We all agree that Spokane’s inferiority complex is not worth talking about any longer. Because at this point, thinking about anywhere but here is just spinning our wheels.
Of all the great things about Spokane, the local music scene is alive and well — but it can always improve, right? With this in mind, we polled 50 people in the local music scene about what we, the Spokane music scene, should aim to achieve here in 2013. As a community, what are our New Year’s resolutions? We were bowled over by the innovative ideas we got in return — a selection of which we’ve printed here.
Ramsey Troxel, one local musician who responded to our request for ideas, framed the Spokane scene perfectly, saying “The best thing about Spokane is that it is Spokane. We should not be trying to emulate bigger cities or be something we are aren’t. … There is something special about this place. This identity can continue to grow if we come together and grow as a community.” Here are a few great places to start. (LEAH SOTTILE)
RESOLUTION #1: MAKE HOUSES COUNT
I’d like to see more houses opened up for house shows, poetry readings, comedy shows and other creative endeavors. For the year-and-a-half or so that we hosted touring bands and local acts in our living room, a niche was filled (partially) that was left open by a dip in the boom and bust cycle of Spokane all-ages venues. Saturating one or two houses with shows isn’t a realistic long-term option for many reasons that we learned in 2012, so in 2013, I hope to see a larger network of people with living rooms planning events for their communities and spreading the house show love! Without expensive sprinkler systems, without cops and without booze, we were able to bring dozens of bands and hundreds of people together who would have otherwise passed by Spokane while on tour. The potential for a larger underground scene is here now... — Taylor Weech, of the Dirty Yeti house, KYRS radio host
RESOLUTION #2: BRING PEARL JAM
Well, really any big rock act that could fill the Spokane Arena will do, but if they can get Pearl Jam, that would be excellent. There are a lot of reasons Pearl Jam wouldn’t play here, the first of which being the fact that they are based in Seattle and people in Spokane can easily go there if and when they decide to play. But here’s my point: the Spokane Arena should resolve to have some sort of massive concert experience each year that would cross the sort of demographical lines they’ve already begun to explore. It would be a risk and booking rock acts is a notoriously difficult task complete with contractual obligations, but wouldn’t it be rad to have a huge rock show at the Arena? That canceled Van Halen show was a start, but let’s get freaking Pearl Jam — perhaps the greatest continually touring American rock band of all time — to play here. — Mike Bookey, Inlander culture editor and devoted Pearl Jam fan
RESOLUTION #3: BRING CLASSICAL AND ROCK MUSICIANS TOGETHER
We have great large theaters in Spokane, why aren’t they being used to house acts that cater to the younger side of our city’s demographic? There were quite a few good shows at the Bing this year. But why aren’t we seeing more exciting events at the Fox? The National, Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent? [Spokane also needs to] bridge the gap between classical musicians and indie musicians. With the recent Spokane Symphony strike I have been thinking a lot about how no musician right now is safe from the fact that our society continues to monetarily devalue what musicians do. … We need to continue speaking out and raising awareness but we also need to work harder to make what we do new and exciting to people. I think one way to do this could be connecting classical musicians with indie musicians or even bigger touring bands to collaborate for events. Similar to what the Seattle Rock Orchestra does, but maybe we could come up with our own spin. It would give musicians in general more of a greater communal connection in the city and push the audience’s palate on both sides to experience something new. — Karli Ingersoll, local musician, proprietress of The Bartlett
RESOLUTION #4: RETHINK THE VENUES
There will always be live music in bars, and there will always be all-ages venues that open and close here. But I propose that in 2013, we forget about waiting for a venue to book a show we want to see and just do it ourselves. It has worked before: back in the day here, Spokane’s punk scene was known for hosting bands in church basements, grange halls, garages and community centers. Green Day once played the Peaceful Valley Community Center, AFI rocked the Westminster Church — and that all happened before Facebook even existed. Contacting your favorite band is easier now more than ever before. My point is: don’t wait around for someone else to do the work for you. Pick up the phone, call around to some spots and see if they’re open to hosting live music. Healthy music scenes thrive on being creative. And I’d bet money that a band on tour would rather play a packed show full of kids in a weird church basement over a bar filled with bored patrons any day of the week. — Leah Sottile, Inlander music editor
RESOLUTION #5: EXPERIMENT WITH VARIETY
One idea that I’ve pushed for years is diverse bills for shows. While, yes, I am in a metal band, I like playing with non-metal bands. I love to mix it up and put together interesting shows. Have a metal band, a blues band and a rock band. To me it makes sense. Not everyone likes that idea but the benefit I see in it is exposing people to different worlds, letting people know that there is other quality music out there in different genres. — Jordan Hilker, bassist in local band Odyssey
RESOLUTION #6: MUSIC FIRST, SALES LATER
I respect the service that the bar scene in Spokane does, but it has become too domineering. Bars can be an awesome environment for musicians, they can also be incredibly destructive. Music is hardly the first priority of any bar owner, and of course they do not want bands playing in their bar that are going to drive away customers. This would not be as much of a problem if there were more more spaces in town to play at besides bars. What happens, whether people are conscious of it are not, is that more and more artists start to pander to their audiences just to have opportunities to play, and this stifles any sort of true artistic progression.
