ROGER MCGUINN officially dissolved the Byrds almost 30 years ago, but it's impossible for rock journalists to keep a lid on the subject. Though he's enjoyed a satisfying solo career since the mid '70s, as far as the world (and those damn rock journalists in particular) is concerned, McGuinn will be forever remembered as the leader and principal voice of one of the most influential bands of the 1960s.
"Go ahead," responds the cordial, soft-spoken McGuinn when the subject is broached exactly 45 seconds into the telephone interview. McGuinn will be at the Fox on Wednesday with folk icons Judy Collins and Richie Havens.
The Byrds' first single (released in January 1965) was a dramatic, electrified reworking of the Bob Dylan gem, "Mr. Tambourine Man," and arguably the first attempt to fuse folk music and rock 'n' roll. The marriage of Dylan's wild, romantic lyricism and British Invasion dynamics was an immediate hit and helped usher in a new era in rock (later that year, Dylan would unveil a new electric approach of his own at the Newport Folk Festival). Dylan and the Beatles may have been leaning toward each other, but the Byrds identified that midpoint and jumped in -- with rich three-part harmonies and the unmistakable ring of McGuinn's treble-y, harmonic-drenched electric 12-string Rickenbacker.
"Right," agrees McGuinn with a laugh. "We just put a little weld right there."
The Byrds' classic lineup (for lack of a better term)-- McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke --released only two albums, Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn! before the group experienced the first in a dizzying string of personnel changes. Their third album, Fifth Dimension, was the first without Clark. Their fourth, Younger Than Yesterday, was the last with the full contribution of David Crosby. Though McGuinn was able to replace exiting members with equally talented artists (Clarence White and Gram Parsons among them) and successfully expand the scope of folk rock (and country on the terrific Sweetheart of the Rodeo), the job of holding the Byrds together eventually proved tiresome. In 1973, he decided to call it quits and to continue as a solo performer.
"It was a rocket to stardom," says McGuinn of the Byrds' meteoric rise. "From zero to 60 in two seconds kind of thing."
But as the group's hit-making epoch came to an end, McGuinn had to find ways to deal with the trip back to Earth.
"You know, it's always great to get up there and it's always a little bit of an adjustment to change gears. And it happens in this business. It's very difficult to keep it on one level. But it's something that you do live with and work with. I'm really fine now, but there was a time, when Clarence and those guys joined up, that was an adjustment period. But it turned out to be one of the better bands. I mean, Clarence White was just a killer guitar player. We were such a great performing band at that time. The original Byrds were better in the studio."
After dabbling in rock formats for a time, McGuinn officially returned to his folk roots (early in his career, he toured with the Spokane-based Chad Mitchell Trio and the Limelighters and was a part of the early '60s Greenwich Village scene). His latest solo album, entitled Treasures from the Folk Den (to be released later this month), is an all-acoustic set featuring duets with Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Odetta and Judy Collins. The collection of traditional folk songs is an extension of McGuinn's other passion -- that is, preserving traditional folk music with the help of the Internet.
"The Folk Den (at www.mcguinn.com) is something I started on the Internet about six years ago," he says. "I post songs there, one a month. The purpose of that is to keep them alive because not everybody's playing them on the radio anymore. So I thought I'd do my bit to keep these old, wonderful, traditional songs going."
McGuinn is also touring as part of the Wildflower Festival with Judy Collins and Richie Havens. Considering McGuinn's pre-Byrds background, the reunion with Collins makes perfect sense.
"I worked with Judy in '63," he says. "Ironically, we did two of the songs that the Byrds were known for after that, 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' and 'The Bells of Rhymney.' I would say that working with Judy was probably the inspiration for the Byrds doing 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' I'd heard the song before from Pete Seeger. But working with Judy and doing it repetitively in the studio gave me the idea once we got going with the Byrds."
McGuinn bristles slightly at the term "folk rock" ("I don't care much for the term," he says. "It's just so commercial, you know? It's a label, and they have to slap a label on everything.") Nevertheless, he has had a tremendous influence forming the modern rock landscape through kindred spirits like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and R.E.M.
"Well, I really don't think about it that much," he says. "But I know I've done a couple of things that have been innovative and have influenced music, and I feel good about that."
The Wildflower Festival featuring Judy Collins, Roger McGuinn and Richie Havens, is at The Fox Theatre on Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 8 pm. Tickets: $29.50. Call 325-SEAT.
The second coming of Earfest
Terry and Deon Borchard of the Long Ear in Coeur d'Alene have spent nearly three decades in the music business as independent retailers, cultivating relationships with recording label promotion department personnel for one purpose and one purpose only: to procure free stuff to give away to local music fans at this year's EARFEST MUSIC FESTIVAL.
Okay, so I used a little creative license there. But be that as it may, the truth of the matter is the Borchards' long and mutually beneficial alliance with the movers and shakers of the recording world have, in fact, resulted in mountains (I'm not falling prey to hyperbole here) of swag -- the kind of swag that is so much a part of Earfest's fun.
"We have hundreds of bags of goodies, and each bag has got up to 11 CDs in it," says Deon Borchard, showing off the secret subterranean room where the tireless Long Ear crew carefully prepare and stash swag bags. "I really go on to the begging trail for all this. Last year, it was amazing, but I can't hit 'em up for that kind of stuff every year."
Well, this year will be no slouch as far as the freebies go. And as with last year's installment of Earfest, you're invited. Oh yeah, and once again, it's all free.
