by Clint Burgess

Another frigid night found me venturing toward the thriving metropolis of downtown Spokane to make another judgment about the vivacity of the nightlife in our bustling city. At first glance -- and if the lack of parking and abundance of cars littering the streets was any indication of how things are going -- I'd say things are going well.

Final destination this evening: Mootsy's. I love this place. It has such a laid-back atmosphere, and you can always find a good show happening there. It has that "Look what I just stumbled upon and isn't it cool?" feel about it. Show posters adorn the wall behind the performance area like prehistoric cave paintings as evidence of the many nights of rock 'n' roll gone past. My only complaint is the lack of seating, but that is almost made up for by the ultra-swanky balcony lounge in the back.

There were plenty of patrons on hand this night to keep Mootsy's jumpin' and plenty of drinks flowin' to keep everybody feeling good. The crowd varied from college kids to those who are no longer kids and everything in between. The scene was refreshingly non-threatening, with a niche for anyone who enjoys good music and good company.

The night's entertainment was provided by the Aaron Richner Band. The band's namesake was cutting his teeth on blues standards in his mid-teens -- and was impressive then. Now at the advanced age of 20, Richner has improved vastly, and together with the rest of the group puts on a terrific live show. The band provided the perfect blend of groove-heavy blues to pack the dance floor with gyrating bodies. Aptly backed by drums, bass and Richner's old man on keys, the group more than lived up to its reputation as one of the region's premier blues acts.

The quartet scorched, with each member delivering impressive chops and stellar timing. Richner's vocal delivery, reminiscent of his obvious influence, Stevie Ray Vaughn, was beyond his years and earned multiple howls and whistles from the appreciative crowd. Working off this energy, the band whipped into a roof-raising rendition of "Manic Depression" a la Jimi Hendrix -- a crowd-pleaser inspiring at least one public display of air guitar.

One listener, Greg Juelke (formerly of Minneapolis) remarked, "I'm fairly new to the Spokane music scene, but I like what I've seen so far." On the basis of tonight's entertainment alone, I must concur. I'd also recommend the Aaron Richner Band to anyone.

Watch our music section every week as Clint Burgess and other Inlander scenesters check out the local nightlife in "On the Scene."

Publication date: 02/20/03

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