In Greek mythology, & & CERBERUS & & was Hades' guard dog, a three-headed hellhound that patrolled the River Styx, devouring souls who tried to escape from his master's underworld.
The Coeur d'Alene band Cerberus (that's SUR-buh-rus for you non-Grecophiles) began as a trio of young lads with an itch to play rock and roll. Guitarist Rob Shields had been fiddling with his ax for years, but drummer Jason Cobb and bassist Randy Cain picked up their instruments just a few years ago in a moment of inspiration and drive.
"We just started from scratch, basically," says Shields. "The three of us were all friends, first. Then we just started writing music. We practiced for two years solid before ever playing a gig, just to get everyone up and tight. I mean, the guys had to learn their instruments."
So what does a slobbering, six-eyed, serpent-tailed canine with a bad attitude have to do with the relatively congenial, well-mannered Cerberus rock group? Not that much, really. Especially after the band added another head in the form of lead guitarist Jim Hite who joined Cerberus last year.
"We began as a trio and played that way for a couple of years. When we met up with Jim, it was kind of a chance occurrence. He came to one of our practices just to jam, and it worked out perfectly."
Now operating near full throttle with Hite's leads adding depth to the group's already beefy sound, Cerberus is busier than ever, playing gigs in the Lake City as well as Spokane. They perform at Boomerang's on Monday and at the Quarterhorse on Wednesday.
Their music is a product of the member's extremely varied and eclectic tastes. The group's influences encompass punk, classic hard rock, death metal and country.
"Nothing good is ever done by committee," explains Shields, "except for this band. We write a lot. And sometimes we'll take six months on a song, just playing with it, messing with it, changing it, trying different things to get it just where we want it. That's how the songs come up. And we all write. If Jason comes to the table with a punk song, the rest of us will try to be faithful to his interpretation, to the feel, at least. For us, the song is the most important thing. This is not a guitar band. It's not a bass band, you know? It's a songwriting band. I think there's very few bands in the hard rock genre that have good songwriters. Most of them are just cranking out mediocre, acceptable stuff. But if the song doesn't drive us, then we don't want to do it."
Musically, Cerberus makes the most of their relatively underdeveloped skills as instrumentalists, emphasizing clean changes and paying close attention to the dynamics of each song.
"Yeah, dynamics to us are really important. None of us are phenomenal musicians, so what do we have? We have tight changes and dynamics. We love the music and that's our deal. We have no aspirations of making it or whatever. We just want to play our stuff."
That's a good attitude to have in Spokane, one that hedges in frustration and insures survival, not to mention fun.
"You can't not have that attitude and live and play here," Shields agrees. "Unless you're going off to Seattle to do something because it's not going to happen here. Probably."
The upside of rocking in Spokane, of course, is that there is very little pressure here to conform to any particular style. No one is making any money, and gigs are relatively easy to come by, allowing the creative doors to stay wide open.
"We play with bands all the time that, in normal circumstances, you would not couple us with. The lines between the genres are just not well-drawn in this community, which is cool."
Cerberus has a six-song EP on the market (currently available at 4,000 Holes and the Long Ear) and hopes to make more of an impact -- not across that fiery river in the underworld, but across the Washington border.
"We've got quite a following in Coeur d'Alene, actually," remarks Shields. "But our focus right now is to play in Spokane more so we can kind of find out who we are. We think we're the best band you've never heard of. But people in Spokane still don't know who we are yet. And they have a terrible time pronouncing our name. But that's okay. We're just trying to play a lot of gigs to get people over there to catch on to what we're doing."
& & & lt;i & Cerberus plays at Boomerang's with Off to the Left and Distressed on Monday, Dec. 4, at 9 pm. Cover: $4. Call: 455-9210. Also at the Quarterhorse on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 9 pm. Cover: $3. Call: 456-3778. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
& & Local Music Revisited & & & &
Well, the response from our Local Music Issue has been overwhelming, to say the least. Since the day the issue hit the stands, I've been positively swamped with calls, e-mails and bricks with notes attached. I'm digging it. It's precisely what I wanted to see: things revved up and people talking -- even if only to gripe about being left out of the listings.
Yep, I'm human. And I missed a bunch of performers in my local music roundup. There were some I couldn't reach and some that never called me back. Then there were those that just slipped through my fingers. Like Five Foot Thick. They were on our compilation CD, for crying out loud! I had all their info and had even talked to vocalist Bryan Dilling on the phone, and still they dropped out somehow (sorry guys).
