by Mike Corrigan

Representing perhaps the most profound mismatch in Inland Northwest concert history, local group 10 MINUTES DOWN will open for Paleolithic hard rock beast BLUE OYSTER CULT next Wednesday night at the Cotton Club in Hayden. Strange? Yes. Entertaining? How could it possibly be otherwise?

For as astounded as you might be -- I was -- over the unorthodox pairing of a spry local ska band with an aging metal behemoth, just imagine what the guys in 10 Minutes Down are dealing with.

"I was trying to come up with a great story last night," begins 10 Minutes Down's Ted Teske. "But basically what happened was this. Remember a few moths ago when Hells Belles played out at the Cotton Club? Well, we got a call the day of the show from the promoter saying he needed an opening act. Unfortunately, we had another show that day, so we couldn't do it. After our show, a few of us went over there to that show and met the promoter, and at that time, he made mention of the fact that he was going to bring Blue Oyster Cult in. Well, we really hadn't heard anything from them in awhile, and then about a week-and-a-half ago we got a phone call from him asking us if we'd like to open up the show. I guess he listened to our CD and still thought it was a good idea."

A high energy, seven-piece ska/rock outfit from Spokane, 10 Minutes Down is comprised of Teske (trombone, vocals), Worlando Mangrobang (trombone, vocals), Sean McKenzie (trumpet), Bill Weeks (trumpet), Robbie Daytona (guitar, vocals), Kyle Bradshaw (bass) and Jon Farley (drums). In just over four years as a unit, 10MD has risen to the top ranks of the local scene. They've released two CDs in the process (they're currently working on number three) and have made a name for themselves regionally as a regular feature of the annual Gorge stop of the Van's Warped Tour.

But for all their success, the opportunity to reach out to metal fans has been elusive. Until now, that is.

"This is just another opportunity for us to get in there and get in front of an audience that otherwise would never hear us," says Teske. "So we think it's awesome. I mean, we opened for Sir Mix-a-Lot last summer, and we thought that was a weird pairing."

Blue Oyster Cult, on the other hand, has been a hard rock institution since the early '70s. Though they've seen their share of creative and commercial success and failure, popularity wax-and-wane and enough lineup changes to make their collective heads spin (you could form three or four complete bands out of ex-members), the core of the group has toured successfully -- and essentially nonstop -- for almost 30 years.

The embryo that would eventually become BOC began stirring in the late '60s near SUNY Stony Brook on Long Island. There, two future rock critics (Sandy Pearlman and Richard Meltzer) brought together a group of local musicians (initially dubbed Soft White Underbelly) to gig around New York and hopefully attract label attention. It would take three years, numerous name and lineup changes and a couple of failed attempts at making a record (with Elektra) before what most fans know as the classic BOC lineup (with Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser on guitar, Eric Bloom on guitar and vocals and Allen Lanier on keyboards) fell into line. Under the banner Blue Oyster Cult, the band landed a deal with Columbia and released its first album in 1972.

The new name, together with BOC's dark, brooding songwriting style and eerie album cover art (featuring the now familiar hook-and-cross logo) bestowed upon the band an enigmatic and decadent mystique that served them well in the early years of heavy metal. Their fourth album, Agents of Fortune, released in 1976, thrust BOC into the mainstream consciousness on the wings of the chart-topping single, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," which (for better or worse) became the group's signature tune. The song (an ode to death, if not suicide) fit perfectly into BOC's purposefully sinister image, while its ringing guitars, mid-tempo beat and reverb-drenched vocals made it palatable for mass appeal.

Subsequent hits (including "Godzilla" and "Burnin' For You"), a major contribution to the movie Heavy Metal and the introduction of lasers into arena rock solidified Blue Oyster Cult's status as a "must-see" '70s heavy rock act.

"I mentioned the show to my parents and they couldn't believe it," Teske says. "First of all, that BOC is still around and then that, of all the bands in the world, we're going to play with them."

With the novelty of the bill subsiding, Teske and his band mates are in full anticipation mode, looking forward to a new challenge -- that is, winning the respect of Blue Oyster Cult's ever-faithful minions.

"I really don't know what to expect," he admits. "I'm just interested in meeting the guys and seeing what 30 years of touring will do to a person. Blue Oyster Cult are complete road warriors, and I'm sure we're gonna see a show. That's something we always pride ourselves on, but I'm sure these guys are going to pull something out that's just going to be really polished and cool."

Borrowing slightly (okay, a lot) from the Who's soundtrack album to The Kids Are Alright, the cover art of the CLUMSY LOVERS' new CD, Under the Covers, finds the north of the border Celtic/bluegrass/folk/rock quintet huddled together and sleeping peacefully under the Canadian flag. Fitting, I suppose, since on the album's dozen tracks feature the Clumsy Lovers' eccentric spin on tunes ranging from the Pogue's "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" to the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" -- with a take on Zeppelin and Skynyrd to boot. That's right, Under the Covers is a covers album, chock-full of the stuff the band pulls out live on those rare occasions when all else fails and the audience is drifting off or, worse, calling for their blood.

And the CD release tour for Under the Covers has begun. This leg of the tour will give Inland Northwesterners multiple chances to see the highly entertaining Clumsy Lovers as they charm, rock, roll, incite dancing fever and fend off attacks. Thursday night, the band will squeeze their amps, guitars, banjos and fiddles into Mootsy's. On Friday and Saturday nights, they pull a two-nighter at John's Alley in Moscow. On Wednesday, the group will make a stop at Capone's in Coeur d'Alene before heading east for gigs in Butte and Bozeman.

Here they come again. Catch them if you can.

American Inheritance: Unpacking World War II @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through May 23
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