& & by Mike Corrigan & & & &

No, it's not a gala for hoity-toity society girls (though that was the first thing that shot into my mind when I saw the press release). It's not an aristocratic but an artistic coming out. THE DEBUTANTE BALL, which benefits Debut For The Arts Scholarships, will feature four of Spokane's top musical acts including Sweet Fancy Moses, the Panics, Celtic Nots and Tiana Gregg. It all happens at The Met on Saturday.

Each year, the Debut For The Arts organization awards scholarships to deserving local high school seniors with an interest in the arts and arts education. The scholarships are open to all Spokane County high school seniors who are eligible for graduation in June 2001. (Applications are available through school guidance counselors and may also be requested through mail.) The two $1,000 scholarship winners will be announced prior to the performance of Ballet Folklorico "Quetzalli" de Veracruz at the Fox Theater on April 26.

"The star of the show is the performing arts scholarship," says event organizer Wayne Larson. "In the past, we've given away one scholarship per year. This year we will be giving two."

As far as the lineup for the Debutante Ball, Larson admits that a benefit show spotlighting local talent is long overdue.

"We usually do world, international music and culturally diverse attractions. And one of the comments we've had about the series is that we haven't presented more local and regional artists. There are a lot of local and regional bands who want to be a part of the debut series, so getting the musicians involved was easy."

The show format will be split acoustic/electric. The first part will feature the folk and world sensibilities of Tiana and the Celtic Nots. After the intermission, things will get electric with Sweet Fancy Moses and the Panics kicking out the jams.

Tiana Gregg, Spokane's favorite folk-rock grrrl and irrepressible former host of the Blue Spark's open mike night, has been more or less absent from local stages for the past year, having temporarily traded in her six-string for the joys and trials of motherhood.

The Celtic Nots have undergone a few changes lately as well. With founding member James Hunter (vocals, flutes and whistles) living overseas for a while, the rest of the group -- Nigel Elliott (bodhran, djembe, vocals) and Carlos Alden (guitar, cittern, banjo, vocals) -- have formed a new performing unit (dubbed "Celtano") with the addition of classically trained violinist James Laval.

Also coming off a lengthy performance hiatus, Sweet Fancy Moses has spent the better part of the last year writing and recording its fourth full-length album, entitled Shadows. Fans will notice that Derek Neu (who also pounds the skins for Jupiter Effect) has joined Mike Hermanson (guitar), Robert Kaufman (vocals, guitar) and Mark Kelley (bass), replacing original drummer, Kurt Hoffman.

The Panics with Bob Gallagher (rhythm guitar), Steve Sackett (bass), Mick May (lead guitar) and Greg Kane (drums), are one of Spokane's most enduring roots-rock bands, able to reel off tasty country, folk and classic rock standards as well as top shelf originals with seamless ease.

"The key here is new stuff," says Larson. "Sweet Fancy Moses has a new album coming out, the Celtic Nots are going to be unveiling a new persona, and the Panics are putting together a new set just for this show. The Met is the best venue in town. And this is a good opportunity for the local bands to get out of the bars and into a nice venue and be seen by a different audience. You've got country-rock, you've got alternative rock and world music, so it should be a fun combination of audiences as well as musical styles."

In addition to the performances, Larson says the Debut For The Arts will be hosting an "arts" open house in The Met lobby where attendants can get tuned in to various local arts organizations and projects.

"We'll have some information on the Fox Theater and what's going on with that," he adds. "It's an opportunity for us to use a nice Saturday at a nice venue and have people see what's going on -- not just with the Debut Performing Arts Series but, in general, what's going on in Spokane."

Larson says the real value of events like the Debutante Ball is the cross-pollination and feeling of solidarity that occurs whenever supporters of the arts from various groups in Spokane come together.

"If you look at the sum of the Spokane arts community, it's pretty impressive, but it seems like it is somewhat fragmented. So it's always interesting to see different audiences at these shows. When we bring something like Cubanismo for instance, you bring out the Debut audience, but you also bring out a Latino audience and a world music audience. It's so much fun to see a brand new audience overlap with what I call the NPR-PBS crowd."

For the arts to thrive in Spokane, the arts community must come together and act as a united front to combat the might of apathy and boredom. Larson is hopeful and points to the Fox Theater renovation and the development of the Davenport Arts District as evidence that there are currently positive things afoot in Spokane.

"I'm excited. Suddenly, it's a hip street, something's going on. It's pretty much a selfish attitude on my part, but I want the arts scene to thrive for personal and professional reasons. To have two or three options in one night instead of two or three options in one month would really be nice. We're piecing together a few of the little things. Venues and independent record stores and cool galleries all add up to a viable scene."

