It's become a tradition. Among other things that stir to life when the weather in the Inland Northwest turns from frigid to short sleeves are outdoor concerts and music festivals. And for the past several years, the signpost alerting everyone to a new season at the Gorge Amphitheater has been the Sasquatch Festival. Like buttercups on hillsides, Sasquatch has been a reliable indicator that the spring concert season has finally sprung.
The Gorge, one of the most impressive outdoor venues in the world, sits high on the basalt cliffs above the Columbia River near the town of George, Wash. Though it's located in the middle of virtually nowhere, the guest services at the Gorge are high-class. Parking is easy, while food, water, beer and wine can be found in copious quantities on-site. Additionally, the adjoining 130-acre campground provides concertgoers with overnight accommodations (complete with store, hot showers, restrooms, a recreation area and security) to the tune of $30 in advance or $35 at the gate.
Saturday's Sasquatch Festival heralds the start of the 2005 Gorge season, and once again this year, the festival's lineup is a dream come true for Northwest indie music fans, featuring artists that might never think of playing in our area were it not for the fact that Gorge Amphitheatre's strategic location in the middle of the state allows it to draw heavily from larger, more cosmopolitan Seattle. With more than two dozen twinkling independent music stars both past and present, Sasquatch is packed to the gills with artists that appeal to a wide spectrum of tastes. The Arcade Fire opening for Wilco opening for Kanye West opening for Modest Mouse opening for the Pixies -- that's what I'm talking about. And that's just the main stage. The "Yeti" and "Wookie" stages look good, too.
Other shows on the Gorge radar this summer feature a mix of contemporary performers and oldies acts making another play to fatten their retirement accounts. Which category does the June 26 performance of Loggins & amp; Messina (tickets: $40-$85) fall into? You decide. Further on, Widespread Panic makes a two-day stop on July 2-3 (tickets each day: $35) and the Vans' Warped Tour invades on July 9 (Tickets: $31). The annual KUBE Summer Jam is on July 23, the three-day Jesus party known as the Creation Festival is July 27-29, and Trey Anastasio and Ben Harper tap into each other's baked audiences for a hippie fest called "Zooma" on July 31. And speaking of traditions, the Dave Matthews Band's annual three-day Davefest is scheduled for August 19-21.
If you want to know more, you should take a tour of the Gorge Web site at www.hob.com/venues/concerts/gorge.
Dance-a-teria -- Some bands are just smart. Hell, half of the bands in Spokane don't have formal music education, have never paid for a private music lesson -- they just learned to play, strum, scratch and flow all on their own.
It's called natural talent, son, but even that can only take you so far.
To play good music -- stuff that no one else has heard before but still gets the crowd going -- that takes a whole lot more than talent. But you'd better have a little of that, too.
A respect for the craft, a self-made education in music history and knowing the people who have come before you: that's what keeps music interesting, according to Spokane's DJ Brainchild. He'll appear on the B-Side stage this Saturday with the Lifesavas' resident deejay, Reverend Shines.
"Everybody in the [Spokane hip-hop] scene is talented -- they're all great people," Brainchild, aka James Singleton, says. "I think that what needs to happen is that people need to do more research on their own genre. I think that about rock, too. I think it's important to know the history and the nuances of rock."
Sure, you can know your Jurassic 5's and your Blackaliciouses inside and out -- but to be able to execute hip-hop even better, you'd better go back to the roots of the genre. And, for your information, there was a whole lotta hip-hop way before 1993. We're talking Afrika Bambaataa and Grand Mixer DXT.
"I'm not talking taking it back to the golden days," Brainchild says. "You just look at groups like Run DMC -- you can tell that those guys were really into what they were doing."
While the Spokane hip-hop scene is tiny, the audience base is even smaller.
"I think a lot of the hip-hop scene in Spokane is that underground-backpacker-type rap that is more verbally intellectual and puts less emphasis on the music," Brainchild says. "A lot of that does draw a predominantly male crowd, but it doesn't allow much more than just staring at your shoes."
And that's the last thing that he wants to see at this Saturday's show. Brainchild has opened for the Lifesavas on two different occasions in Spokane (not to mention the cred he's built in past opening sets for Erykah Badu, Cappadonna, the Roots and Hieroglyphics), and in doing so, has struck up a working relationship with Rev. Shines. The two plan to perform both separately and in collaboration, but are hardly hoping to see just the hip-hop kids there.
"[My music draws] from all genres, but it's definitely in a hip-hop package," Brainchild says. "If you like Black Sabbath, we can find some common ground."
