by Clint Burgess

As coffeehouses go, they don't get any more unusual than the Shop. Once a mechanics' garage, this eclectic space has now been converted to one of the more interesting venues to catch off-beat and underground performances as well as to satisfy even the most hardy of caffeine appetites.

It was this mixture of music and mochas that brought about 25 people out to the Shop for a taste of sounds from the West Side of the state. Show-goers were served up a double-shot of bare-bones performance by the Brothers Blau, featuring Karl Blau and the severely aloof Dennis Driscoll. The two acts were fresh off performances at an anti-war rally at Western Washington University and brought peaceful energy with them to the show.

Dennis Driscoll opened the festivities with a stripped-down performance consisting of himself on a nylon string guitar and a notebook full of scribbled lyrics. It didn't take long to realize two things about Driscoll: He is an amazing songwriter and a complete paradox. His utterly timid and bashful stage presence was completely at odds with the entire concept of playing in front of people. But there was a certain sense of invitation and rawness that was incredibly captivating. Driscoll's public interpretation of the very private process of song writing was mesmerizing. The material itself was reminiscent of poppy tunes from the '50s and '60s but hidden away amid solitary strums of the classical guitar and masked by Driscoll's lovely upper-register vocal delivery.

Following Dennis Driscoll were the amusing, quirky guitar duo, the Brothers Blau, who graced the stage with energetic eagerness. The Brothers bent musical genres and themes effortlessly, allowing the songs to convey the ideas and concepts that shaped their personas. For example, Karl Blau stated at one point that the brothers came from an oyster industry background -- a background (he felt) that profoundly and positively influenced their songwriting. I didn't readily see the connection between oysters and lyrical greatness, but metaphorically I suppose there's got to be something there. Their performance slithered with mellow ease and then blazed into clamoring, overdriven guitar crescendos complimented by more-than-capable vocal harmonies. Hints of surf, blues and roots rock music all surfaced during the performance and, to the credit of the Brothers Blau, melded flawlessly.

While the duo entertained me, I was truly impressed by Dennis Driscoll. He also gets the quote of the evening with an impeccably timed, "So, anyway."

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

Northwest Winterfest @ Spokane County Fair & Expo Center

Fridays, 5-8 p.m., Saturdays, 4-8 p.m. and Sundays, 3-6 p.m. Continues through Jan. 1
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