Unless you've been living under a rock the last six months, you've probably noticed that the funk rock quartet Longview has vanished from the local scene. Well, Longviewers Dan McElfish and Derek Neu (guitar and drums, respectively) have latched on to former Old Tale bassist Armando Arguello to form a new trio called & & JUPITER EFFECT & & . They play a gig Saturday night at Fort Spokane.
Jupiter Effect is moving away -- ever so slightly -- from its Longview roots and features a more pop-oriented approach.
"I use more of an eclectic songwriting style now as opposed to the strictly funk or dance stuff that Longview was doing," explains McElfish. "We still have that same sort of feel with a lot of our songs. Basically, we're more expanded into different genres now -- pop, psychedelica, a little bit of ska, even some hard rock."
The band is recording at College Road Studios, preparing a song collection for release sometime this winter.
"The record will be six or seven songs long," reports McElfish. "More like an EP. Once we get it done, we're planning to go set up some shows in Seattle. We've been talking to some people over there as far as bookings. And of course, they need to hear a disc first."
As any band who's ever tried to break into the entrenched Seattle market knows, even if you were the reformed Beatles (with Lennon no less), club owners on the West Side would still insist on hearing a demo before they book you. They're just that fussy.
"Yeah, it doesn't matter who you are," laughs McElfish. "We just want to expose our music to a different crowd in a different city and see what happens. See what the reaction is like. We really haven't ventured out of Spokane yet. I mean, Jupiter Effect is only about five or six months old. But there is definitely a benefit to Spokane being as small as it is. There's better access to the different clubs and the different publications. It's been really great. We actually really like Spokane and like being in the music scene here."
And God knows, we need bands to stay.
"Definitely. And I think as it is now, we've got a pretty good music scene as far as original bands go. I've really been waiting for Spokane to blossom."
Jupiter Effect has even toyed with the idea of establishing a presence on local commercial radio -- by purchasing airtime (only in Spokane would a local band have to pay to be heard on the radio).
"We've actually considered buying a radio spot and just playing one of our songs. Just a snippet, a minute and a half or something. You know, 'We're on the radio right now, check us out.' "
Just what is the Jupiter Effect? Well, there's one sure-fire way of finding out for yourselves. And you know what that is.
& & & lt;i & Jupiter Effect plays at the Fort Spokane Brewery on Saturday, Nov. 25, at 9:30 pm. Cover: $4. Call: 838-3809. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
& & Guitar Guru & & & &
Guitarist & & ALEX DE GRASSI & & may have come into his music career through family ties -- both his father and grandfather were classical musicians and his cousin started the Windham Hill recording label. But it is his skillful mastery of his instrument and his talent as a composer that have earned him the highest marks. His style is all over the map, a testament to the fact that the road to his worldwide acclaim was equally indirect. He performs at the Panida Theatre in Sandpoint on Saturday night.
Born in Japan, de Grassi was exposed very early to a variety of musical and cultural influences. He spent his late formative years in San Francisco, playing in various folk, blues and rock groups and soaking up popular culture. He has since traveled all over the planet, absorbing influences and incorporating them seamlessly into his own style, which continues to evolve to this day. And therein lies de Grassi's greatest strength -- that is, his willingness to experiment.
"What sustains me is the wealth of great music to learn and absorb," says de Grassi. "I try to stay open to the possibilities, both widening and deepening my original motivation, trying to keep it fresh."
By his own admission, music was initially something he did for fun, with only passing interest in transforming his six-string skills into something that would actually pay the bills. When his cousin Will Ackerman founded the instrumental Windham Hill label, he encouraged de Grassi (who was still in college and eking out a living as a carpenter) to record an album to showcase his rapidly developing talent as a fingerstyle guitarist. The result, Turning: Turning Back (1978), earned de Grassi critical acclaim and launched his successful career. The album has since been named by Acoustic Guitar magazine as one of the top 10 essential fingerstyle recordings of all time.
His latest recording is entitled Bolivian Blues Bar and features solo acoustic guitar arrangements of jazz standards by the likes of Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and Hoagy Carmichael. It is a delightfully playful and relatively loose recording, and it reveals de Grassi's great affection for jazz and blues music of the '30s, '40s and '50s.
