by Mike Corrigan and Allan Sculley

Punk used to be considered revolution rock, outlaw music, something that by its very existence challenged the status quo. It's a real drag that most of the so-called punk you hear today is mere commodity, bought and sold at Hot Topic like so many anarchy patches, spiked wrist bands and other sanctified punk supplies. Punk has been effectively co-opted by corporate America, by the recording industry and by MTV, so that now it is the status quo -- as conservative and as toothless as your grandma. Call me a grouch. Call me old skool. Just don't call me up for a ride to the Simple Plan show.

But you can ring my bell whenever the Dee Farmin Army is on deck (as they will be this Saturday night at Mootsy's with Mang, Six State Bender and Kitten Killers).

"It's punk rock," declares singer Dee Farmin, describing the band's sound with no irony whatsoever. "Loud fast punk rock. Everything I've ever been involved with has been loud fast punk rock. More or less old-school, for lack of a better term."

Farmin (in former, associated projects the Fumes, the East Side Destroyers, et al.) has always opted to draw inspiration from the source: '70s and '80s punk and hardcore -- and that goes for the rest of this squad as well. When you see the Dee Farmin Army stamp of quality, you know what you're getting: the grade-A stuff, with no fillers and none of those damn meat byproducts.

The band -- consisting of Farmin on vocals and fellow Spokane scene vets Duff Evans on drums, Paul Wanker on guitar and Matt Ingerson on bass -- came together about three months ago, as Farmin says, "out of sheer boredom. Actually, I was walking down the street, and I ran into Duff (formerly of local band 50cc), who had just moved back here. He asked me to try out singing for his new band. So I said okay, and now it's my band, I guess."

The name is a cheeky reference to the fact that Dee Farmin is at least as recognizable on the Spokane music scene and among local punks as Pat Smick. ("Pat's my clone," quips Farmin. "Actually, I was cloned from one of his fingernail clippings.") And for good reason. The Fumes (the band he fronted from 1989-99) was one of the best ever to emerge from Spokane and remains one of the most fondly remembered. Maybe it's because a good portion of the Fumes' tenure coincided with a relative golden age in the history of Spokane's underground music scene. Then again, maybe it's just that their ferocious sound and tenacity struck a raw nerve with lovers of 1-2-3-4 rock.

"We took the Fumes pretty far," recalls Farmin. "We did three albums and a butt-load of 45s and compilations. We also did lots of touring -- all over the place. We played SxSW like three times."

And oh, man, there were the fans.

"The Dee Farmin Army was originally the teenage boy fan club for the Fumes," Farmin laughs. "That's where the name came from. There were no girls, it was like four or five 13-to-14-year-old boys, and they used to call me on the phone and make me shirts that said 'DFA' on them. I asked them what it stood for, and they said, 'The Dee Farmin Army.' It was a little creepy at first, but today I'm friends with all of them. We can laugh about it now."

Hard to Handle -- Don't try to put a tag on Lyle Lovett. It would be a waste of your time and would only add to the dunes of drifting labels that have formed behind this distinctive singer/songwriter as he sojourns with eyes focused forward across the vastness of American popular music. He's defiantly tag-proof.

But God knows folks have tried. They tried to hang the country tag on him. The R & amp;B tag. The folk tag. The big band tag. The tag they put on your toe in the morgue. All gone in an instant with a shrug and a crooked, knowing smile. Lovett -- along with his Large Band -- makes an appearance Wednesday night at the Greyhound Park & amp; Event Center in Post Falls.

Lovett first made waves that reached across the genres in the late '80s with thoughtful, literate songs (on albums such as his eponymous 1986 debut and 1989's Pontiac) that ran counter to those ejected like chum from the formulaic hit machine in Nashville. Later collections, like And His Large Band (1989), Joshua Judges Ruth (1992), I Love Everybody (1994) and The Road to Ensenada (1996) -- not to mention his electrifying live performances -- further solidified Lovett's stature as one of the most original performers on the popular fringe. He's managed to maintain his eclectic career with fiercely independent music that continues to appeal both to his devoted cult following (mostly alt-country and rock fans) and to mainstream audiences. A neat trick, that.