Earfest 2001 promises nothing less than great, live local music, free stuff and good times -- all in copious quantities. Nearly 20 local and regional performers are scheduled to perform at one of two different listening areas. Inside the store, acoustic acts including Shawn Mielke, Button Boy & amp; Peanut, Case Closed, The Culprits, KB Allstars, Noah Beck, Jesse Lassandro, Darin Schaffer and Jim "Bossman" Tilden rule the day. Outside on the patio, rock, groove -- whatever -- to the amped-up sounds of Kite, Melefluent, Phat Pharm, the Bone Daddies, the Other Band, Moments of Clarity and Beecraft. In addition, Rebel Alliance DJs will be spinning, mixing and jiving throughout the day. New this year will be the presence of the Red Bull energy drink people, who will be providing a tent out back with mini-swimming pools and water misters for any overheated attendees.
After last year's blowout, the Borchards weren't sure they'd have the energy or the resources to pull off a second coming of Earfest. But the response from the community was overwhelming, and so the pair (with a somewhat tighter advertising budget than last year) decided to give it another go.
"Last year, we had over 2,000 people show up," says Deon. "It was just a fun, old-fashioned kind of an event. Kind of a '60s type of thing where everybody was just having a good time. There was no animosity, there was no belligerence or violence. Nothing."
This is an all-ages, drug- and alcohol-free event. You are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, sunscreen (!) and a good attitude. You may also tote in your own picnic, but Deon says there will definitely be food (in the form of a barbecue) and drink (lots of Red Bull, certainly) for those travelling light.
Earfest at the Long Ear CDs and Tapes, 2405 N. 4th St., Coeur d'Alene, is on Saturday, Aug. 18, from 11 am-10 pm. Free. Call: 208-765-3472.
Have you ever wished you could experience live local music from the comfort of your home, car or wherever it is you listen to recorded music? Have you heard about Spokane's vivid coffeehouse scene but don't quite know your way around? Are you titillated by the thought of experiencing acoustic musicians performing live within the confines of a dark, intimate caf & eacute; amidst the earthy aroma of roasted coffee beans, but just can't seem to find the time to squeeze something like that into your insanely busy schedule? Pathetic, aren't you? Lucky for you the COFFEEHOUSE CREATURES CD is riding up on the horizon.
This Friday evening, one of Spokane's most righteous coffeehouses, the Shop, will host a party to herald the release of Coffeehouse Creatures, a compilation of live performances from some of the most notable performers on the local coffeehouse scene.
"We actually have a great acoustic music scene, and I don't know if a lot of people are aware of it," says the album's producer, Michael Millham, of the guitar and vocal duo Sidhe.
The performances -- featuring the music of Sidhe (Millham and his wife Kelly), LaRae Wiley, Tiana Gregg, Paul Brasch, Don Kush, Sam & amp; Bob and Calliope's Burden -- all originate from an April 7 show at The Met that was recorded live by the Shop's lead techie, Robert Hartwig.
At the time of the show, Millham wasn't sure what would ultimately become of the recordings. "We'll see how many tracks we get," he said at the time. "If we get enough songs from enough of the artists, the Shop will put out a compilation disc. If it doesn't happen, that's okay. There's always next year."
Well, it's four months later, and the Shop has indeed come through.
"It's a giant cross section of Spokane's acoustic music scene coming to life for one unique show," says Millham, "captured in digital form by Black Coffee Recording."
In addition to the engaging musical content spotlighting an occasionally overlooked sector of the local live music scene, the release also serves to support one of Spokane's most valuable charity organizations, Hospice of Spokane. All of the profits from the sale of Coffeehouse Creatures will go to the local charity.
Featured artists will be on hand at Friday night's shindig for performances and socializing. Show sponsors include the Shop, Quinn's Restaurant, the Rocket Markets and Bakeries, the North Division Hastings and yours truly, The Inlander.
The Coffeehouse Creatures CD release party will be held at the Shop on Friday, Aug. 17, at 7 pm. No cover. Call 534-1647.
Honky Tonk Man
While you can't exactly paint DWIGHT YOAKAM as a country music messiah (personally, I believe country music --at least commercial country music -- is beyond salvation), he has proven that songs that adhere to more-or-less traditional country music values have an audience. By "traditional country values," I'm referring to things like passion, emotion and honesty -- qualities the plastic merchants in Nashville apparently have deemed superfluous to the process of modern country music hit-making.
Yoakam's refusal to play by the industry's rules, and his ability to invoke the spirit of country's greats (such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard) in his own music, have branded him a renegade. By shunning Nashville (he's based in L.A., where he's also an actor and director), he has consigned himself to a career where success is elusive, fleeting and defined more by real merit than by shrewd marketing strategies.
Yoakam's recorded output since his debut in 1986 (with Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc.) has showcased his uncanny ability to craft satisfying, soulful country music by blending both old and contemporary influences encompassing honky tonk, Bakersfield country and rockabilly. Yoakam's mix appeals to both county and alternative rock fans -- the latter faction he plays up to with the occasional rock standard cover (such as Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" from his Greatest Hits from the '90s package and Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me" from his latest, Tomorrow's Sounds Today).
At its most potent, country music, like rock, is outlaw music. And Yoakam fits the archetype to the letter. If you don't like "the twangy stuff," by all means steer clear of the Fox Friday night. For the rest of you, prepare to take in a little honky tonk heaven.
Dwight Yoakam performs at the Fox on Friday, Aug. 17 at 8 pm. Tickets: $22.50 and $32.50. Call: 325-SEAT.