You'll hardly just hear emcees and DJs at the Heavyweight Crates show; Brainchild plans to spin a little Latin, some reggae beats, some disco, funk, soul and electronic music -- all on top of his hip-hop standards.
He calls it a "multi-era, multi-genre dance-a-teria" -- in other words, the smartest dance party of the year. And missing it would give you a big red 'F' on your musical IQ test. --Leah Sottile
The Heavyweight Crates show featuring Rev. Shines and Brainchild is Saturday, May 28, at 9 pm at the B-Side. Tickets: $5. Call 624-7638.
Pop Crusaders -- The Dalloways are a sleepy chamber-pop quintet in snappy suits and silk ties led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Gerhard Enns, whose adenoidal vocals are backed by a solid four-piece combo specializing in carnival organ and tasteful, if slightly dodgy, guitar leads. To these ears, they sound like a more sedate, dreamier version of those Brit-popsters, the Dentists. Ennis himself cops to influences ranging from shoegaze and Flaming Lips (I don't hear it) to Belle & amp; Sebastian and the Smiths (now we're talking). In either case, the Fresno, Calif.-based band is currently on a western U.S. tour in support of its new album, Penalty Box (Bird in Box Records). Which of course brings the Dalloways to our little corner of heaven. The group performs at Mootsy's on Friday night.
Pop has always had a hard time getting a toehold on the mean streets of Spokane's live music scene. For better or worse, the metal roots run deep here, and hard, loud rock rules. And with few exceptions, if a band doesn't appeal on some level to the prevailing meat-and-potatoes musical sensibility of local audiences, they don't stand much of a chance of making any more than a small dent in that imposing wall of indifference.
But if I had money to gamble on this one, I'd put it on the Dalloways to succeed where others have failed. Call it a hunch. Though it could be the way the group -- also including Matt Wall (bass), Aaron Wall (drums), Ricky Gonzales (guitar) and Nico Rhodes (keyboards) -- together form shimmering, atmospheric walls of light and sound. Or the way they get all dressed up for the occasion. In fact, if these cats spend one-tenth as much time working out their lush and thoughtful pop nuggets as they do picking out stylish threads, the local kids are going to be in for a surprise.
The Dalloways play at Mootsy's on Friday, May 27, at 9:30 pm. Cover: $5. Call 838-1570.
Dead Corsages -- Perhaps one of the best indicators of teenage awkwardness -- the prom -- is one of the oddest of ceremonies in American culture. In fact, every last detail of prom is awkward, from the converted school gyms to the crowning of prom royalty. This is when young females discover the importance of their perfect skin, when young men accidentally spear their dates with a corsage pins and have their linebacker egos crushed by doting fathers. Why, I bet we could prove that half of our country's problems stem from poor prom experiences.
Hell, prom is probably the reason we're over in Iraq.
And it's because of all those bad prom experiences -- the dads with their loaded shotguns, the dates who ditch you, the overpriced dinners, pictures and the agony of seeing your teachers dance with their "dates" -- that local boys 10 Minutes Down have decided to throw a prom of their own: a punk rock prom.
If the name alone doesn't get all the kids in town running for Fat Tuesday's this weekend, then maybe the kitschiness of it all will. Punk rock prom attire -- which, according to 10MD singer Mike Renes, includes ripped suits and duct tape skirts -- is strongly encouraged. Don't have time to swaddle yourself in gray tape? Then singe some cigarette burns in that awful dress you wore to your prom, strap on some boots and head out the door.
The prom doesn't stop there. Oh, no. A photographer will be on hand for cheesy pictures in front of an awful background -- you can have them e-mailed to you later -- and punch bowls will be aplenty.
And instead of one of those awful mobile deejays with the doubly awful screechy voices, all you punk prommers can expect a most magical night of entertainment from 10MD and a host of local high school-aged bands.
Punk poppers Foreign DNA are on deck to play, along with the Electrostatics and Messplaced. Wrangle up some cash from Mom and Dad, slip on those Converses and give the prom one more shot -- this time, it's gonna rock. --Leah Sottile
The Punk Rock Prom featuring 10 Minutes Down, Foreign DNA, the Electrostatics and Messplaced is on Saturday, May 28, at 7 pm at Fat Tuesdays. Tickets: $5; $8, couple. Save a buck by showing up in punk rock prom attire, or by buying your ticket early. Tickets at 4,000 Holes and Boo Radley's. Call 489-3969.