The last time this soft-spoken, lanky Texan was in town, he alternately mesmerized and charmed the pants off of a very near-capacity Fox Theater crowd with his wicked, bone-dry wit, genuine warmth and command of nearly every traditional American musical style imaginable: country swing, honky-tonk, folk, jazz and blues.

His most recent release is Smile, a 12-cut compilation of songs Lovett recorded for various films, including "You've Got a Friend in Me" (with Randy Newman) from Toy Story, "Walking Tall" from Stuart Little, and Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" from 1994's With Honors.

Curiously, he hasn't laid any original material on us since The Road to Ensenada. Which is kind of a shame, since we generally love his tall tales and the way he can delicately break a heart. -- Mike Corrigan

Smacks of Survival -- For a modern rock band, the third record is key. Assuming there's no sophomore slump with the second effort, a successful third album proves that a band has what it takes to be a career act, that it will continue to grow with each successive album.

For Godsmack, facing its third CD presented an even more critical question -- survival.

"We went into it very aware of saying this experience is going to make us tighter than we've ever been or it's going to break us up," says Sully Erna, front man for the Boston-based band, which plays the Spokane Arena Friday night.

It didn't take long for Erna and his bandmates to get their answer after moving into a rented house in Miami to begin writing and rehearsing for their latest, Faceless.

"We woke up every day and we had breakfast, and we'd hit the gym together and we'd go to the studio and just write until we couldn't think of anything anymore," Erna says. "Then we'd go home and play video games or watch a movie, or go out to a club or whatever. Then we'd get up the next day and we'd do it all over again. It was really a beautiful experience."

Three years ago, the idea of Godsmack living in a house together, much less getting along well enough to be productive for the six months it took to write and demo Faceless, would have been unthinkable.

During the making of the band's second album, the 2000 release Awake, life in the band was anything but peaceful -- a fact that Erna says was reflected in the dark and agitated mood of the album.

"The band was being a bit rough with each other at the time. We were going through that after-the-honeymoon stage. And [the label owners] were really working us to death out there. So between drinking and hangovers and arguing and being overworked, we became like robots. We were on auto-pilot."

The band survived the Awake tour -- although not unscathed. After coming off the road, Godsmack parted ways with original drummer Tommy Stewart. He was replaced by Shannon Larkin, who had played previously with Ugly Kid Joe.

After the turmoil of the Awake tour, the band members realized that they needed time off before they could return to the studio.

"We went home to our families and friends," says Erna. "We got to spend some time and straighten our lives out."

During this period, Erna was picked to produce the soundtrack for the movie The Scorpion King. A Godsmack song recorded for the film, "I Stand Alone," became a major hit. The song also served as a commercial springboard for Faceless. When the band released the lead single, "Straight out of Line," the song quickly shot up the charts, enabling Faceless to debut at No. 1 on Billboard's album chart.

On a creative level, "I Stand Alone" also opened some new musical avenues for Godsmack to explore.

Though Faceless retains much of Godsmack's signature sound (gritty, bottom-heavy, riff-filled metal), Erna and his bandmates have injected a large dose of melody into songs such as "Make Me Believe," "Re-align" and "Faceless."

"'I Stand Alone' broke open a new vein for us, and it's a new way to go with this record," says Erna. "I wanted it to be a little bit more musical and a little bit more melodic. That's kind of what came out. It was also really important that I wasn't influenced by anything that was out today. So we isolated ourselves in the Miami house, and for six months we just wrote music and recorded. I didn't listen to MTV or the radio or whatever, because I wanted this record to be as pure as possible." -- Alan Sculley

Publication date: 06/19/03

Spokane Symphony: The Nutcracker with State Street Ballet @ Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox

Sun., Dec. 5, 2 p.m.
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