& & THE MAYFIELD FOUR & & is a living, breathing example of a local band that escaped the lethargy and ambivalence of Spokane to score it big in the music industry. After scraping it out for several years in various popular local bands in the early '90s (Shoveljerk and Citizen Swing immediately come to mind), vocalist Myles Kennedy, drummer Zia Uddin, bassist Marty Meisner and guitarist Craig Johnson formed a band talented, cohesive and driven enough to attract major label attention. They signed with Epic in 1997, and in 1998 released their debut album, Fallout.
Fifteen months of almost non-stop touring to support the album followed, transforming the band into a seasoned live act able to turn on club audiences and arena-size crowds with equal aplomb. They'll be back in front of the home crowd on Saturday night at Fort Spokane.
A lot has happened to the Mayfield Four since the end of the last touring cycle more than a year ago. Johnson is no longer with the group, a follow-up to Fallout is in the can (slated for a late February release) and Kennedy has caught a flu bug.
"I'm pretty much bedridden," he says in a thoroughly gravelly voice via phone. "And if you hear any loud noises, that's my parrot yelling at me to come get him."
About the changes in the lineup (and, as I discover, in management), Kennedy is frank but guarded.
"Craig is gone, and we have a new manager now. It was a divorce of sorts, and I can't really go into details. It was just really hard. These are people we really care about, and we went through a lot together."
The tour to support Fallout was educational to say the least. It was also the first time the guys got to rub elbows with their peers in the industry -- their competition, if you will.
"We got great tours, but it's always real hard when you're up and coming, you know, you're a baby band. And you have to prove yourself every night. We were out there for 15 months, and after awhile it's just pretty draining."
The new album, produced by Peter Collins (Letters to Cleo, Jewel, Brian Setzer), is a slight departure from the approach the group took on Fallout.
"It's much more rock," says Kennedy, adding with a laugh, "It's melodic, hard-rocking rock. Much more aggressive than Fallout. It's more condensed with simpler song structures. On the last record, there were certain tracks where we'd go off into a kind of an 'art school' rock direction. We got away from that. [The new record] is more of a reflection of what we are, which is a bunch of thugs from Spokane."
With all the shakeups in the Mayfield Four camp, and the specter of the sophomore jinx to contend with, the group took its time on the new material and at the same time redefined their essence.
"We played a show over a year ago at Pig Out in the Park, and ever since then we've been wanting to just totally reinvent this band. We went through a lot of changes with management and members, so we basically just locked ourselves up and wrote and wrote and wrote. It was a real rough year for all of us, given what we went through professionally. We just tried to stay real focused and work real hard, and we're really happy with what we got."
The band as a touring unit has essentially been in dry dock for a year and a half. For Kennedy and the others, that's just a bit too long.
"It's been nice to be back home and just get to create every day. But I think we've all built our immunity back up, and we're getting ready to go out and perform. That's part of the reason we wanted to do this show -- just to kind of warm into it gradually. It's gonna be a lot of new material. It's going to be the new Mayfield Four. I started playing when I was 15, and this is the longest I've ever gone without performing with a band. I don't know if it'll be nerve wracking, but I'm hoping that we'll get back up on stage and it will feel just like it did for our entire tour."
Is Kennedy copping to a case of the jitters?
"I might get the jitters this time. I don't know. I'm wondering about that. But you can use that adrenaline."
Until the record hits the shelves and the new tour begins, the members of the Mayfield Four need something to do besides shop for shoes and nurse minor viral infections.
"I'm really getting eager to get out and play," understates Kennedy sardonically. "I mean it's like, what do you do? I guess we could all work on our solo albums now."
& & & lt;i & The Mayfield Four and Mulligan play Fort Spokane on Saturday, Oct. 21, at 9 pm. Tickets: $7. Call: 838-3809. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
& & Big Fun & & & &
At the first annual & & BIG FUN FESTIVAL OF SOUND & & , three bands from the West Side with deep roots in Eastern Washington are coming to The Met to give back to the community that gave them their start.
The festival was conceived by former Inland Northwest band BeeCraft as a vehicle to showcase some of the talent that Spokane has produced and, at the same time, raise a little money for two worthy area youth music programs -- The Spokane Youth Symphony and the Spokane Jazz Society. A portion of the proceeds from the Friday show will be donated to these organizations to help establish scholarship funds and to offset operating costs.
"We wanted to set up a situation where we could do a yearly big show at The Met with us and some other bands, but we also wanted to benefit some cause," says Don Goodwin of BeeCraft. "Obviously, there are tons of causes out there, but not many that meant a whole lot to us. These two organizations were hugely beneficial to me when I was young and really helped with my progression as a musician. In the case of the Spokane Youth Symphony, I played in that group and so did my brother, our percussionist Bob Reese and the bass player for Soup of the Day, Jeff Larson. It just kind of made sense for us to do this. It's always been such a great organization and one that seems to always be lacking funds."
The Spokane Jazz Society is another local entity near to the group's heart.
