efforts, it's pretty much up to these two guys to work on their own time to gather the resources necessary to make this festival a success.
"Hastings gave us the money for the tent and the chairs. The musicians are doing this as a promotional thing. None of them are getting paid. That's why we're able to have this for free. They were all very excited about doing it."
Stamatakos sees the festival as a painless, hassle-free (and cheap!) way for music fans who don't often get out to the clubs to get a taste of Spokane's cache of quality blues performers.
"We're really lucky we have all this talent. Not only in blues. There are so many talented bands and performers around the Spokane area. We've never done anything like this before, and I have no idea how many people we're going to get. It's a first-time thing, but our feeling is that if it's successful, then we'd like to make it an annual event. We're just going to have to play it by ear."
The Division Hastings Blues Festival begins on June 1 and runs from 6-9 pm on Friday, 2-9 pm on Saturday and 1-4 pm on Sunday. Free. Call: 483-2154.
Summer of the DJ
(Begin transmission.) Hey Spokane. Are you ready for the largest and longest DJ festival in the history of the Inland Northwest? No? Too freaking bad, because it's coming right at you beginning on Wednesday, June 6, at the Blue Dolphin, where local vinyl-spinning top seeds DJ o2-n and DJ Prophesy will duke it out for your love and respect.
But that's only the beginning. In all, THE SUMMER OF THE DJ 2001 FESTIVAL (henceforth known as SOTDJ: 2001 to save precious space) will reach into five different Spokane clubs with more than 50 separate DJ events throughout the summer involving dozens of players on the local groove mixing scene, both known and unknown. The Blue Dolphin, Double Dribble, Havana's, Outback Jack's, Rumors 415 and even Riverfront Park will feel the heat as the battle rages.
See DJs going head to head and voting one another off, a la Survivor. See DJ exhibitions featuring top local talent. See the grand finale of SOTDJ: 2001, a special all-ages performance with DJ o2-n and guests at Riverfront Park during Kid's Day on August 11.
All DJs (both vinyl and CD jocks) are invited to perform at any of the competitions but must register before June 17. Registration is free and forms are available at Hoffman Music. For more info about the festival, check out www.spokanenightclubs.com/sotdj or call 879-6607. (Transmission ended.)