The Best First Night Ever

by DOUG NADVORNICK, MICK LLOYD-OWEN, JOEL SMITH, MICHAEL BOWEN, RACHEL SIEMENS and TAMMY MARSHALL & r & & r & ITINERARY: Variety & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & must confess something. I've never attended First Night, except for the year I went to see my daughter dance and snuck into the Lewis and Clark High School Auditorium with my wife's badge and then went home.

This year I vow to be legal about it and soak up as much culture as I can. My goal is to attend at least one event in each of the basic genres: music, dance, visual art, film and theater.

I'll start at The Inlander office on Riverside at 7, and walk across the street to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes for some holiday inspiration from Verne Windham's Spokane Youth Orchestra and Spokane Area Children's Chorus. Sitting in a majestic setting like that with the voices of angels around me is bound to be quite an experience.

Around 7:30 I'll sneak out -- humming -- and walk two blocks to CenterStage for the 8 pm cabaret variety show with comedian Dan Cummins and singer Leslie Grove. I figure there's going to be a line, so I'll try to get there early.

When the show ends, maybe a little before 9, I'll head downstairs and then next door to the Goodworks Gallery, where I'll pop in for a quick look. Then I'll walk up Monroe to Conexion Del Tango for a quick tango lesson.

By now it's 9:30 and I'll need a little refreshment to keep me going so I'll walk to River Park Square to buy a smoothie at Ben and Jerry's, then wander over to the Kress Gallery to enjoy part of StageWest Community Theater's one-act comic mystery, "Remedial Surveillance."

A little after 10, I plan to duck out of that and walk across the street to catch a few of the five-minute movies submitted for the 48-Hour Film Festival in the City Council Chambers. By now it's about 10:30 and I'm ready for my last stop, the DoubleTree Hotel Ballroom to listen to Tuxedo Junction.

First, though, I'll make a short stop at the Runner's Meadow in Riverfront Park to watch a few minutes of the Ski and Snowboard Rail Contest. When I'm sufficiently chilled, I'll head east for the 10-minute walk to the hotel.

Once inside, I'll find a seat and listen, tapping my toes and watching people dance. By 11:30 my eyes will be drooping, so I'll head out into the cold and head back to my car, skipping the closing fireworks, satisfied that I've made the most of my First Night. (DN)

Kids' Night

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n keeping with this year's First Night theme -- "As If by Magic" -- little fingers will have a chance to dabble in some crafts of their own as the old year disappears in a puff of smoke to make way for the new. Starting at 3 pm, Avista Kids Night Out, in the Group Health Exhibit Hall of the Spokane Convention Center, promises music, comedy, dance and sleight-of-hand for youngsters, as well as the opportunity to make some neat stuff.

Kids can contribute their artistic talents to the giant Chinese dragon that will be displayed on Main Avenue for the remainder of the night, and they'll customize their own magical robes, masks and amulets to wear in the Children's Masquerade Parade from the Convention Center to Riverfront Park (6 pm). And because no parade is complete without drums, they'll get so make some and learn some grooves courtesy of Rhythm Envy.

Entertainment on two stages begins with the "idiosyncratic and quirky" humor of Chickee and Boom Boom, a comedy duo from Seattle. Megan Hulsey, associate director of First Night, describes their act as "a wacky, Lucy-and-Ethyl-meets-Laverne-and-Shirley type thing that kids really like."

The Rainbow Fiddle Kids -- a children's old-time fiddle group -- will also perform. Veteran illusionist and entertainer Matthew Van Zee will emcee the event, and Seattle magician and comedian Louie Foxx will perform a couple of shows designed to appeal to the whole family. Foxx has authored several books on stage magic and was once voted Best Stage Magician and Best Close Up Magician by the Society of American Magicians.

At 5 pm, Brothers From Different Mothers, a Seattle-based comedic juggling duo, will take the stage. They boast an entry in Guinness World Records for "most consecutive eclipses with a footbag" under adverse conditions in France. The curious are invited to check out page 227 of the 2007 edition for more information.

An elaborately costumed Ballet Arts Academy will present two short Children's Theatre Ballet performances on the main stage and children's entertainer Eric Herman will perform with his Invisible Band. Herman's award-winning music has been featured on PBS Kids and Fox News and his "Elephant Song" video on YouTube has been viewed more than a million times.

