by Mike Corrigan

& quot;Hey man, are you going to that Makers show at the Dipper on Monday?" "Yeah, I think so. The opening bands look pretty good, too."

"Cool. I guess I'll see you there." "Yeah. Later." How long has it been since you were involved in -- or overheard -- a conversation like that one? Back in the day (and by back in the day, I mean the early '90s), THE BIG DIPPER was the center of the local alt-rock universe, a rock club where local bands trading headlining slots with quality national acts was a regular thing. Though we all had similar gripes about the music scene in Spokane then as we do today, it seems we could always count on the Dipper to feature something of at least moderate interest on a weekly basis.

This New Year's Eve, the Big Dipper will rock again, albeit under a slightly altered game plan. Musically, the show will be a homecoming for a group of local musicians and scenesters that used to frequent the Dipper in its heyday. The evening's lineup includes Bonneville, Burns Like Hellfire, Seawolf and the Makers. The difference is in the details. It's being billed as a private party -- one to which everyone in town is invited. Beer will not be served (the Dipper taps are still dry), but you may bring your own. Yep, it's BYOB.

The show was organized by Burns Like Hellfire guitarist and vocalist Brian Young, who saw a woefully underused club, a bunch of musician friends with no place to play and a night that screamed out for some kind of action. He decided to make a tenuous step into the shadowy world of rock promotion. But if the New Year's Eve party is a hit, Young says he may consider setting up Big Dipper shows on a more regular basis.

"It's for rent," he says. "So in the future, whenever I can put a good bill together, you know, I'll consider it. That is, if this one goes off good. If this turns out to be a pain and things rub me the wrong way, then it's going to be, well, screw it. But if everybody shows up and has a good time and it just generally goes off well, then there's no reason why we shouldn't be using the Big Dipper to do something just like this."

Young has been an integral member of the local music scene for years -- as a club patron and, more significantly, as a component of a number of significant local bands. His current project, Burns Like Hellfire, has been lighting up local stages off and on for the past five years. For the past eight months, the lineup has consisted of Young, bassist Bill Barrington (ex-Nice World) and one of the most solid drummers in town (for, like, the past decade) Cameron Norton. Burns Like Hellfire serves an alt-country tonic that relies a bit more on crunch than twang.

"It's rooted in the country-rock vein," explains Young. "But I'm such a Pixies/Ramones kind of guy that it's always going to end up really loud and really, pretty weird. A lot of natural twang comes out, and I can't help that. But I've just never been able to go full bore into the alt-country thing. I'm a little scared of it."

Headlining the show will be Sub Pop recording artists and Spokane natives the Makers, preceded by art punk power trio Seawolf, Burns Like Hellfire and shiny new alt-country quartet Bonneville (Young describes Bonneville as, "Wilco meets Steve Earle with maybe a little Gas Huffer in there").

Anyone with an open Dec. 31 on their calendar and fond memories of the Big Dipper should definitely consider this New Year's shindig. Young has even worked out a deal with the owners of the Downtowner Motel next door to the Dipper whereby, in exchange for their much-appreciated tolerance, he will encourage participating bands and show attendees to score overnight lodging there.

"I know a few of the bands are going to be doing that. One, it helps the show and two, it's going to be a lot safer way to go.

"Plus," he says, "I get the feeling this is going to be an all-nighter."

The Makers, Seawolf, Burns Like Hellfire and Bonneville ring in the New Year with a party at the Big Dipper on Monday, Dec. 31, starting at 9 pm. Tickets: $10 in advance at Shangri-La, Boo Radley's and 4,000 Holes; $12, at the door. BYOB. Call: 325-1914.

Spokatopia @ Camp Sekani

Sat., Sept. 18, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
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