There are the naysayers — the folks who believe the Inland Northwest has no music scene to speak of. But show up for Volume this weekend, and it's as if Spokane's air has become electric with the love of live music. Fans run frantically to catch acts across downtown venues, the mosh pits rock harder and there's a sense that this city is the center of everything, if only for two days.
"It's like a scavenger hunt finding all of the bands you want to see," says Patrick Kendrick, who along with Shea Walser booked the lineup for Volume, the Inlander's annual music festival. "And if you open yourself up, who knows where the schedule will take you?"
None of this could be possible without the help of local music warriors — artists, business owners and promoters pushing the scene forward. For every venue that closes, like Carr's Corner, another rises in its place. Venues like the Palomino Club (formerly the Center), Red Room Lounge, Underground 15 (formerly the Blue Spark) and Chateau Rive step up and bring in diverse talent, proving music is happening at more than just the big arenas and theaters.
Here's a breakdown of what's happening at many of the local music venues.
BABY BAR/NEATO BURRITO
Down at the Baby Bar (capacity 25), co-owner Patty Tully plans to keep on with the system for booking touring and local shows that's occurred almost organically. There's no grand scheme for growth, just a drive to continue offering fresh-squeezed adult beverages, heavenly burritos courtesy of Neato and all-ages (until 9 pm) shows.
This summer, there's already more live music scheduled than in her past eight years running the place with partner Tim Lannigan (both of whom rock in Fun Ladies).
"We don't do much planning," Tully says. "We don't have meetings. We all really appreciate the fact this grows without us doing anything. I never want to be about the numbers or figuring out what's next. For me the business is just our life. I'd rather just enjoy it."
People assume the Bartlett sells out every show.
"That's just not true," says co-owner Karli Ingersoll. "People just think we do, and then may not try to come out because of it."
Open about a year and a half, the Bartlett has sold out many of its shows and brought in huge acts (Mudhoney, the English Beat, Future Islands), but Ingersoll and husband/Bartlett co-owner Caleb have had disappointments as well.
"This whole thing is a guessing game, and you have no idea if a show will work or not," Ingersoll says.
This year, they're looking to continue their roster of hot indie acts, cultivate singer-songwriter nights and also reintroduce Bartfest, this time with a much more affordable price tag.
"Our focus was always quality over quantity, and it will continue to be so," says Ingersoll.
THE BIG DIPPER
The Big Dipper is a labor of love, not only for owner Dan Hoerner, but the people who donated to its crowdsourcing campaign to make the venue a reality. Last year's Volume was one of the first events hosted at the newly reopened establishment, and Hoerner claims he wouldn't miss this one for the world: "Volume is certainly a feather in Spokane's cap."
Since opening, the place has continued to grow in attendance, and in amenities like a brand-new air conditioner system and bathroom upgrades. But it's certainly been a year of learning.
"It's hard sometimes. You may book a show you think is so cool and then zero people come, and then a show you throw together at the last minute may pack the place out," Hoerner says. "You just never know with Spokane."
THE HOP!/PINNACLE NORTHWEST
Owner Thomas "TC" Chavez sounds tired. The past five months have been an exhausting experiment in running two venues. At the beginning of the year, Chavez made plans to close The Hop! indefinitely and open the downtown Pinnacle Northwest (or simply "the Pin") on its own. However, for insurance purposes, he kept both.
For the second time this year, Chavez has announced the Hop! is closing. This time, the building has been sold.
"It wasn't viable after looking at the numbers in this market," Chavez explains. "We've lost so much money in the last weeks. It's been humbling, I'll put it that way."
Chavez says he's glad for the opportunity Volume allows, bringing in people who haven't necessarily experienced the Pin yet. The Hop! is set to take its final bow June 7.
Mark Dinerstein, Knitting Factory Presents president, spends most of his time flying around to the various Knitting Factory locations across the country and takes great interest in tracking the trends that cycle through the business.
"The EDM scene is still popular, but not as popular as it was two seasons ago," Dinerstein says. "Also, we're seeing a resurgence in rock and hard rock, although those were always popular in Spokane."
While the venue isn't a part of Volume this time — other than talk of doing an encore show in the fall — the Knitting Factory continues to bring top talent into the area. Dinerstein says he wouldn't have brought in shows like Spoon or Neutral Milk Hotel when the company first took over the venue in 2007.
"I'd like to say as far as the traction we've gained in the community, it's allowed us to stretch our wings," Dinerstein says. "This year is all about expansion and programming." ♦