by ROBBY DOUTHITT & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & D & lt;/span & onning a top hat that's part Slash and part Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rik Bocook plays the blues with an undeniable passion. But nobody knows him as "Rik." His real name -- his blues name -- is written across the top of a mini-amplifier, no more than 10 inches in diameter. "Harpman Hatter" it reads.
Harpman is a street performer. His only instrument is the harmonica and the only thing he plays is the blues. It is his living.
This week, other musicians are accompanying Harpman as part of the sixth annual Spokane Street Music Week, started by Spokesman columnist Doug Clark. Beginning Monday, musicians of all kinds came downtown, put out their buckets and entertained the masses, all money being donated to Second Harvest Food Bank. Last year, more than 70 musicians participated and $2,750 was raised. Clark expects this year to be bigger.
Harpman will be joining in on the philanthropy and directing his money to charity. "I won't make as much money this week, but I don't mind," he says. "It's for a good cause." If you miss him this week, he'll be at the same corner every day next week, and the week after.
Clark says he believes Spokane Street Music Week helps street musicians like Harpman because it makes people more receptive to them. Harpman doesn't rule that out, but he hasn't felt the effects yet. "Maybe it will help in the long run, but I don't think so," Harpman says. "People are people, and I don't mind if they don't acknowledge me or walk by. I play with my heart and with my soul and I elevate people's spirits whether they know it or not."
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & B & lt;/span & ocook grew up listening to his mother play country-western piano and developed an ear for music at an early age. He later discovered the harmonica and with it, the blues.
In 1978, he simply started walking into shops and malls, playing until he was kicked out. About a year ago, he found his spot at Howard and Main, outside of Macy's. He uses the acoustics of the overhanging Parkade skywalk to amplify his sound.
As he plays, it's obvious that he has made an impression on the lunch crowd. "Harpman, sorry I missed you today," says a woman in a business suit. "I'll catch you next time, I promise." Bocook gives her a friendly hug. "You better be here earlier tomorrow," he says.
Bocook is not the only regular street musician out there. Slide guitarist Shad Fischer is on the streets about eight hours a week, every week. "I think this event brings awareness about street musicians to people," Fischer says. "But at the same time, it's my living."
Fischer, an amputee missing his right leg, teaches rock climbing to kids. If he worked full time, he would no longer qualify for Medicaid, so he supplements his coaching income with his street performing.
He describes the Spokane street music scene as "dormant."
"I think people in Spokane can sometimes not be very open to different cultural viewpoints," Fischer says.
If Street Music Week does anything to help the working street performer, says Bocook, it'll be by widening those viewpoints. "If you get a culture in a city, people will come downtown to experience that culture and it will help, not hurt the businesses," Harpman says. "Hopefully this week shows that."
Street Music Week runs through Friday, starting around 11 am and ending around 1 pm. Proceeds benefit Second Harvest Food Bank. Harpman Hatter plays on the northwest corner of Main and Howard. Shad Fischer plays at the southeast corner of Main and Post. Clark plays on Main in front of Starbucks.