Finally I believe the scene can be much more supportive of the youth involved. It is these people who are young enough to believe they can actually make a difference, and take the reigns once we all get old, lazy and apathetic. Successful venues such as the Vera Project in Seattle and The Smell in LA (and many others) are almost entirely supported by youth volunteers. — Ramsey Troxel, local musician
RESOLUTION #7: BE A SUPER FAN
This may seem like a no-brainer, but serious music fans need to know that they can easily contribute to the Inland Northwest scene on an individual level if they’re motivated. A person’s contribution isn’t limited to just starting a band. There has to be an infrastructure within the community to help get a band out of the garage and onto the stage. Being part of college and community radio, having DIY space or starting a bedroom record label are things that are within the reach of someone who simply wants to. All of these things (and more) are catalysts for live music to happen in any town. Furthermore, all of these elements must act in conjunction with each other. Networking is key. You can start a band or a DIY label, but if you don’t reach out to other bands, other labels, and other like-minded people, you won’t get far. — Kentaro Murai, a former KUOI DJ who now lives in Japan
RESOLUTION #8: PLAN A FESTIVAL
Spokane is culturally conflicted. Those who pay attention know. It’s a tale of two cities… on one hand Spokane is a gray, post-industrial hovel that the 1970s took a big dump on. On the other Spokane is a glimmering jewel of neocultural output. A frontier outpost of all things culturally comforting and wholesome. … So, in the pioneer spirit and with an attitude of temerity I submit my music resolution: Spokane needs a music festival. Not something commercially sick like Sasquatch or South By Southwest. Our Spokane is much too rebellious and austere for that shit. We need something that showcases the unique spirit of our bioregion and proves Spokane can dish out musical knockouts.
… This fest I propose will highlight the finest, dirtiest and most ravishing bands from all around the bioregion. … Maybe it’s called Frontier Fest, maybe it will take place in venues spread across downtown, maybe it will be collectively organized by the people who think it should happen. … Maybe it will endear Spokane to the music world, maybe all the bands will be so enamored with us they will move here so we can greedily hoard them for our own enjoyment, maybe there will be 15 bands, maybe there will be 31 bands... Let’s tell the rest of the Northwest our sweet secret for a weekend and then steal that shit back for ourselves. — Alex Davis, formerly of Leftist Nautical Antiques, a local cassette label
RESOLUTION #9: USE THE BING
My own personal goals include standing strong for the local independent promoters, small business owners and “mom and pop” entities that give Spokane’s music scene it’s true character and have it ever so tough working with and against larger corporate venues, media, and retailers. … I am working on a concert series called “Built for The Bing 2013,” with Built to Spill as the kickoff show on Feb. 9. Personally I have seen the historic Bing Crosby Theater as an increasingly underutilized space in the downtown core. Many epic performances have been seen in the theater over the years, and I plan on bringing many more. The Bing can turn in to Spokane’s version of the recently restored Neptune Theater in Seattle. — John Blakesley, of Blakesley Presents booking and Elkfest
RESOLUTION #10: CHALLENGE THE RULES
It would be a worthwhile exercise for the city of Spokane to critically examine the effect that some of its ordinances have on its citizens’ ability to express themselves. As evidenced by the fateful, prematurely-concluded Acid Mothers Temple show last April at Object Space, the Fire Marshall expects even a starving art gallery to ascribe to the same strict standards as a fully devoted venue if they decide to occasionally put on live music performances. A gallery may not be able to pay for the necessary safety accoutrements. … Though municipal items such as fire code are obviously intended for the public welfare, they can conflict with First Amendment rights of expression.
— Chris Dreyer, local artist and Inlander contributor