Spokane bids a fond farewell to an unsung underground hero

by Mike Corrigan & & stuff & & & &

TERRY GROB never wanted to be a rock promoter. But that's what he became. The job just sort of fell into his lap. And Spokane's punk scene is healthy today because of it. During his decade-long tenure, Grob helped rouse the lethargic Spokane underground with shows by the likes of Mudhoney, NoFX, Beat Happening, Nomeansno, Gas Huffer and the Reverend Horton Heat. He also helped to nurture several local bands, the Fumes, Motherload, Velvet Pelvis and the Young Brians to name but a few.

Terry Grob died last week of a massive seizure, the result of a lingering medical condition. There will be a memorial shindig at the Big Dipper this Saturday beginning at 6 pm. There, the people who knew Terry best will gather to celebrate his life with a little music, some beer and (I'm sure) a few tall tales.

Gruff, somewhat deficient in traditional people skills and frequently drawing the ire of local law enforcement officials, Grob nevertheless was the most tireless, dedicated supporter of punk rock this burgh has ever seen. Or likely will ever see again. He co-established one of Spokane's last great all-ages rock venues, Club Pompeii, and booked hundreds of high-energy shows into such local clubs as the Big Dipper, Mother's and Ichabod's North. Besides lining up (and often housing) the musical acts, Grob made and distributed the flyers and acted as doorman. Grob booked bands into area clubs out of passion for the music and disdain for the "can't do" attitude gripping Spokane. He sure wasn't in it for the money (there was -- and still is -- none) or the glory (what's that?). He truly seemed devoted to the bands, the music and, despite his cynicism over the state of local conditions, appeared to believe deep down that what he was doing could, just maybe, help turn things around.

He would often tell me that he had promoted his last show, that he was finally going to pack it in, that he wasn't making any money and that it was killing him. But then, there he'd be the next weekend down at Ichabod's, in a corner with his arms crossed and a knowing grin on his face, nodding with the quiet realization that this show he was enjoying wouldn't have happened were it not for his involvement.

Many knew him simply as the guy in the combat boots, black shorts, bicycle hat and horn-rimmed glasses handling the door money. But he was much more. And the void left by his departure has yet to be filled.

Grob moved to Portland early this year and was employed once again booking bands into a local club. He was found dead in his room after attending a Sept. 2 show. He was 42 years old. I received a call from a friend on Labor Day filling me in on the bad news. This past week, my e-mail box at work and at home has been jammed with snippets of his life and death sprinkled with fond remembrances from friends all over the Northwest.

"Terry gave us almost every show we ever played," recalls Cyre Par of Velvet Pelvis. "And his opinion was the only one we ever really cared about. We knew that no matter what we did, or how badly we played, he was just happy to see us on stage doing what we loved."

Rob Heyenrath of the Fumes puts it this way: "He did a lot for Spokane and punk rock music. A lot more than people will ever realize. He pretty much dedicated his life to making sure good music existed here. He was sarcastic as hell but never failed to make me laugh. I'll never forget him."

"Terry worked very hard, unselfishly, here in Spokane over the years to bring a lot of people together," says Jon Swanstrom of Seawolf and the Flies, "creating this large family of friends that will stick together in one way or another for the rest of their lives."

The true measure of any person lies in the number and quality of friends he leaves behind. I didn't know Terry very well on a personal level. We had a friendly, though predominantly business, relationship. I know there are those out there that could tell his story much better than I. But I know I speak for a hell of a lot of good people when I say: We'll miss ya, Terry. And thanks.

The memorial for Terry Grob will be held at the Big Dipper Tavern, 171 S. Washington on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 6 pm. Call: 747-8036.

True Survivors

THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS have more in common than shared billing at this Tuesday night show at the Arena. Both groups are a study in survival. Studies infinitely more vivid and compelling than any contrived attempt by network television.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers is no corporate concoction but four guys who exist as a unit because they get off on making music together. Formed almost two full decades ago by high school chums, singer Anthony Kiedis and bassist Michael Balzary (a.k.a. Flea), RHCP have endured numerous lineup changes, bouts with substance abuse and the death of a founding member to become one of the most influential acts in modern rock.

