by Sandra Babcock and Mike Corrigan
The Australian definition of a "three dog night" roughly translates to "an artic blast in the outback". You could say that in 1996, Ice Storm defined a three dog night for Spokane. However, this December, with El Nino at the Northwest's weather helm, a three dog night is a distant memory.
But that's about to change.
On New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, Three Dog Night -- the rock group that produced 21 consecutive Top 40 hits, 18 top LP's, 11 Top 10's, seven million-selling singles and 12 certified gold LP's during their 1969-1974 zenith -- will perform at Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights.
TDN is one of those rare groups that is as good in concert as on its records. What you hear is what you get. No sucker punches, lip-synching or false bravado.
In 1969, I was 15 and living in California. Three Dog Night was screaming up the charts with their driven-yet-harmonizing rock and roll. In my hands were tickets to Three Dog Night at the Forum. That concert -- touted as one of their best, even in the live concert album category -- put the group into the Top Dog realm, and I was there to see it.
Fast-forward to 2002 when the Dogs -- a bit gray around the gills, sporting some added weight and some lineup changes from the original pack -- snatched the stage at the Greyhound Park with their insatiable rock. Despite some technical problems, they were just as I remembered -- in fact, better.
Over the years, the band has remained surprisingly tight, both professionally and personally. In the current lineup, singers Danny Hutton and Cory Wells join Michael Allsup (guitar) and Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboards) as original members. Paul Kingery (bass) and Pat Bautz (drums) are the new guys.
The Dogs continued their break-from-the-mold image in a new CD released in October -- 35th Anniversary Hits Collection -- pairing their best-known songs with the London Symphony Orchestra and live tracks with the Tennessee Symphony. Even though I'm a fan, I'll admit my skepticism as I plunked down $18 for the CD. I slid the disc into the drive and was pleasantly surprised. The vocals are distinct, strong and soulful. Two symphonic preludes to "Liar" and "One" ease the listeners into the tunes.
The stretch into symphonic realms is an unusual approach for this group. "Our agent Robert Norman, got us into this," says Danny Hutton in a recent phone interview. Hutton, a 62-year-old Irishman by birth, lives in Laurel Canyon, Calif., with his wife of 25 years and three grown sons.
"When compiling this CD, we tried to cover all the bases. We put in four live cuts with studio cuts and added two new songs with the old favorites."
Which brings us to the burning question -- do the old favorites get old?
"They never get old, never get boring because I'm in a new town each time and there's always something that I learn," Hutton said.
TDN carved out their niche using several ingredients, the distinctive three-part harmony being one.
"We handled the vocals differently. We had three lead singers that ate the mikes. We were a seven-piece group but handled it like four," Hutton explained.
Another ingredient united talented songwriters with unparalleled arrangements that showcased the Dogs' collective vocals and competent musicians.
"We arranged every song in the studio. We never got into political songs that would date us -- no trendy songs -- we stuck with emotion and great chords," Hutton says. "Songs came every which way, but with every album, we had three hit singles. That was unheard of."
The third ingredient to TDN's longevity is the band's fan club (www.threedognight.com) that publishes a quarterly newsletter, Dog Byte.
"All credit goes to Madonna Nuckolls and her husband Paul and the assistant editor, Barbara Chapman," Hutton says. "They continually nudge us to get letters and pictures into the newsletter."
Still, the band plays an active role in keeping the fans informed, right?
"Well, that's what this is all about," Hutton said. "If it wasn't for the fans, we wouldn't be out there."
Ringin' It In -- How can it be done? How can I in such a small space sum up in any useful way the impressive variety (not to mention sheer quantity) of live music acts that will be entertaining bundled New Year's Eve revelers at First Night Spokane this year? When I say that organizers of this annual event have traveled the extra mile this year by providing something for every taste, I'm not even kidding. In fact, if you can't find some kind of live music at First Night that tickles your fancy, you clearly have no fancy to be tickled.
And so, while there's no way cover everything, allow this merry prankster to take you around the world -- the live music world of First Night Spokane 2004 -- in purely random steps, by genre. And remember, this is but a taste; check your First Night guide, available where all Inlanders are found, for the full schedule.
There will be loads of sweet rocking -- in all its myriad forms -- going on until and beyond the midnight hour, including original funk-rockers Jupiter Effect and original blues-rockers the Carcinogens at the River Park Square Hideout on the first floor from 7-9 pm. Prefer more soul in your rock? Well, then check out Vaudeville's smooth, harmonious folk-pop at the Central United Methodist Church (at 518 W. Third Ave.) from 7-9 pm. Over at the stately Masonic Temple on Riverside, Elvis tribute act (featuring the young Elvis) Ben "Preslee " Klein & amp; the Rockabillies will be doing it with '50s flair all night in the Falls room on the sixth floor. In the Temple's gorgeous Commandery Room, you can catch Calico for most of the evening. Pick a style -- classic rock, Americana, Western Swing, bluegrass, folk rock -- and this six-piece country-rock group can nail it with authenticity and panache.
Don Millard will be performing his traditional and original acoustic blues on the main floor (Main Avenue entrance) of the Crescent Court from 7-9 pm. Meanwhile, at the Masonic Temple (in the Ballroom) Papa Glenn's Border Run Blues Band will working it electric Chicago-style.
The Masonic Temple will also be serving up jazz in the form of the Tuxedo Junction Big Band in the auditorium on the first floor from 9 pm to midnight, while the River Park Square Kress Gallery has Jazz Attack and the Robin Marks Group.
Cowboy singer Dusty Klink will perform in the Ridpath Hotel's Empire Room, while Steve Blanchard holds court in the Crescent Court (on the main floor) with his bluegrass-flavored Western tunes.
The Douglas Gallery presents soothing instrumentalist Jonathan Nicholson and acoustic guitarist Don Kush. And/or check in with Kathy Colton & amp; the Reluctants over at the Holley Mason Building lobby.
The Spokane Symphony Orchestra will be performing in force over at the Lourdes Cathedral on West Riverside from 7:30-9:30 pm. But don't forget about the more intimate stylings of stellar classical guitarist Abe Kenney who will be playing one on one with his six-string in the Holley Mason Building lobby at 157 S. Howard St. from 10 to midnight.
Percussive world music will be the rule at the Main Street Arts Center (811 W. Main) on the second floor (in the mysterious "Room D") as Ashe (a seven-member African drum and dance troupe), Iron Spirit (an all-in-the-family drum group) and Coeurimba (a Coeur d'Alene-based African drum group) fill the night with beats and melody. At the Fox Theater, Maya Soleil, an electric world beat fusion band, will perform from 9 pm-midnight.
Ha. Not a music category per se, just a clever device (OK, maybe not so clever) to draw your attention to a new addition to First Night this year. Geared almost exclusively to younger live music lovers, it's called the Eleventh Hour and it's happening underground (figuratively and literally) down in the STA Plaza Parking Garage. Kids, ditch the parents and head to the plaza for a solid four hours of loudness from lean and hungry local bands Level 8 (7 pm), Mylestone (7:20 pm), Unduhn (8 pm), Footshod (8:40 pm), Melefluent (9:20 pm) and 10 Minutes Down (10 pm). -- Mike Corrigan
For more on First Night, check out our story on page 23.
Publication date: 12/30/04