Playing rock 'n' roll can make you feel immortal. Up there on the stage with an electric guitar slung over your shoulder and a couple hundred watts of power at your command, or kicking out unholy, thunderous backbeats from behind your trusty drum array, with adrenaline and endorphins coursing through your veins, it's easy to feel god-like. It's unnerving to discover that you are anything but.
For the past month, one of the Spokane music scene's favorite sons has been lying virtually motionless in a hospital bed in Olympia. Gus Trapp, the sticks man behind Seawolf (and formerly the Fumes, One Ton Gus and the Eastside Destroyers) is recovering from a nasty encounter with encephalitis, a viral infection of the brain. His illness, emergency surgery and lengthy recovery has shaken and saddened many on both sides of the state. But the feelings are perhaps most profoundly felt here in Spokane, where Trapp has so many friends. This is, after all, where he came of age -- and came to be known as one of the finest drummers in the local punk scene. Fortunately, Spokane friends are mobilizing to help the Trapp family cope with the mounting hospital bills by throwing two benefit shows this Friday night (one at Mootsy's and one at the B-Side) and a benefit party on Saturday night at the Big Dipper.
Gus has been living with his wife and two sons in Chehalis, Wash., and working (as the family's sole bread winner) in nearby Olympia as a body man for the past year or so.
"Aside from being the best drummer in the world, he's probably the best paint-and-body man I know," says longtime friend and Seawolf bandmate Jon Swanstrom.
Swanstrom and fellow Seawolf Tim Absalonson visited Trapp in the hospital as soon as they were notified of his condition.
"It wasn't even like looking at Gus," Swanstrom says. "He's in bed, not moving at all with a respirator down his throat and all these tubes coming in and out of him. It was pretty horrible. I can't even tell you how Tim and I were feeling. It's just crazy, because he's so full of life most of the time. But as far as the feeling we got coming off of him, we knew that he was in there somewhere. And he's coming back. It's just that he's in this really weird state right now."
Absalonson, who recently received an update on Trapp's condition, says that while everyone, including the doctors, are hopeful, the recovery is expected to be a long one.
"He's still unconscious but there's been some improvement. He's off the respirator, out of the ICU, and he's been moving his eyes and his hands and feet a little bit. It's all baby steps. The doctors are saying 1-3 years' recovery. But they really just don't know at this point. I say he's gonna be on the drums within a year."
Absalonson reports that there are plans to move Trapp back to Spokane, perhaps in January, to be nearer family and friends during the recovery period.
"That's why we're trying to get a bunch of money together," he says, "because it's going to cost a lot to get him over here. The only reason they were living over there was because of his job. And now that's out for awhile."
Friday night's shows and the party at the Big Dipper on Saturday are only the latest in a series of benefits being thrown in Trapp's honor. There were two in Seattle a couple weekends ago, and there is another scheduled at the Twilight in Portland on Dec. 19. There's also word of another Seattle-based benefit happening on New Year's Eve at the Funhouse. Those wanting the latest info on Trapp's condition and other ways to help the family can go to www.gustrapp.org, a site set up by Trapp's father-in-law.
Gus needs to get off his duff and back to his family -- and behind those drums. Let's help him get there.
Cosmic Dust Fusion Band -- What do you do when you're a funk/jazz band trying to garner an audience in Spokane for the past 23 years, give or take? How do you go about it? Who do you call? What do you do to get your name out there?
"It's a lot of hard work," admits Gary Edighoffer of Cosmic Dust Fusion Band. "We do e-mails -- we've developed a pretty good e-mail list. We try to promote ourselves through the normal jazz circuit, and we're also in the media, the newspapers, etc. Word of mouth is always the best, though. We try everything possible."
He says it's been particularly tough for Cosmic Dust because the band's music spans so many styles (the group plays just about every Thursday night at The Chapter).
"We try to get the word out to the normal jazz audience and try to communicate with the people who are into blues, funk, even rock. On one hand, we appeal to a lot of different styles, but we don't even play the same style all night. We try to play our own music, our material, and just hope that people give it enough time to figure out if they like it or not. Our sound is varied from the beginning to end of a tune, or from one tune to the next. We try to get out to a lot of different clubs -- jazz clubs, rock clubs -- and grow the audience that way."
Edighoffer plays saxes, flutes, and various percussion instruments for Cosmic Dust, and has since the band was formed in 1980 (the group has been on and off throughout these 23 years). Edighoffer and keyboardist Jim Templeton are the only two members of the band who have been with it since the beginning.
"Jim was living in Denmark when we was first got started -- he would be here for six to eight weeks in the summer. We used to only be together [and playing music] in summer. It was that way for the first ten years."
Templeton moved back to Spokane in early '90s, and the band enjoyed long run -- five years -- with Cosmic Dust touring all over the Northwest. They went on hiatus from 1997 to 2002 and re-formed just a year ago.
"It's just one of those groups that will never die," says Edighoffer.
Dana Weary on guitar, Dave Turner on bass guitar, and drummer Eric Brown round out the group's lineup. Edighoffer is delighted to be playing with Cosmic Dust (so to speak) and his enthusiasm regarding the band is infectious.
"I really think that if a lot of the younger Mootsy's and B-Side fans would give us a chance, they would really like us. The music is so accessible to people who like rock and funk. Anybody that gets off on groove-oriented, improvisational music -- that's who we're trying to reach. We do Latin grooves, sambas, bossas, everything. There are even some classical elements in our music. We also do our original music and hit on some jazz-fusion work such as Jeff Lorber and David Sanborn and the Yellowjackets. About 80 percent of what we play live is original (mostly written by Jim Templeton) and the other songs [on the set list] are by contemporary popular jazz-fusion groups. Fusion in the truest sense is a combination of styles. We take it to a whole other level -- there's nobody in the Northwest doing this kind of fusion."
Edighoffer also speaks glowingly about The Chapter, the club where Cosmic Dust plays Thursday. "The Chapter is a cool club," he says. "It's casual, it has a great listening room, good sound, and there's a dance floor too. And of course, they have great food -- always great food."