I'll admit it. Sometimes, a nice, interesting and above all reproducible photo of an artist or group is all it takes to haul me like a barfly out of my propaganda-saturated haze and get me to take notice. Performers love to get ink. And I love to give it to them. Trouble is, there are more performers out there vying for press than there is precious newspaper space here in which to talk about them. With all other things being equal, sometimes it really does come down to this: What do we have the best art for?
Amy Bleu sent us good art.
Bleu is an expatriate from the Rose City who has temporarily taken up residence in Spokane. This self-described "anti-folk folksinger" is seeking nothing less than to make an impression on local live music audiences. (She did it before, and she's doing it again at Huckleberry's this Saturday night.)
"I'm the daughter of a hippie and metal head," reveals Bleu, "which accounts for my sometimes soft and sweet, sometimes loud and angry style."
Whatever the style, hers is music that almost anyone who ever had a heart could relate to on some level.
"It's nice to know that people understand the way that I felt when I wrote the songs," she says.
With her captivating presence and penchant for emotionally ragged and at times haunting acoustic constructions, Bleu should make more than a minor scuff on the collective local psyche. For variety, people, is something we frequently lack here in the Lilac City.
Though she says she'll probably move back to her hometown soon, Bleu gives the Spokane coffeehouse scene -- and the local live music scene in general -- relatively high marks.
"What I like about the music scene here is that people get very excited about new artists. Also, I like the way most of the coffeehouses here are set up for live music on weekends -- so you don't get stuck playing on Tuesday night."
Pretty Fair Music -- The Fair is back, and so is the live music. Some of it's free (with the price of admission) some of it's, uh, not so free. The great thing is, you have choices -- many, many choices. And here's a taste, starting with the Grandstand Arena. (All grandstand shows start at 6:45 pm.)
The songs The Association created during the group's 1966-1969 heyday are scientifically designed to lodge in your skull -- whether you want them to or not. Those smooth, heavily orchestrated folk-pop arrangements, those umpteen-part harmonies and those maddeningly catchy melodies of hits like "Along Comes Mary," "Cherish," "Windy," and "Never My Love" are the stuff of sweet daisy dreams for some and saccharine-spiked nightmares for others. (Start singing them around your friends, family or co-workers and just see what kind of a reaction you get.) The six-member vocal group will be reprising those very hits at the Fair on Friday evening, Sept. 5. Tickets: $6. (For all paid concerts at the Fair, call 325-SEAT, or buy them at the Fair gate.)
On Saturday, Sept. 6, it's a KTSL-sponsored God rock extravaganza with Montana-based Pivitplex, an alt-Christian band whose sound draws heavily from '60s and '70s rock, and David Harsh, a Washington native with an acoustically based guitar attack and lyrics that are "unmistakably Christian." Tickets: $6.
Sunday evening's band, Rascal Flatts, doesn't really need an introduction. That's because, apparently, its country music show at the Fair is already sold out. These naughty scamps (Jay DeMarcus, Gary LeVox and Joe Don Rooney) have had quite a year so far. Their debut album produced four top 10 singles -- "Prayin' for Daylight," "While You Loved Me," "I'm Movin' On" and "This Everyday Love." They also built a solid rep as a winning live act here in the Inland Northwest through recent regional dates as part of Brooks & amp; Dunn's Neon Circus.
The hoe-down continues on Monday, Sept. 8, with another relative new face in country music, singer/songwriter, Phil Vassar. Vassar's own many hits (including "Just Another Day in Paradise" and "Six-Pack Summer") are just the beginning. He's also penned hits for others high in the country firmament, such as Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, Jo Dee Messina and Collin Raye. Tickets: $8.
Tuesday evening's headliner is none other than Starship, fronted by none other than Mickey Thomas. Starship represents the terminal evolutionary line that began in San Francisco the late '60s with Jefferson Airplane -- that's Jefferson Airplane to Jefferson Starship to Starship -- with original members coming and going (mostly going) with predictable frequency. Spawned in the then-revolutionary Haight Ashbury counterculture swamp, the band grew progressively tamer on its voyage from AOR to MOR to near -- but not quite -- oblivion. Tickets: $8-$10.
Looking for a deal? While big glossy shows by performers in high and not-so-high demand are great, free shows are even better. Thankfully, the fair organizers have gone overboard in scheduling gobs of live music for every taste that won't cost you anything more than the price of your fair admission. For instance, local funk/reggae/rock favorites Civilized Animal hold court with two shows on Friday (9/5) and Sunday (9/7) afternoons at 2 pm and 4:15 pm. They'll be back for multiple shows next weekend (9/12-13) as well. Also recommended is Spokane's original classic rock band, Vertigo Bliss, on Saturday afternoon (9/6) at 2 pm and 4:30 pm. And the Big Butte Band turns up with two shows next weekend (9/13-14).