Kids can look forward to fire appearing "as if by magic" and an early fireworks show presented by the Spokane Tribe of Indians at approximately 6:30 pm. Activities are free for kids younger than 10 who are accompanied by button-wearing adults. (ML)

One-Stop Shopping at the Masonic Center

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & or most people, part of the fun of First Night is simply in walking around downtown and seeing what's happening. There's a show at the Fox, a drum corps on the corner, a band down the street, two frozen mimes outside the mall, movies in the city council chambers. With so much going on, attention spans are generally short and people feel reluctant to stay in one place.

But we have a suggestion for those who really want to stay in one place, or whose limited physical mobility precludes them from skipping across town to do Five-O grinds on the snowboard rails at the carousel: the Masonic Center. The century-old, labyrinthine castle of a building will be staging events in five different venues throughout the night, from the elegant 700-head ballroom to the smaller, almost parliament-like Blue Room (which, to be fair, isn't actually blue).

The latter (so called for the Masonic Blue Lodges that meet there) will host performing and visual artists from Newport all night. We don't know much more than that. Should be a grab bag. But if you get tired of that famous Pend Oreille County sound, head to the ballroom, which features Spokane blues trio Keeler, Melvin and Morse pulling an impressive all-nighter (probably best to catch them early in the night, before they get rummy).

In the check-floored Commandery Room all night is long-form improv comedy from the players at Blue Door Theatre -- the company that spawned Web phenoms Barats and Bereta. The chic Falls Room -- the building's penthouse, with a balcony overlooking the river -- hosts Generations, Sandpoint's renowned cover rock band.

But wait, there's more. The massive, 1,450-seat auditorium will host the BASIC Gospel Choir (performing with the Fairchild gospel choir and led by vocalist Elisha Mitchell) until 9 pm, followed by Global Heat, an acid jazz/hip-hop/funk group from Seattle that's led by someone called "The Professor," the band's emcee and break dancer. They'll push the bottom end until the ball drops at midnight.

Mix and match without ever leaving the temple. A little folk, a little gospel, some improv comedy. What are you in the mood for? And where else do you have to be? (JS)

ITINERARY: Highlights

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & tart by catching a few minutes of one of the most unique First Night acts, Deborah's Jump Rope Academy in the atrium of River Park Square.

Leave early -- feeling thoroughly energetic -- and walk two blocks to hear the Spokane Symphony Orchestra perform at the Fox Theatre from 7:30-8:10 pm. Morihiko Nakahara will conduct music of Rossini, Bach and Strauss, along with portions of Stravinsky's Firebird and "Fanfare for the Fox," written by Eckart Preu's brother Hans-Peter.

Then walk across First Avenue to browse three art galleries: Artisan Wares, Avenue West and Goodworks.

By 9 pm, wander over four blocks to the second floor of the STA Plaza to catch Ben Preslee Klein -- who, at the Ultimate Elvis Competition in Memphis, Tenn., in August, was selected as "the fifth-greatest Elvis impersonator in the world."

Or, if you're hungry, there are a half-dozen Restaurant Sponsors along the seven-block route between West First and your next-to-last destination of the night, Central United Methodist Church, where you'll witness the comedy-juggling act of Brothers from Different Mothers at 10 pm. The Brothers do loose-limbed funky dances, wear oversize ties and tell quirky jokes. They'll also throw tenpins right past the face of a stock-still audience "volunteer" -- so close, they'll knock that cigarette right out of his mouth.

To cap the evening, walk three blocks south to the Lewis and Clark High School Auditorium to enjoy the all-Irish frenzy of the Celtic Nots, An Dochas and the Haran Irish Dancers at 11 pm. While the Nots will have played at 7 pm and at 9 pm -- and An Dochas at 8 pm and 10 pm -- the 11 pm show will feature both groups. "Honestly, I think the 11 o'clock show will be the most fun," says James Hunter, who plays flutes, whistles, uilleann pipes, didgeridoo and more for the Nots. "We're planning to do a few 'big' dance pieces, including 'Sail Away Home' (a story piece about Irish immigrants set to a Chieftains medley called 'The Session') and a set of winter polkas called 'The Wren Set' -- very up-tempo and fun."

