It's remarkable what a difference a year makes. Or for that matter, even a couple of months. In January, the Big Dipper -- which had over the past year been hosting live music shows for an under-21 crowd -- lost its cabaret license, and the hopes of those of us in this community who recognize the tremendous value of a thriving local all-ages music scene were again squashed.
Into the void stepped entrepreneur Derek Almond of Caf & eacute; Sol & eacute;, who began (with the city's blessing) his own all-ages live music venture in the space behind his tiny restaurant on South Stevens. But alas, early this month, Almond's landlord (downtown mover and shaker Rob Brewster) put the kibosh on any sort of live music at Sol & eacute;, physically locking up the room that Almond had worked to transform into a club. Situation: Gloomy? Yes. Well, yes and no.
In this dark hour, when all (once again) seemed to have been lost, an ally of the scene emerged from the most unlikely of places: the Spokane Police Department. Officer Colin Conway works for the Special Police Problems division, the division that grants the all-important cabaret licenses allowing clubs to feature live music. Conway has been extremely helpful as a liaison between the department and potential club owners, and he is working closely with live music boosters in this town. Perhaps old wounds can be healed and a vibrant and safe all-ages music scene can finally be established. The once-contentious relationship between city officials and supporters of all-ages live music has floated away.
In this atmosphere of cooperation, several local business owners are throwing their hats into the ring with the desire to create new homes for all-ages music in Spokane. Roberta Reisdorf and Stan Ashby of Real Soda are working to transform the warehouse space adjacent to their boutique soda pop store into a club. And Caf & eacute; Sol & eacute;'s Almond is determined to find a new space.
But while the newly resurrected scene finds its roots in this new climate (admittedly still rocky though apparently nurturing), there is, for now anyway, but one fully functioning all-ages venue. It's the work of Ken DuPree, owner of Carnegie Square Bistro & amp; Catering Co. and the Rendezvous Room banquet facility. DuPree has purchased the Fat Tuesday's Concert Hall located within the old Bayou Brewery building. An unapologetic live music lover himself, DuPree decided to move into the all-ages club scene when he heard of the trouble at the Big Dipper -- and after a little cajoling from members of local bands.
"After we opened the banquet facility," he says, "we ran into some friends in bands like Civilized Animal and Delbert who needed a place to play. Rick from Delbert wanted to have his band's farewell show here. It was a huge success."
Based on this positive response from bands and club patrons, DuPree decided to go full-time with the venue idea.
"We've also had a couple of all-ages shows, and I'll tell you, I've had adults at my events in the banquet room that don't act as well as some of the kids here. We've had great bands and great crowds so far. My 11-year old son has been down here. It's amazing."
DuPree is doing everything he possibly can to insure that Fat Tuesday's will be a safe haven for teens. The shows start early (typically around 7 or 8 pm). There's no smoking in the facility. And security -- strictly enforcing a policy of no drugs, alcohol or fighting -- is a stark reality.
"Right now, we're primarily just an all-ages venue," says DuPree. "But we are working with local charities as well to do shows with alcohol available."
The tentative schedule for the near future will include weekly all-ages shows on Wednesday nights (the four bands for five bucks deal), more all-ages shows on Thursday and Friday nights and special events and bar shows on Saturday nights.
"We're going to really get off the ground here and do regular shows so the kids know that we're established. And I want to work with outside promoters to get some decent national acts in here and get some recognition for Spokane."
The 21-and-over shows will include a full-service bar -- beer, wine, hard liquor, the lot. Bands with an audience on both sides of the 21 line will have the option to do back-to-back shows: One with booze, one without.
This weekend, one of Spokane's favorite bands is doing just that. Civilized Animal will headline a pair of gigs at Fat Tuesday's, starting with an all-ages show this Friday night and a more adult affair with a full bar on Saturday night.
In addition to a new, vital live music venue (with the potential to cater to both the under- and over-21 crowds), the sprawling Riverwalk property will also house the Riverview Thai restaurant and the Northern Lights Brewing Co. brew pub. This presents parents of live music-loving teens with a previously unheard of concept: evening entertainment for the entire family.
"Actually," says DuPree, "we've had a lot of parents in for the shows, and they're excited to hear that there's going to be a Thai restaurant and a brew pub right next door. If you're a parent, you can come for dinner, drop off your 14-year-old, let them have their fun and be their own person, and yet you're only a step away."
DuPree says he feels a little overwhelmed by the scope of his new undertaking. And he knows he's treading where others have gone before and have failed. It's a risk. But the scene needs smart, motivated, business-savvy people like DuPree to take that chance. He's already secured a lot of local support -- from bands, live music fans and the press. And the climate for positive change has (as far as this writer can recall) never appeared more favorable.
"I really nervous," he admits. "There are so many naysayers telling me I'm going to have problems. And I know I will have a few problems. I'm not naive. But what I've seen so far has me excited. And people around town have been willing to help out in every aspect. So a lot of other people are excited, too."
Spokane live music clubs are in stasis. One goes up. One goes down. Early Monday morning last, an early morning fire put local rock club ICHABOD'S NORTH on the injured reserve list. The owners of the club could not be reached for comment, but what we do know (as of this writing) is that a fire in the building's basement was reported at 3:45 am on April 15. No one was in the building at the time, and the fire was swiftly contained by Spokane firefighters, with no injuries reported. The cause of the fire, as they say, "is under investigation." The club's music booking guy, George Silva, says that the bar sustained considerable damage and that shows at Ichabod's will be discontinued indefinitely. Though a lot of folks (including me) are hoping for the best, the future of live music at this once mighty citadel of hard rock is in serious question. Stay tuned.
The rumors of vinyl's death have been greatly exaggerated. Disagree? Then I bid you to speak with one of the dozens of DJs in this town who wouldn't be caught dead with anything other than a slick slab of grooved black plastic under their fingers, or to the mix-a-holics who sleep with their SL-1200s, or to the hip-hoppers who trust in only hands-on, vinyl manipulation.
It is for these intrepid souls that SONIC INDEX, a new electronic music store just south of the Davenport Hotel was created. Run by a collective of sharp, friendly and passionate electronica addicts in their early twenties, Sonic Index has been up and running for just two weeks. The store specializes in dance music on vinyl (new vinyl singles and albums), DJ mixes and electronic music on CD. It's also the place for DJ accessories (needles, slip pads, etc.).
"There are other stores in Spokane that cater to DJs," says SI's Teresa Daccardi, citing Unified Groove Merchants in the Garland District as a good example. "But we're the only ones that specialize in it."
The tiny shop is neatly laid out and sports a string of turntables along the perimeter set up for customers' use.
"Everything in here you can listen to before you purchase," says Daccardi.
The remainder of the Sonic Index crew is comprised of Dave Richards, Brian DeAngelo and Jon Delderfield. They apologize for being not quite completely organized just yet and assure us that the business cards are on the way.
"And we are going to have a grand opening soon," promises Delderfield with a smile. "We're just not sure when."