Traditionally, in certain local night establishments it works like this: coupled with a few fruity cocktails, cover bands make the ladies happy by putting them in the mood to dance. And as they say, if the ladies are happy then everyone’s happy. Whether it’s a pop tune by Neil Diamond or by No Doubt, many people in North Idaho just want to go out and dance to the songs they’re familiar with.
Then there are those of us who are far more impressed by the idea of the live act actually writing the music they’re performing. For nightclub owners, it can be a risky proposition to book original acts in an area where it seems like not a lot of bar-goers are eager to step outside of their comfort zone and forgo the slickness and familiarity that a cover band provides. If the music turns out to be too out-there, monotonous or just plain rotten, customers will start running for the exit. But if the music is good, and the act starts to develop a following of fans, a crowd of customers is nearly guaranteed. Fortunately, more and more local venues have opened up to the idea of hosting original Northwest musicians on their stages.
This week, summer starts off packed with opportunities to stretch your musical horizons by catching some of these fine original Northwest acts in action:
Mistress and the Misters were recently called Spokane’s strangest band by the Inlander. For sure, they are currently the hottest, most hyped band making the River City scene, and deservedly so. Last year’s excellent Conflagration album was thirty years of blues-soaked garage punk, tightly compressed into a tense little ball. The new Emic EP loses the lo-fi grunge factor and adds some 80’s gloss and more spacious production work. Guitarist Chris Henderson’s guitar riffs are still stickier than Bubble Yum and singer Seth Swift trades his in-your-face shout for an enigmatic croon. It’s music that is quirky and jerky and highly imaginative. The mistress? She quit the band after the last record, but they decided to keep the name, so now the guys trade-off cross-dressing duties for their shows. Mistress and the Misters are sure to create a fine ruckus on their tour of the west coast this summer, and they’re warming up in Coeur d’Alene today with an all-day, all-ages show at O’Shays Irish Pub. Recommended if you like: The Hives, The Mars Volta, The Gossip.
Exit Zero have been churning out their brand of melodic hard rock since forming in Coeur d’Alene in January of 2002. As evidenced by the nearly 16,000 hits on their MySpace page, they’re one of the most name-recognizable bands in the region. Post-Grunge is truly the Energizer Bunny of rock-n-roll, its popularity never seems to wane for very long. Truly, Exit Zero knows the formula by heart – they’re not trying to make any kind of artistic statement, they just wanna rock you, and hard. Singer/guitarist Don Burkett has the quintessential Seattle-throat singing style and enough soaring, angsty riffs to make lighters and fists raise above heads and start swaying. Catch a special “unplugged” show on Friday night at the new Blue Grotto Lounge in Post Falls. Recommended if you like: Alice in Chains, Tool, Hinder.
Dan Purser has been penning tunes since he was a wee tot, and began performing in front of audiences at age 14. Currently he leads a full band called, cleverly enough, the Dan Purser Band. Listening to the recent Live in Seattle album, I get the clear impression these guys have been influenced by Dave Matthews and his band in ways that run deeper than a similar name scheme. It’s jangly everyman guitar pop with confessional, heart-on-sleeve lyrics sung in Purser’s crystal clear tenor. The band throws in the occasional funky moment to keep things edgy, like on the effervescent “Feeling You”, but they also aren’t afraid to bust out the tender love ballads that make the girls weep and swoon. The Seattle band will be making monthly visits to Paddy’s Too on Highway 41 in Post Falls all summer, starting this forthcoming Friday and Saturday. They’re also playing this week on Thursday at Moon Time on East Sherman in Coeur d’Alene. Recommended if you like Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Counting Crows.
The Shook Twins are, appropriately enough, two identical twins named Shook – Katelyn and Laurie, from Sandpoint. They both play acoustic guitar and sing in nearly the same voice, making for some amazing harmonic moments. Occasionally, they throw in some subtle electronic rhythm loops. Their songs are haunting and folksy, creating the kind of late night ambience that makes you want to relax with a glass of red wine in a candlelit room. These sisters write serious music that’s both fragile and tense and they cut a captivating presence onstage. In concert, they’ve been known to let their angelic blonde locks down a bit and perform their amazing “Beatbox Medley,” in which Laurie beatboxes wildly (makes percussive sounds with her mouth) to accompany Katelyn, who sings a medley of R&B/Rap hits. On paper it sounds like they might be trying to be silly or ironic, but witnessed live its clear these Idaho girls have got some serious soul. The Shook Twins perform this Friday at Café Doma in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Recommended if you like: Sarah McLachlan, Tegan and Sara, Ani DiFranco
Lithium.ID are quite possibly the only band from Hayden, Idaho whose fan club has its own MySpace page. Zac, Ryan and Steve grind out old-school grunge rock, the kind that disillusioned young men made back before the big corporations caught onto it, back when it seemed like every garage in the great Northwest had a band practicing in it. Nirvana’s influence seems to be everlasting in these parts, and Lithium.ID are clearly Kurt Cobain devotees. However, unlike so many bands out there who emulate the Seattle sound, they manage to inject enough originality that they end up sounding like no-one but themselves. Live, they make a nice big noise that steamrollers over everything, and they bring a certain undeniable energy to their performance that makes audiences respond in kind. It’s driving, melodic punk that makes you want to start jumping up and down. I think these kids are onto something. Lithium.ID rocks The Grail in Coeur d’Alene on Friday, when they play with Spokane hard rock act Shoved. Recommended if you like: Nirvana, Pennywise, NOFX