If you haven't yet picked up the excellent radio sounds beaming from the towers of KYRS (95.3 FM), then you need to get out your coat hanger, attach it to your car antenna and do some driving around downtown (actually, uptown might be better). KYRS is Spokane's very own commercial-free, volunteer-run, low-power FM radio station. It's making an impact, not only on our community but also on the broader spectrum of the national low-power FM scene.
The station was the brainchild of a group called Citizens for Clean Air. The local nonprofit group applied for a LPFM permit in 1999 and was granted the only permit given out in the Spokane area. Since that time, the station has endured mountains of bureaucracy and numerous other hurdles. But now, just 18 months after its initial construction permit was granted, KYRS has emerged as a force in the non-commercial media arena and is garnering praise on a national scale. The station has been broadcasting for just about six months, but it's already being used as a model for future LPFM stations. And soon, KYRS will take its brand of grassroots radio to a whole new level of exposure.
A film crew from Verite Productions will be in town this weekend to film portions of a documentary that will eventually air on NBC affiliates around the country. The documentary will delve into what transpired to bring LPFM stations to the public, and it will feature our very own KYRS as a main focus.
Kaylene Sims, recent appointee to the program director position at KYRS, says, "Spokane is one of the largest cities in the U.S. that has a LPFM station."
This makes the station a good model for other stations and cities to look at. The crew will be interviewing KYRS staffers and programmers and will be filming an on-air interview with Dr. Janis Amatuzio, a featured speaker at Spokane's Body, Mind and Spirit Expo this weekend at the Convention Center.
However, the real buzz around the filming is a benefit concert at the Detour featuring local bands.
Sims is enthusiastic. "Scatterbox was already playing the Detour on the date we were looking at." she says. "We were looking for a band to do the benefit, and it just kind of snowballed from there."
The band and their skin-tight, uber-high-energy brand of hardcore will be headlining this event. Scatterbox's recent local performances have been interesting to say the least. (Let's just say, they're no longer welcome at Mootsy's.)
Rounding out the schedule for this buzz-worthy benefit are two other local bands. Ambeo blends hardcore sensibilities with inklings of melody to combine for the one-two punch of melodic hardcore. These guys have shared the stage with some of the Northwest's finest acts of their genre and will provide a heavy live show. Soma completes the lineup as a complement to the other high-energy acts.
The beauty of this thing is that it is a benefit show in the truest sense of the word -- with everyone lending a hand. All the bands on the bill are donating their time, and there won't be any corporate profit-hogs taking a cut. Chris Lewis of the Detour is cutting the radio station a huge break on cost for the venue.
Besides being able to check out some great local talent, there will also be a KYRS booth at the show with information about the station, T-shirts, stickers and other swag. And the show is all-ages, open to everyone with a passion for live music and community radio.
"It's really cool that I can go and enjoy the same music as my kids do," says Sims.
If that's not enough for you, the show will also serve as a wrap party for the NBC film crew and the KYRS volunteers. So come on down and show your support for one of Spokane's newest community treasures.
Moon Bear's New Den -- Moon Shadow's gone, man. But the beat goes on. What's the skinny? Well, just this: After 16 years of holding court as Spokane's foremost percussion merchant and world music guru, Michael Moon Bear is closing up his Moon Shadow music store for good -- and moving on to lush new pastures.
"We had to because they're tearing the building down," he says. "But the retail part of the store is not going to move. It's going to close. What I'm going to do is set up a full-time teaching studio, which is the primary thing I do -- teaching traditional West African, African, even Middle Eastern drumming. So I'm going to actually get to do more of what I really love to do."
For Moon Bear, it's the beginning of an exciting new chapter in his life. But for many of the musicians around this town who have come to rely on Moon Shadow's unique inventory and atmosphere, news of its closing has come as something of a shock. For many, it really is the end of an era.
"I've been here in this location for over a decade now," says Moon Bear. "And although I have a wide-ranging clientele -- I've got people in their 70s and 80s who shop here -- a large portion of them are in their 20s or 30s and have been coming here since they were really small kids. It's like they grew up here. So it's a really big deal. It's been part of their lives and part of the landscape of downtown for them."
More than just a music store that sold a variety of hand drums and exotic rhythm instruments, Moon Shadow (which Moon Bear first started at a Division location 16 years ago) fostered community and was instrumental in bringing a broad range of world music influences into this culturally stunted burg.
"We helped to engender cultural acceptance and diversity by making these things present here. I mean, where else in this town would you see or experience them? There isn't anywhere else. A lot of this work and what I enjoy doing is helping to bring this culture into Spokane. That's one of the reasons I started. There were things I was looking for that I couldn't find anywhere. So I thought I'd open a store thinking that other people might be looking for this stuff, too, or might want to be exposed to it or explore it. And it worked out great. It's done wonderful things for my life. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Sounds excellent. So why end it?
"The store has never been like a great concern financially. And I've never had the goal to grow it into a big store because it's always been a very personal thing. I kind of consider it an extension of my living room. People come in and tell me that they feel so good in here, that they love coming in here, even if they have just a few minutes, because they feel so calm and refreshed being in here. The store itself has never focused on selling lots of stuff and money. It always paid for itself and not a lot beyond that."
Moon Bear will be teaching music at his new drumming studio on Third Avenue (408 W. Third) across from Empire Ford. He's calling it the Malidoma! World Drum and Dance Studio. He says "Malidoma" is a West African phrase.
"It literally translates into 'make a friend of a stranger.' I used to have a professional performing group here in town called Malidoma. I've used it in my school programs, too, because it has to do with learning about other cultures. Once you know more about other cultures, it opens you up as a person. Prejudice rarely survives experience. And music is the most common language we have. I might not understand your language, but I listen to your music and I get that."
Moonshadow's final day was Saturday, May 29. Moon Bear says the month of June will be spent getting the new studio ready for an opening the first week of July. -- Mike Corrigan
Looking Deeply -- Have you guys seen that weird-looking flyer that's been circulating around town the past couple of weeks? The one with the piercing, disembodied eyes superimposed over optically vibrating concentric circles? Do you feel yourself inexplicably drawn to it? I do. Come closer, it beckons. Closer. Look into its eyes. Open yours -- and your mind -- to possibilities. Resistance is futile.
What we have here is a successful attempt to communicate the when and the where of a live music extravaganza -- with three whole floors of the Center Stage complex on West First opened up for mingling and for taking in a variety of sights and sounds. It's entertainment of the edgy and breathless kind. Here's what you'll find there: Floor One: Beats, grooves, DJs and dancing compliments of Nealie Neal, Eric Beats, Grand Groove, Brainchild, the Floor Finatics, Hulki-maniacs, Tangled Roots and Spince. Floor Two: Original rock with Belt of Vapor, Pathos, Chinese Sky Candy and Vacant Lights. Floor Three: Jazz with the Danny McCollim Trio.
Take my word for it. It's a happening. Resistance is futile.