"We're trying to help their youth outreach program, which basically organizes money in an effort to buy tickets for all kinds of orchestral and jazz concerts and funnels those into low income areas and get kids out to concerts that normally couldn't afford to go."
Opening the show will be Preston Mill, a Seattle-based jam rock band that features pop-infected original tunes highlighted by lots of four-part harmonies by members Corey Passons (lead vox, guitar), Peter Kingham (lead guitar), Ryan Burt (drums) and Ross McGilvray (bass).
Next up will be Soup of the Day, a Bellingham-Olympia-Seattle collective known for its long, funky, groove-based dance tunes and its ability to explore improvisational territory while exhibiting a high degree of technical skill. With the exception of turntable master, Andrew Fuller, all the members of Soup of the Day are originally from Spokane and attended Lewis and Clark High School. The rest of the group is comprised of guitarists Cameron Newell and Ben Jahn, bassist Geoff Larson, kit drummer, Nick Vincent-Maloney and percussionist J.R. Sorensen who beats on a variety of congas, djembes, cowbells, wood blocks and cymbals.
Headlining the festival will be BeeCraft, a funk rock fusion quintet well known to local audiences but now firmly based in Seattle. The group is comprised of Don Goodwin on piano, keyboards and vocals, Scott Goodwin on drums, bass player Sabu Miyata on bass, Jamie Zyskowski on guitar and vocals and percussionist Bob Reese.
The band moved to Seattle in 1998 and in the process lost its original bass player, Colby Davis, who remained in Spokane. After almost a year of turmoil and frustration, the ensemble hit upon a worthy replacement in Miyata.
"He's just been awesome," reports Goodwin.
With the new unit up and running, BeeCraft has been staging mini tours almost monthly, hitting Spokane, Coeur d'Alene and Missoula in addition to clubs in Western Washington and Oregon. They also have a new CD in the works with a release date tentatively set for early December.
Fans of the band's early work (documented on its self-released 1999 disc, Change Cuts) will immediately notice something different.
"There's going to be a huge difference in the quality of the recording," says Goodwin. "The four studio tracks on Change Cuts were recorded in somebody's garage. I mean, it was a nice place but it was definitely a makeshift studio. This one was recorded digitally, which in the past I would have thought might affect the sound negatively. But it didn't at all. And we had an unbelievable producer who knew our music so well he was more like a sixth member of the band."
Goodwin says BeeCraft is dedicated to the idea of turning the Festival of Sound into an annual event.
"We just figured that this would be a really good way to give something back to those organizations. And we're working on more than just this year; we're working on the future and building up something really special. We're definitely excited about it."
& & & lt;i & The Big Fun Festival of Sound featuring BeeCraft, Soup of the Day and Preston Mill is at The Met on Friday, Oct. 20, at 8 pm. Tickets: $10. Call: 325-SEAT. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
& & Drivin' Blues & & & &
The blues-rock sub genre is one of the most overpopulated in popular music, filled with more pretenders than contenders. So when a true virtuoso comes down the street, everyone should take note.
& & JIMMY THACKERY & & became widely known as the innovative guitarist with the Nighthawks, one of the hardest-working and most popular blues outfits of the '70s and '80s. After leaving the Nighthawks in 1987, Thackery assembled the six-piece R & amp;B band, the Assassins, which toured the East Coast and released three studio albums before disbanding in 1991. For his next project, Thackery went the other direction, trimming things down to the bone instrumentally. Now leading a trio, the Drivers, the guitarist is able to emphasize the six-string as the predominant melodic weapon in the group's arsenal. The band will play Fort Spokane tonight.
Thackery's powerful, tough and lowdown brand of electric blues -- in which he seamlessly mixes traditional Mississippi mud with roots rock & aacute; la Springsteen -- has made him one of the most sought-out performers on the blues circuit today.
Raised in Washington, D.C., during the '50s, Thackery was initially inspired by the likes of Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and James Cotton. But his most formative experience occurred purely by accident when the young bluesman wandered into a D.C. club in the late '60s and witnessed Jimi Hendrix cutting loose on his Stratocaster. It was, in his own words, "the moment that changed my life." In that instant, the barriers between blues and rock came crashing down and Thackery was on his way.
The Drivers (rounded out with Michael Patrick on bass and Mark Stutso on drums and vocals) have released six albums on the prestigious Blind Pig Records since debuting in 1992 with Empty Arms Motel. The group's latest, Sinner Street, benefits from the addition of sax player and newest Driver, Jimmy Carpenter on several tracks. And of course, Thackery's fretwork is as furious and as expressive as ever on such outstanding cuts as "Lovin' My Money" and "Hundreds Into Ones."
Recordings are fine, but if there's one thing that I keep hearing, it's that Thackery absolutely must be witnessed in a live setting where all of his technical pyrotechnics are evenly matched by his outstanding showmanship. You've got to see and hear it to believe it.
& & & lt;i & Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers play Fort Spokane on Thursday, Oct. 19, at 9 pm. Tickets: $13. Call: 838-3809. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &