Well, the dust had hardly settled in the recently vacated Sol & eacute; location at 175 S. Monroe (not to be confused with the even more recently shut-down-due-to-code-violations Sol & eacute; location on North Division) before something positive in Spokane's volatile live music scene started up there again. Christopher Lewis, former owner of Tryst coffee house, has leased the former all-ages club space across from the Spaghetti Factory with the express desire of transforming it into a comfortable, inviting new live music venue he's calling the Detour. But that's not all. Lewis is trying something never before attempted in Spokane: an all-ages venue with a beer garden for patrons 21 and older.
For years, local club owners have been hampered in their efforts to host shows that appeal to a broad age demographic, due to concerns over underage drinking on the one hand and the lack of alcoholic beverages for adult guests on the other. This condition, which has kept teen fans and their 21-and-over counterparts segregated -- thus greatly diminishing the potential profitability of local shows -- has long been seen as a roadblock to local scene growth. But a vibrant all-ages club right here in downtown Spokane that is truly inviting for all ages? Can it be done?
Yes, insists Daniel Ryan, the former Tryst employee now charged with the task of booking shows into the new club.
"We've met with the police and the liquor board and we have their OK on everything we're doing," he says. "What we're looking at is having a separate area for the beer garden, set apart by a chain-link fence. It's really going to set this apart from all the other all-ages clubs in town."
Investments in the atmosphere and functionality of the new club don't stop there. They also include $20,000 worth of capital improvements (courtesy of the landlords) in the form of top-to-bottom cleaning, significant remodeling and restroom upgrades.
"It was a dive before," says Ryan, who has been putting on shows at various local venues for the last 18 months. "You'd walk in there and think, this is not a place I want to spend four hours in. And the bathrooms were just gross. It's not like that anymore."
In addition to the beer garden, the Detour will ultimately have a selection of snacks ("pizza, nachos -- that kind of thing") and sodas available.
"We're not just making it friendly for the 21-and-over crowd. We want it so that it's comfortable for everyone who comes in. One of the biggest problems that this town has had with all-ages clubs is that you go in there and you don't feel an affinity for that club. Creating atmosphere is something that can make people feel comfortable in that environment and want to hang out there. It's really important, and it goes beyond just the people who are attending the shows. It has to do with the bands that are playing there, too."
As far as the type of bands Ryan and Lewis will be featuring, Ryan says, "What we're looking at as far as shows is quality vs. quantity." You can put on a show every night but without adequate promotion, he says, but no one is going to come to the shows, especially when they feature new, obscure or up-and-coming visiting acts.
"We're looking at doing a big flyer weekly and other promotions so that everyone knows what's coming a month in advance. That's something that clubs in Seattle like Graceland or the Showbox do. No one does it here. Out of the first 14 or 15 dates that we have lined up at the Detour, you'll see bands from semi-major record labels in the indie industry."
The Detour's grand opening weekend lurches into gear this Friday with indie rock from Copeland, Park, Embarrassing Bruises and Victory Lap. Saturday it's the Doomination of America 2003 Tour -- a virtual death-metal feast -- featuring Morgion, Mourning Beloveth, the Prophesy and Gods Among Men. Sunday night, punk out to Slow Coming Day and Man Alive. With this lineup and those yet to come, the guys at the Detour are taking a positive, proactive and hopeful stand against boredom and low expectations.
"I think kids are gonna look at this and go 'Wow, they're really going out of their way to bring this stuff in.' Which I am," says Ryan. "I love it. This is my passion. But between this and my day job, it does get a little bit hectic."
'Fro Backs -- With a laconic groove and kicked-back adaptation of soul, Maktub (pronounced Mock-tube) rises from the ashes of Seattle's grunge scene with its version of a classic sound. Reggie Watts, Maktub's lead singer, says the band's members call their style "heavy soul" since they blend elements of soul with new age, groove and rock.
"The thing about our music is that it has so many elements," he said in a recent phone interview from a San Francisco street corner. "Soul to us could be Soundgarden or Pearl Jam. It actually just means something that is sincere and heartfelt."
