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On The Scene 

by Clint Burgess

It could have been called a melding of the minds, a celebration of diversity or just intense community atmosphere over at CenterStage on Saturday night. Grooves were movin', vinyl was scratchin' and the beats were off the hook.

The event took over much of the fantastic CenterStage space on First Avenue downtown. There were DJs in the billiards room and art in the foyer. But the ballroom was where it all went down. "The Blueprint -- The First Steps Into A New Era of Arts and Music" was the official billing for the show, and it was all that and more. Wanna know just how big this show was? There were actual break dancers there. I wandered around the visual arts displays after takin' in some breakin' and was impressed by the work of Charlie Forina. His pieces were mosaic-style magnets arranged in simple color schemes on refrigerator doors. The finished products revealed portraits of Kobe Bryant, Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson. (OK, so they're not all model citizens.)

All the performers on this night were outstanding. Once the DJs did their thing, Jeremy Hughes was up for his spin on the main stage. Hughes, guitarist for Chinese Sky Candy, was accompanied by his PC, a synthesizer and a guitar. The results were simply amazing. His immense sound included looped beats lit up by shimmering guitar statements on top of tsunami-size synthesizer swells. As was the case with many of the artists, Hughes also released a CD and was able to convey the same emotive music as on the disc. My mesmerized mind gave way to the vocal stylings of Spince, Synthetic Som and MC Airam. These three fly fellas laid down the rhymes hard and heavy. The crowd swung to the grooves and the party was jamming.

Then my anticipation set in. Velella velella (or V. velella) was waiting in the wings. This electronic groove synthesis project paired Andrew Means and Michael Burton of Rand Univac. The finished product was otherworldly. Imagine computer nerds, indie enthusiasts and hip-hoppers all bobbing along to the same band. Velella is a revelation. Their looped drum beats and radical samples furnish the sonic backdrop for instrumental meanderings from almost anything with keys that can be played. The musicians' eagerness and anticipation of their own sounds is infectious. The beats are undeniable: You must surrender yourself to the groove. Fortunately for Spokane, these songs have been immortalized on Velella's album By the Wind Sailor, which is currently available. (see

A quick look around the room served as a testimonial to the influence of this show. There were all sorts of white kids with crooked baseball caps, indie kids and even old folks (if over 30 is old). The one thing they all had in common was a mutual devotion to get on down to tunes from the outside. If the flyer for this show is the new gospel, this event will serve as springboard for a new movement in artistic expression in this town, regardless of the medium it's presented in or the genre it defies.

Publication date: 1/15/04
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