About the title of the album, de Grassi (who by the way, devoted several years delving into the Andean musical traditions of Bolivia) explains: "The title came about when my good friend Ismael moved from his native Bolivia to San Francisco. Being a musician, he was eager to learn some of the classic American blues and jazz repertoire. So a couple of evenings each week, we would sit at the old upright in my front room and play and sing tunes culled from the '30s, '40s and '50s era. Sometimes, other people would stop by and join in and it turned into kind of a happy hour. We called it Bolivian Blues Bar. Afterward, I started arranging a set for my solo guitar performances, and when it came time for an album title, the name really resonated."
What consistently resonates with de Grassi's audiences is the passion, depth and fearlessness of his sublime fretwork. Here's an opportunity to catch it live.
& & & lt;i & Alex de Grassi plays at the Panida Theater in Sandpoint, Idaho, on Saturday, Nov. 25, at 8 pm. Tickets: $13; $15 at the door. Call: 325-SEAT. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
& & Super Very Good & & & &
One of the local bands that I completely (sorry guys) neglected in last week's Local Music Issue was a local trio whose musical tastes actually seem to run parallel to my own. Imagine my delight and surprise to stumble onto a group of local yokels that dig the Pixies, Built to Spill and Pavement? I thought it impossible at first, but nay, it's true. Needless to say, I was impressed. And inspired. Enough to let you all know that this band -- & & CHO*VERY*GU & & -- will be playing at the Blue Spark with the Bucket Riders on Thursday, Nov. 30.
But before we get to the sound of this band, we must pose the question that is now on everyone's lips as they read this. And that is: So, what's the deal with that name, anyway? Guitarist/singer Larren Wolford (a.k.a. Daijobu) responds politely.
"The name is Japanese slang, it means 'super very good.' I like Japanese culture and language, so I asked my friend Akemi what would be a good Japanese name for our band, and she immediately said 'choverygu' to which I said, 'Huh?' She explained that it was how high school kids in Japan said cool or rad."
Well, that's one mystery solved. Now, let's get into the meat and potatoes of this refreshing band and its self-produced debut CD, Laundry Day. Lyrically, and stylistically, Cho*very*gu align themselves with such noisy emo-core pioneers as Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr. and, of course, Pavement, supporting their tales of loss, regret and frustration with walls of shimmering (and at times, noisy and agreeably off-kilter) guitar. Attention to such songwriting basics as dynamics, harmony and intelligent, mildly ironic wordplay are evident everywhere you look and listen on Laundry Day's 10 tracks.
"We're a lo-fi baby with visions of indie pop grandeur," interjects Wolford. "We feel that writing is the most important process in the band. Without a good song, you can't have a good band."
The trio manages to effectively fuse diverse (and sometimes incongruent) elements and influences into a bracing and cohesive sound. Wolford cut his performance teeth in local coffee houses. Bassist Daneyal Siddique (a.k.a. Kaptian Kleanstick) has been in a seemingly endless string of local punk bands. Drummer Joel Case (a.k.a. Joel Case) also has deep punk roots.
Cho*very*gu is relatively new (they formed in 1998), but already this small band of self-described "superheroes helping to rid the world of the likes of teenyboppers and corporate scum everywhere" is running smack dab into the dual specters of indifference and ambivalence out there in the local scene.
"It is impossible to get noticed in Spokane," Wolford laments. "Sure, you get noticed by other musicians, but in terms of fans? I've been playing acoustic shows at coffee shops and such, and I think I have one or two true fans that come see me play."
Hopefully, Cho*very*gu will choose to stick it out here for a while, at least long enough for their brand of smart, melodic rock and pop to work its way under our collective skin. I'm starting to itch already.
& & & lt;i & Cho*very*gu plays with the Bucket Riders at the Blue Spark on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 9 pm. Free. Call: 838-5787. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
& & (Not) Holding the Fort & & & &
Bad news, local live music fans. Very bad. Just one week after the release of our Local Music Issue, wherein we trumpeted the value of good live music venues, we learned that one of Spokane's very best, The Fort Spokane Brewery, is closing its doors. After almost a decade of consistently playing host to some of the best local and regional blues and rock acts, the competition from the national chain restaurants that have recently invaded downtown has reportedly become too great.
After Dec. 9, Spokanites will have to look elsewhere for a similar combination of great food, brews and music. Unfortunately, venues like Fort Spokane are so unique that they are usually very hard to replace. Ugh.