The Festival at Sandpoint kicks off today, running Thursday through Sunday for the next two weeks. That's eight thematically independent nights of music.
Broadway to Bluegrass to Beethoven in 11 days can get confusing, but we'll walk you through it.
Thursday, Aug. 4: "On Broadway" & r & Gary Sheldon and the Spokane Symphony begin the summer's festivities with selections from West Side Story, My Fair Lady and the Who's Tommy. A nice way to start: not too heavy on the classical just yet, settling for familiar tunes that people might know the words to. The likes of Cole Porter and Andrew Lloyd Webber are also on tap. If they start into "Everything's All Right" from Jesus Christ Superstar, look for me in the front row. I'll be holding up my lighter.
Briefly: Come for the Broadway standards; stay to watch snobs question Sheldon's music choices and to see him traded to the London Men's Chorus for a tenor and two first-round draft picks.
Tickets are $27. You'll hear me screaming "play the theme to Starlight Express" promptly at 7:30 pm.
Friday, Aug. 5: Ryan Adams and the Cardinals & r & It only seems like Ryan Adams has been around forever because he's so prolific. He's released six solo albums since late 2000. His latest, Cold Roses, is a double disc, and he has two more albums already finished, awaiting release later this year when marketing conditions are favorable. That's eight -- and his influential alt-country band, Whiskeytown, released its final LP just months before his solo debut. So that'll make nine albums in less than five years.
He's written some achingly beautiful songs, including "Oh My Sweet Carolina," with Emmylou Harris. He's been nominated for a Grammy and has come close to mainstream success a couple times, once on purpose (2003's "Rock 'n' Roll"), once entirely by accident (he finished shooting a video for "New York, New York" on Sept. 7, 2001, featuring the Trade Center -- which MTV then played relentlessly starting four days later).
His critics, though, suggest that maybe a few of his middle albums could have been pruned and combined to create a better, though smaller, body of work. Many bands can't get out of the studio in three years; there's nothing wrong with giving yourself 12 months to refine something. Cold Roses, for what it's worth, feels like a return to form.
Adams has a reputation for getting angry at audiences and stopping shows mid-song to berate his fans. He cancels more tours than Mariah Carey. See him while you can.
Briefly: Come to hear all your favorite Ryan Adams songs; stay to hear him yell at you for liking the wrong ones.
Tickets are $30. The shouting begins at 7:30 pm.
Saturday, Aug. 6: "Super Bluegrass Saturday" & r & Bluegrass has received a well-deserved resurgence in recent years. Spurred on by newgrass upstarts like Nickel Creek and an obsession with fiddles, banjos and mandolins among certain indie bands, the distinct roots-folk sound of Appalachia is probably as popular today as when family trees first stopped branching.
The evening will be a nice mix of traditional and progressive bluegrass, beginning with the newgrass virtuoso Drew Emmitt and ending with three-time-Grammy-winner Sam Bush, something of a traditionalist, whose work appeared on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
Briefly: Come for the banjo duel from Deliverance; stay for a lesson in a uniquely American art form.
Tickets are $37. What may be the festival's best night begins at 4:30 pm.
Sunday, Aug. 7: Family Concert & r & Gary Sheldon returns with the Spokane Youth Orchestra. This one's for the children. The theme is "Here Come the Bugs!" and, not surprisingly, will feature "The Flight of the Bumblebee."
Kids arriving early will be treated to a "Classical Instrument Petting Zoo," wherein your 5-year-old tries to put various woodwind instruments in his or her nose.
Briefly: Come early to fit your toddler for his or her first multi-thousand-dollar stringed instrument; stay to keep your kids away from the Xbox.
Tickets are $5. The instrument-petting begins at 4:30 pm.
Thursday, Aug. 11: The Be Good Tanyas & r & Adding a "The" to the beginning of your band name is very much in keeping with the zeitgeist. So is mashing up seemingly incompatible genres. That puts The Be Good Tanyas squarely on Hip Street, in my book. They're apparently an all-girl trio who play "haunting, rustic, ambient" Goth-folk. I'm imagining Joy Division and Joan Baez, and I'm not sure what that means.
They will be preceded by a microbrew tasting and will be followed by Celtic fiddling sensation Natalie McMaster, who can reportedly move her body to the music while she plays.
Briefly: Come to hear a totally new collision of genres; stay to watch a fiddler dance.
Tickets are $27. We all find out what Goth-folk is at 7:30 pm.
Friday, Aug. 12: Ronnie Milsap & r & He basically conquered everything Nashville had to conquer during the '70s and '80s by merging country with pop. He's had 40 No. 1 songs. I'm not a historian of the era, but I suspect Ronnie Milsap rose to mainstream popularity on the same wave that saw John Travolta riding mechanical bulls and beating his girlfriend up and down our nation's cineplexes in Urban Cowboy. That's not Ronnie's fault, though.
Having previously fused country with pop, blues and R & amp;B, his sights are now rumored to be set on jazz. If we're lucky, we'll get to hear how Coltrane sounds on a pedal steel.
Briefly: Come for some good old-fashioned '70s pop-country; stay to hear "My Funny Valentine" sung in a twangy North Carolinian drawl.
Tickets are $30. An evening of cross-over chart-topping begins at 7:30 pm.
Saturday, Aug. 13: "Super Salsa Saturday" & r & Despite sounding like a Se & ntilde;or Froggy's promotion, this could be a good time. Rolando Morales and his band open for Grammy winner Poncho Sanchez and his sultry, funky Latin sound.
Briefly: Come for the Afro-Cuban rhythms; stay to see what happens when thousands of people hear salsa outside the bleary-eyed context of margaritas and sweaty dancehalls.
Tickets are $30. Your soul will be set alight at 4:30 pm.
Sunday, Aug. 14: "Bravo Beethoven!" & r & Gary Sheldon makes his third appearance, and this one's for the pre-teens. The Symphony is returning as well, and if you have fifth-graders -- or if you are a fifth-grader -- you get three free tickets to the show (two adults and one child) as part of the Fifth-Grade Music Outreach Program. Band kids and their parents will spend exactly nothing to enjoy a night of Beethoven and fireworks.
If you don't have adolescent children, inoculate yourself against their evils with the free wine tasting beforehand. Then, head straight to the beer garden.
Briefly: Come early to pass out through all the fidgety 11-year-olds with their snare drums and rapidly changing bodies; stay for the Beethoven.
Concert Tickets are $30 for adults, $10 for people under 18 years of age (not counting fifth-graders and their parents, who get in free). Start your pre-func way before 4:30 pm.
For ticket purchases, visit www.festivalatsandpoint.com or call (800) 325-SEAT.