The thing is, there are so many of you out there, and only one of me. And though I like to think of myself as omnipotent, I'm not. And I'm not psychic, either. I need your help to keep me up to date. So keep those cards and letters coming...
Another thing bears mentioning. In the section where I criticized commercial radio for not challenging listeners or supporting local artists, I gave kudos to the new nightly show on Rock 94.5 at 11 pm weeknights that spotlights homegrown talent. Well, I failed to mention a similar program at 105.7 The PEAK, which has been up and running on Sunday nights at 9 pm for at least, oh, five years. It was not intentional. It was a mistake, and I apologize profusely for the flub. Local music programming could be better, but there are some good efforts out there that deserve our attention.
Speaking of media outlets, while searching for band information, I ran into a very local Internet source that proved extremely helpful in my quest. Smusic (at www.smusic.net) is a surprisingly comprehensive site covering the Spokane area music scene. In addition to links to local band websites, you can explore venues, events, local CDs, reviews, classifieds and info on local studios and recording labels. Founded almost two years ago by Craig Baker with design and layout by Kolbe Kegel, the site is frequently updated and is always adding new features and categories. Check it out.
Below is an update on the local performer list. But first, I want to mention the Mayfield Four who some readers felt I snubbed in the original listings. Yes, I realize they are an excellent band from Spokane. I know they've been signed to Epic Records and are even now working on a follow-up album to their debut, Fallout. The reason I decided not to list them initially was because, in my opinion, they've made it. They have successfully taken the leap from "local" band to national act. They belong to the world now. Should I have listed them anyway? Oh, heck. Alright.
& & Calliope's Burden & & & lt;BR &
Jonathan Nicholson & lt;BR &
Genre: Delicate guitar instrumentals & lt;BR &
& & Case Closed & & & lt;BR &
Lyle Morris, Doug Porter & lt;BR &
Genre: Acoustic blues/folk/jazz & lt;BR &
& & Cerberus & & & lt;BR &
Jason Cobb, Randy Cain, Jim Hite, Rob Shields & lt;BR &
Genre: Melodic, heavy rock & lt;BR &
Sounds like: AC/DC, Godsmack, Alice in Chains & lt;BR &
& & Cho*Very*Gu & & & lt;BR &
Larren Wolford, Daneyal Siddique, Joel Case & lt;BR &
Genre: Eclectic alt-pop 'n' roll & lt;BR &
Sounds like: Pixies, Pavement, Sebadoh & lt;BR &
& & Cold Sweat & & & lt;BR &
Chris McLeod, Karl Aldrich, Dan Dee & lt;BR &
Genre: Southern-fried blues rock & lt;BR &
Sounds like: Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top & lt;BR &
& & Five Foot Thick & & & lt;BR &
George Silva, Bryan Dilling, Kris Meyers, Matt VanSteenwyk, Silas McQuain & lt;BR &
Genre: Hard-hitting metallic rap & lt;BR &
Sounds like: Hed (pe), Limp Bizkit & lt;BR &
& & Lucid & & & lt;BR &
Barry Lehinger, Ryan Mendoza, Jason Hart, Dylan Harris & lt;BR &
Genre: Riff-heavy rawk & lt;BR &
Sounds like: Godsmack, Pearl Jam, Faith No More & lt;BR &
& & The Mayfield Four & & & lt;BR &
Marty Meisner, Zia Uddin, Myles Kennedy & lt;BR &
Genre: Soulful, melodic alt-rock
Sounds like: Pearl Jam, Creed
& & Occasional String Band & & & lt;BR &
Steve Schennum, Geoff Haworth, Phil Kleinman, Keith Milligan & lt;BR &
Genre: Mostly acoustic rock, very little bluegrass & lt;BR &
Sounds like: Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Lyle Lovett, Grateful Dead & lt;BR &
& & Cory William and the Backwoods Band & & & lt;BR &
Michael Kerbs, Rick Mead, Erik Carr, John Myers, Cory William & lt;BR &
Genre: Contemporary country & lt;BR &
So much for the mea culpas this time around. To all the performers -- and everyone else -- who contacted me with criticisms, comments and wise cracks: Thanks. I really do appreciate the feedback. To the rest of you that I neglected, what are you waiting for? Those numbers again are: firstname.lastname@example.org, 325-0634, ext. 34, fax at 444-4772. Stay tuned.