Watts' voice echoes with passion on Khronos, the bands' latest release. The album originally came out on under the Ossia imprint -- the band's own label. But New York-based Velour picked it up and re-released it. The original release on Ossia features an extra track, "Motherf***er," that the band decided to drop for PR purposes when moving to the more established label.
"It just increased its appeal," Watts says. Watts' range is astonishing -- reaching the highest Stevie Wonder squeal and hitting every brassy note on the way down. His voice mimics Al Green -- but the rest of the band follows his lead with a solid rock sound on most of the tracks. The album skips from heavy-handed rock tracks in "Give Me Some Time" to songs with hokey Barry White-esque romantic lyrics like "Baby Can't Wait." They wrap up the album showing that they, too, can play a mean wailing guitar in their version of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter."
Spokane has two chances to check out the band for free in the coming weeks. The first show is at Pig Out in the Park on Saturday evening. The second is at Borders Books' North Division location on Thursday, Sept. 4. The band got together on a whim back in 1995, when Watts met up with drummer Davis Martin and bassist Kevin Goldman for a jam session. They thought that a hip-hoppy funky sound was exactly what Seattle needed. Watts says that their sound has been embraced by the city -- one that is typically associated with heavy rock music.
"[Our sound] does really well," he says. "I don't really think [people] think about what they are going to -- they just like what they are hearing."
The band members' backgrounds vary, but the quintet found similar interests through Seattle's underground club scene. The band released Subtle Ways back in 1999, and opened for a hodgepodge of bigger acts afterwards. Maktub plans to release its third album next year on Velour, but will continue on small tours of the West Coast until then.
Aside from having a really great voice, Watts has really cool hair. In fact, his hair is so big that it looks more like a '70s funk afro wig than the actual item. When I tell him this, he laughs.
"Yeah, I have to cut around the edges of the neckline," he says of his T-shirts. "Or else I have a friend help me."
Warriors of Funk -- To remark that Bernie Worrell is perhaps best known for his P-Funk affiliation -- as integral member/co-founder/keyboardist extraordinaire with Funkadelic, Parliament, et al. -- is to paint this tremendously talented musician and performer using an extremely limited palette. Certainly his many collaborations with the likes of George Clinton and Bootsy Collins (not to say anything of his long tenure with the Talking Heads) were Worrell's ticket into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Yet even as he's all that, he's much more. Worrell and his current touring band, the Woo Warriors, have the mothership's guidance controls set for the B-Side this Saturday night.
Bernie Worrell delivers the funk. He serves it up in big slabs alongside equally big slabs of any musicality that happens to drift through his broad and ever-inclusive transom: jazz, blues, even classical. This eclectic mix is the fortunate result of a lifetime spent making music.
Raised in Plainfield, N.J., Worrell was a child prodigy who learned to play classical piano by the age of three, wrote his own concerto when he was only eight and attended the New England Conservatory of Music and then Julliard. But the sounds of Motown pouring out of his AM radio eventually turned his affections to popular music. As a young man performing in various Jersey bar bands, he met George Clinton, leader of the then-doo wop group, the Parliaments. Clinton (and eventually Worrell) moved to Detroit, changed the name of his band to simply Funkadelic (to avoid a recording label hassle) and began to develop that band's trademark sound -- a sound founded on the tenets established by Motown, but more inspired by the grittier funk and R & amp;B of James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone. Worrell, who joined the Parliament/ Funkadelic conglomeration in 1970, playing keyboards on, arranging and producing nearly all of the band's subsequent releases.
After Clinton dissolved the P-Funk collective in the early '80s (only to later re-constitute it in various forms), Worrell signed up as session man and eventually touring keyboardist with the Talking Heads, collaborating with David Byrne until that band's demise in 1992. In addition to his solo career (which has produced a half a dozen albums) and latest touring band, the Woo Warriors, Worrell continues to give it up with various P-Funk all-stars, particularly Bootsy Collins. And the man's discography is literally just too long to list. His studio experience (as writer, musician, arranger or producer) includes well over 200 recording projects in collaboration with artists from every strain of popular music except country. Wait, is there a country one in there somewhere, Bernie? If so, my apologies.