The band's 1984 debut and the one that followed, though packed with the Pepper's trademark high-energy thrash-funk-rock mayhem, were commercially unsuccessful. In spite of this, the band was able to build a loyal following on the reputation of its incendiary (and frequently hilarious) live performances. With the release of its third album, the group's fortunes seemed to be improving. It was a perfectly terrible moment for disaster to strike. Kiedis and guitarist Hillel Slovak had been trying to kick a growing dependence on heroin when in 1988, Slovak succumbed to his addiction with an overdose. To avoid the same fate, Kiedis entered rehab. Drummer Jack Irons left in confusion. The future of the band was in serious question.

Two years later, Flea and a cleaned-up Kiedis were back with new guitarist John Fruciante and new drummer, Chad Smith. The resulting two albums, 1989's Mother's Milk and 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik were big, butt-shaking hits, and the Peppers found themselves at once squarely in the public eye and at the forefront of the alternative rock revolution.

But then, just before the group was to headline the 1992 Lollapalooza tour, Fruciante walked out and began his own descent into heroin addiction (he was replaced by a series of guitarists, most notably ex-Jane's Addiction axeman, David Navarro). The group recorded one album with Navarro before a post-rehab Fruciante returned to the Chili Peppers family.

With the more or less "classic" lineup back and in top form, the band recorded its latest, Californication, and hit the road. They've essentially toured non-stop ever since. Fans can only keep their fingers crossed as the Peppers forge ahead.

The Stone Temple Pilots have seen their share of troubles as well. Initially despised by critics for allegedly (well, pretty obviously) co-opting the Seattle sound of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, and transforming it into a '90s version of arena rock, the band has, from the beginning, had to scramble for respect among the alt-rock elite. But STP has done much to dispel the "clone band" tag by exhibiting a willingness and ability to branch out stylistically. With each release, the band manages to evolve, even distinguishing itself. But unlike the Chili Peppers, the troubles experienced by the Stone Temple Pilots seem to swirl solely around frontman Scott Weiland and his apparent inability to steer clear of rock's more obvious vices.

The band's future was held in stasis in 1995 when Weiland was busted for heroin possession and was ordered into rehab. He was released in time for the group to record its third album but soon relapsed and again entered treatment, squashing plans for the album's supporting summer tour.

Just when everyone was ready to write them off for good, STP (with Weiland back in the commander's seat) came thundering back. With jail time stemming from a probation violation looming, Weiland helped pen the songs for last year's No. 4, arguably the strongest entry in the band's discography. Released again early this year from L.A. County's rehab lockup, Weiland appears ready to pick up the pieces of his band's shattered and stalled success and move forward. The group is planning to enter the studio in November to begin work on No.4's successor. Has Weiland stepped away from the drug roller coaster for the last time? Can STP fans once again rest easy? Wait a few months and ask me again.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers with Stone Temple Pilots and Fishbone play at the Spokane Arena Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 7:30 pm. Tickets: $35. Call: 325-SEAT.

Rodeo Man

CHRIS LEDOUX doesn't don the white hat and cowboy boots as a marketing gimmick -- he does it because that's who he is. Here's one country music performer who walks it like he talks it (or in LeDoux's case, sings it). He's from the old school, where substance matters a heck of a lot more than style. He brings his authentic cowboy songs to the Coeur d'Alene Tribal Casino on Thursday, Sept. 21.

Born in Biloxi, Miss., LeDoux moved with his family to Austin, Texas, at the age of 12 and began a rodeo career that would lead to his being named Intercollegiate National Bareback Riding Champion, and ultimately, World Champion Bareback Rider in 1976. He wrote his first few rodeo songs -- "Bareback Jack" and "Rodeo Life" among them -- while on the professional rodeo circuit.

He left the dirt ring in 1980 for a stab at the stage. He began modestly in a basement studio, eventually eliciting the help of some of Nashville's best session players for the recording of his debut album released on the small Lucky Man label. His career since then has been a textbook example of slow but steady grassroots success. After roughly two dozen albums for various independent labels, LeDoux was tapped for wider exposure and greater success by none other than Garth Brooks, a longtime friend. His duet with Brooks on the title track from the 1992 album Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy resulted in a Top 10 hit.

Now residing at Capitol Records, LeDoux's entire back catalog is again available along with such recent, successful outings as 1994's Haywire, 1996's Stampede and 1998's One Road Man. His current album, entitled simply, Cowboy, is a collection of rerecorded songs from his early career. It's full of LeDoux's characteristically romanticized visions of the rodeo cowboy as renegade -- free, individualistic and ultimately, untamed.

Chris LeDoux performs at the Coeur d'Alene Casino on Thursday, September 21, at 7 pm. Tickets: $20-$35. Call: 325-SEAT.

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