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Packing the house 

by Mike Corrigan

If all the parties to attend this New Year's Eve, few will be so thumping, throbbing, grinding and grooving as the one at the Bayou Brewery's Fat Tuesday's featuring two local powerhouses, Civilized Animal and Five Foot Thick. Both of these bands have risen like cream in the milky Spokane original live music scene. It's no wonder. Both are tight, professional-sounding and thoroughly entertaining units that have tremendous crowd-appeal.

Civilized Animal's stock in trade is upbeat, infectious, horn-loaded funk, ska and reggae. Five Foot Thick dishes up heavy, punishing head-banging rap/metal. Both bands are prolific in the songwriting department and each have committed tunes to CD.

Civilized has released two albums since forming (Steve and Evolution) and is currently working on songs for its third.

"We've got plenty of new material written," says trumpet player, Geoff Miller. "And we're looking to hopefully record by the end of January, beginning of February. We have a few different options right now as far as that goes. There's a new studio coming up in town [headed up by Mulligan's Chris White] that is being erected as we speak, actually."

Five Foot Thick is still riding high on the success of their astoundingly meaty-sounding debut, Circles, the production of which is as sparkling, thick and pounding as anything springing from the major ranks these days.

Just how successful is FFT locally? Well, if truth be told, the band has just received delivery of its second batch of 1,000 units. Meaning of course that Circles is selling briskly.

"We've sold just right around a thousand now," beams FFT drummer, Silas McQuain with understandable pride. "We're stoked. We sold those just around Spokane, pretty much."

But a few of those discs definitely made it out beyond the city limits.

"I put together maybe 30 promo packs and sent them out to clubs, mostly. We're going to look for management first, before we think too much about getting on a label. I mean, we'd like to get on a label, but we want to play shows. So we're trying to get in with a booking agency so we can get out of town more. It's really hard when everybody works day jobs, you know, and you're at work trying to make phone calls. It gets really tough for us to try to book out of town by ourselves. Anytime we've sent out a promo pack, we get great response."

Getting out on the road and hitting it and hitting it may seem like an antiquated notion in these days of MP3 instant access to a band's repertoire. But it's still the only way to get noticed amid all those zillion or so bands out there all vying for attention -- and record sales.

"In a way, it is kind of old fashioned," laughs McQuain. "But it works. Sometimes, I look at it and I see people sitting around their hometown wondering, OK, we're a good band, why aren't we signed? Why isn't stuff falling into our lap? I don't want that. I want to work for it. I want to pay my dues. We've been lucky with support from our friends and our fans. But everything else about this band has been all legwork. We're doing great in Spokane. Now we want to go over to Seattle and play for 200 people, even if we're not making money. If we can just make enough to get us to the shows and so we can eat, that's good enough for us."

The New Year's bash will be the first time FFT and Civilized Animal have ever shared the same stage, though the members of both groups are good friends. At the end of the evening, revelers will be treated to a jam session featuring musicians from both bands. That is, if the stage in Fat Tuesday's can take it.

"We've got something really cool worked up," reveals Miller. "The majority of my band has played with the guys in Five Foot Thick in various projects. I'd actually met Silas six years ago, long before I knew he was a drummer, through a neighbor friend. This was pre-Civilized, back when I was still in Citizen Swing. Then, down the road, we ran into each other again."

McQuain continues, "For the last six months, every time we run into each other we just keep saying, we really should do something together, just for the fun of it. Why not? We've never played together and we may never again. But this should be really cool."

Civilized Animal and Five Foot Thick play at the Bayou Brewery's New Year's Eve bash in Fat Tuesday's on Dec. 31 at 10 pm. Tickets: $12, available at Local 77 and Zanies. Call: 484-4818.

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