The Debutante Ball featuring Sweet Fancy Moses, the Panics, Tiana Gregg and Celtic Nots is

at The Met on Saturday, Jan. 27, at 7:30 pm. Tickets: $10. Call: 325-SEAT.

RAWK at the Big Dipper

The venue that once hosted shows by Mudhoney, the Mekons, the Makers and countless great local bands (not all beginning with the letter "M") is rocking again, albeit on a weekends-only basis and with the ruckus wrapping up before 10 pm.

"Well, yeah, we try," laughs Dale Strom, co-director of RAWK THE INLAND NORTHWEST, a Christian group that has been using the Big Dipper to host monthly all-age rock shows. "It usually works out more like 10:30. We kind of promised the hotel next door because, you know, there are some sound issues..."

Sound issues? At the Big Dipper?

Anyone who has been a scene watcher in Spokane for more than a handful of years knows about the Big Dipper rock club and its unfortunate demise due, largely, to frequent violations of the city's noise ordinance, which kicks in two hours before midnight. Though still bound by the same old rules, owner Steve Spickard has been able to rent the club out to several groups hosting all-age, teen music events that begin early and wrap up before the dreaded hour. It's a rare example of a win-win situation -- one that benefits a sector of our community that is all too often left out in the cold.

Strom and RAWK organizers see the venue and the shows as vital to creating a sense of "scene" among teens in Spokane -- a community of young musicians and young audiences empowered and inspired by music. And though the group is ministry-based, Strom stresses that the show lineups are not at all limited to Christian bands.

"Almost every show we've invited in a band that's not really in any way connected to the Christian scene. We're the sponsors, and we want to have some control here, but we want the kids to feel that this is their scene, something that they can have input in. I want the kids to feel like this is something they want to support so that they're not just coming to the show, they're a part of it."

The show this Saturday will kick off at 7 pm with Paradigm Shift, a five-piece hardcore band composed of bass player Joel Howard, drummer Jon Howard and lead vocalist Tyler Hartford. Next up will be Federation 7, a four-piece modern rock band from the Rathdrum area whose influences include Creed and Phish. The third band is the seven-piece metal band, Broken Paradox, from the Colville area, third place finishers at Bobfest 2000. The band features two female vocalists and has released a 10-track CD entitled The Human Condition. The headlining band is Somette, a three-member female band, composed of Jessica and Janelle Keberle and Traci Baker. Somette also has a CD in local stores and plays alternative pop ala Dave Matthews and Sarah McLachlan.

Despite the fact that RAWK (as a non-profit organization) has struggled a bit financially in the past, Strom says the group is planning to do at least two shows a month.

"We've tried to price the shows at basically break even. We need to be on firm financial footing so that this will continue. I think we're getting there. And I think the scene is building."

The RAWK show featuring Somette, Broken Paradox, Federation 7 and Paradigm Shift is at the Big Dipper on Saturday, Jan. 27, at 7 pm. Tickets: $5. Call: 926-2448.

Outside the studio

College Road Records (which gets my vote for coziest recording studio in town) is hosting a triple -- that's triple -- CD RELEASE PARTY at the Bayou on Friday night featuring three of Spokane's best home-brewed bands. All three recordings were engineered at College Road by Mike Hermanson and will be available in mass quantities at the show.

Spokane fans of Jupiter Effect will finally get the full-lengther they've been pining for. Dan McElfish (guitar, vocals), Derek Neu (drums, vocals) and Armando Arguello (bass, vocals) have returned from the depths of space and time with a 12-song, self-titled disc showcasing the band's intriguingly schizophrenic sound -- one that touches on alt rock, funk, disco and jazz.

The Bone Daddies will present the follow-up to their successful debut (Blowin' My Mind) entitled Black Sun Rising. The blues-based rock band -- Erich Munzner on vocals and guitar, Zach Cooper on drums and Eric Gholson on bass -- feels the new album better showcases their songwriting and varied stylistic approach.

Roots rockers Sweet Fancy Moses have been missing in action from local stages for most of the past two years. But that's not to say they haven't been busy. During 1999, they toured nationally, playing more than 180 dates, and they spent most of 2000 writing and recording new material. The result is Shadows, their fourth full album. The current lineup includes Robert Kaufman, Mark Kelley, Mike Hermanson and Derek Neu.

For Spokane music lovers just waking up from the winter slumber (it's been a long one, hasn't it?) and itching for a healthy dose of something high-octane, live and local, this show has got your name all over it.

& & & lt;i & College Road's Triple CD Release party with Sweet Fancy Moses, the Bone Daddies and Jupiter Effect is at the Bayou Brewing Co. on Friday, Jan. 26, at 9 pm. Cover: $5. Call: 484-4818. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &

Bloomsday 2020 @ Spokane

Through Sept. 27
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