There comes a time in the life of every ambitious young rock band when it must face that first major hurdle, the one that comes sometime after learning the damn songs and sometime before making it to the cover of Rolling Stone. It's a decision that has to be unanimously agreed upon, one that separates the dedicated from the poseurs, one that can make or break the unit. It's called ditching the day job. And it can be scary. But if you're confident enough in each other and what you've collectively created to risk starvation and take your show on the road, it's really the only option you've got. Such is the case for Spokane band Mourning After, which plays an all-ages show tonight at the Big Easy.
"This week, we're just going to start booking until we can't anymore," says Mourning After bassist Bill Powers. "Our thinking is, there's no better time than right now."
Of course it's easier when your day job involves busting your hump for minimum wage. Still, shaking off your financial security blanket in order to follow your bliss takes some guts -- and a strong belief that what you're doing rocks.
"We believe in touring," says Powers. "You can't make music your career unless you're out on the road a lot. It feels risky to quit all of our jobs and just play music, but that, in turn, is exciting. We feel like little kids about to do something really naughty -- scared, rebellious and excited. Doing all this really brought us together. Not only are we best friends, but we are working so much harder now than we were before we made this commitment."
Spokane's Mourning After is dedicated to setting rubber to asphalt this summer with a brand-new album in hand called Waiting for Our Lives To End.
Mourning After -- with Powers, vocalist Ben Ham, guitarist Drew Baker and drummer Mike McClung -- has been treating local scenesters to their brand of big, riff-heavy melodic rock for more than two years now. Waiting for Our Lives To End is the band's second CD, a fine follow-up to 2002's Six Weeks Away. There have been a couple of adjustments made to the lineup since those early days, notably the departure of guitarist Travis Derrick and the replacement of first bassist Christian Hendricks with current boom stick practitioner Powers. The changes have had a distinct impact on the band's sound and attitude.
"We have a more straightforward rock sound now, whereas the last album had some metal influence in it," explains Powers. "For us, the name Waiting for Our Lives To End means waiting for our lives as they are now to end. All we have now is this band, and all we're losing are minimum-wage jobs and rooms in our parents' houses."
Though the members insist that they are a rock 'n' roll band and that's "all you need to know," those who've never heard Mourning After might have some inquiries as to style. You've heard of Counting Crows, At The Drive-In, Radiohead, Beloved, Get Up Kids and Johnny Cash, haven't you? Well that's great, but Mourning After doesn't really sound anything like those bands, although the members cite those artists -- along with a handful of others -- as influences on their Web site at www.mourningmusic.com (it's a nice one so check it out). So it would appear that actually listening to Mourning After might be the only way to get a handle on this band.
And getting into the Mourning After show at the Big Easy Thursday night couldn't be easier -- or cheaper. That is, if the free tickets at 4,000 Holes and Guitar Center are still available. Get on those fast or you'll have to fork over a big five bucks at the door.
"For local nights there at the Big Easy, they want to get a lot of people in there to buy drinks," says Powers. "So they give whoever is playing a lot of free tickets to give out. It works out really well for them -- and for the local bands."
Masterpiece in the Making -- However unlikely the existence of a hip-hop scene in Spokane may seem to be, it is, in fact, a reality. For quite some time now, the MCs, DJs and their crews have been freestyling in basements and house parties across town. Now they're creeping through the floorboards, rising up and take their place alongside the other musical genres that have long dominated the local scene.
This Friday at the B-Side, a collection of these local MCs will take up the mike for the sole purpose of bringing the raps and beats loud and live. The show, billed as the Intelligence Masterpiece Session, will feature local and some notable regional talents that are sure to blow minds and create more awareness for this under-appreciated faction of the musical landscape. Hostallion from Olympia, features 12 -- that's right, 12 -- MCs on stage bringing a hard-edged brand of heavy hip-hop to the mix. Also featured will be the Starving Artist Crew from Portland, another eclectic mix of fluid rhythmic stylings that incorporates a more radio-friendly vibe. Between sets, local DJ Tony Grand Groove, (owner of the Unified Groove Merchants record store) will be laying down soul and funk sounds for your listening pleasure.
Another local hip-hopper, Erik Bergloff, has got his fingers all over this mix and is enthusiastic about this grandiose production.
"It helps people understand and appreciate this art form," says Bergloff. "You [as a producer] have to bring whatever you use in the studio to create and rock it live. People have to understand that we're not just pushing play."
In a stripped-down live performance, it's down to the man and his machines. This set-up reveals the talent it takes to be what Bergloff refers to as "a true music geek." Two of his own projects will be featured at this show: The Beat Society (a collection of Spokane-based MCs and producers, Bergloff included) and The I In Team (featuring Chinese Skycandy's Jeremy Hughes). Both will present a fresh mix of beats that should provoke some mind expansion on the subject of hip-hop.
This show is presented as a showcase so that all the naysayers -- or the just plain curious -- can get out and sample the burgeoning Spokane hip-hop scene. Preconceived notions should be left at the door.
As Bergloff states, "Hip-hop is for everyone. Regionally, it's an extension of the people. For some people it's break dancing to beats, for others it's the nastier, edgy stuff. Basically, it's about the people who are creating the scene."