Finally, you can catch the every-10-minutes STA Shuttle back to Riverfront Park for the fireworks at midnight. (MB)

The Final Countdown

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & leventh Hour is First Night's attempt to speak to the hip kids. As such, they're bringing together a bevy of local rock outfits to hail in the New Year with their own interpretation of the hard rock motif. In the line up:

The six gentlemen from Vax Lavala will be there laying down some of their jazzy, geeky, Franz Ferdinand-style rock on the stage for all to relish.

Second on the bill is Starflight Ambush. Despite being the least abrasive of the Eleventh Hour six, they still pack the necessary punch to hold their own with this crew of local rock-n-rollers. They sport a guitar-focused introspective alt-rock theme that speaks to temperamental teens and 30-something cubical cronies alike.

And who doesn't want to hail in the New Year with some passive-aggressive heavy metal? I know I sure don't, but if that is something you fancy, OneFall will grace the Eleventh Hour stage with its socially conscious, long-haired, laser light show Metal. Aside from that, the five men who make up OneFall have opened for national acts like Floater and Powerman 5000.

Riddle me this, what local band is flexible enough within the confines of the prog rock genre to open for both Papa Roach and Sir Mix-a-lot? It's Lucid, a band of men who have worked long and hard at their craft.

Seven Cycles also has been spreading their seed of rock for five years now in the Inland Northwest, and it's served them well. (They too have opened for PM5K.) They've been busy of late with one EP out and a new album slated to be released in January of 2008. What sets them apart from the other five bands? Their ability to switch easily between beautifully sung lyrics and aggressive vocal cord-destroying screaming. A feat worth seeing.

Cyrus Fell Down sports Spencer Krug-like vocals and mixes them with Muse-like instrumentalism. It's a dichotomy that has won them the heart of Spokane, even into the New Year.

It's a line up, then, that would have your mother pounding on your bedroom floor with a broomstick. Go rock. (RS)

Vax Lavala, Starflight Ambush, OneFall, Lucid, Seven Cycles, and Cyrus Fell Down at the new Spokane Convention Center on Monday, Dec. 31, at 7 pm. Call 252-5027.

Chasing Decent Films

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he First Night 48-Hour Film Festival debut on Dec. 31, 2005, exhibited filmmakers with a modicum of movie-making talent. The surprising amount of filmmaking capacity dwindled in the festival's sophomore year.

When Corner Booth Productions took over this year's third-annual festival from North by Northwest Productions, the company knew something had to change. "We just thought if we could give these guys a fighting chance, it would make things better for everybody," says Corner Booth President Frank Swoboda.

Corner Booth held a workshop for prospective filmmakers to give them guidance for writing, shooting and editing a film in two days and then designed the rules to up the action. This year's theme -- a desperate chase -- and line of dialogue -- "And that's why I had to cut off his arm" -- were chosen to inspire the filmmakers to have less sitting around and talking.

"You should show it, not say it. That's how we see cinema," Swoboda says.

To make the plot more creative, a sack of potatoes was chosen as the prop.

Some action-packed scenes in this year's festival include a man dressed like Indiana Jones being chased by a giant potato in Idahoan Jones by Kevin Mileson and Derrick King, and a scene where a detective goes on a desperate chase to find the kidnapped Mr. Potato Head in Cold Hard Mash by Silas Pratt, Greg Morley and Brian Lambert. Other top films that will be screened during First Night include Man vs. Mythhunters/Santa, Chase's Desperation, Relentless, Innocence and the cartoon Sheep Hook by Jeremy Lokken.

Audience members will judge the films for the People's Choice Award. The judges for the Jury's Choice Award include film editor Dallas Puett, who edited The Fast and the Furious; Jennifer Dunne, location manager for Crash; Mark Steilen, who worked on There's Something About Mary and Jess Walter, author of the book The Zero. The judges for the Jury's Choice all live in Spokane and in Sandpoint. The decision for the Jury's Choice will be decided prior to the event.

Winners for both prizes will be announced close to midnight at an undetermined location downtown. (TM)

First Night 48-Hour Film Festival * Monday, Dec. 31, from 7-11:40 pm * Films screened repeatedly all evening * Get in with a First Night button * City Council Chambers * 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. * Call: 252-5027

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