It’s a little known fact that President Lyndon Johnson, in a creative moment of frustration with then Congressman Gerald Ford, famously quipped “he’s so dumb he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.” The press, used to sanitizing the potty-mouth President’s verbal output, reported this as “Gerald Ford can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.” Somehow, the phrase slipped into popular vernacular and is still used to describe someone who might fall one fork short of a full table setting when it comes to wit and brains.
Even those who consider a nice evening stroll to be challenging when mixed with sticks of Juicy Fruit should have no problem walking and listening to music at the same time for the new year’s first Downtown Coeur d’Alene Music Walk, which takes place starting at 5 p.m. on Friday January 25th. The nine-venue event is sponsored by the Coeur d’Alene Arts and Culture Alliance, and happens the last Friday of every month through March. The music is free, although I’d imagine you’ll want to bring some cash for appetizers and drinks. I think “loitering” is the term used by restaurant owners to refer to those who say “Oh, I’m just here for the music” and take up valuable seating space and don’t order anything except ice water and saltines.
The Music Walk starts at Calypso’s Coffee, a new shop located at 116 E. Lakeside Ave. Owners Michell Remley and David Ivy have transformed the place into a homey hang-out spot for all ages, with a large kids’ play area, a 24-seat conference room, and desks with internet-accessible computers. Menu options include in-house roasted coffee drinks, a variety of fruit smoothies along with fresh deli sandwiches, soups and yummy desserts. Remley says its the shop’s goal to be open 24 hours on weekends by summer, a welcome concept in a town desperate for late night options besides Denny’s.
Calypso’s will be regularly hosting a variety of live music, with the night of the Music Walk spotlighting local folk duo Tom Husby and Barb Yaniga. Tom also plays guitar in local Americana band B-4 and does cabinetry by day, and his partner Barb teaches math and they moonlight by playing what they call “good music for a good life.” Their performance takes off at 5 p.m. and may or may not last until Calypso locks the doors at midnight.
Next, shuffle a block down to the Coeur d’Alene Resort Plaza Shops and check out the mellow sounds of jazz guitarist Robert Vaughn. Vaughn, like crab cakes and orange rolls, is a long-time staple at Beverly’s Restaurant, providing an appetizing musical accompaniment every weekend for Resort guests from around the globe. “I just got lucky and get paid to do what I love” says Vaughn, whose 2005 CD “Back on Track” continues to win accolades nationwide.
The Million $ Hillbilly Band plays old-timey country music that conjures up echoes of the legends: Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard. A self-description on the band’s MySpace page says it best: “Sounds like a beer stained voice and a pawn shop guitar”. The organic acoustic sound of this Harrison, Idaho act is refreshingly miles away from the overproduced output of mainstream country radio. Additionally, Million $ Hillbilly songwriter Tom Copley injects songs like “She Took the Dog” and “Trailer Lady” with a certain amount of wry lyrical humor and free spiritedness that makes seeing their performances such a memorable experience.
During the Music Walk, they’ll be holding down the fort until 10 p.m. at the Coeur d’Alene Brewing Company, but show up early to take advantage of the $2 pint special during happy hour. With such a bargain on distinctive local brews like Lakeside British Ale and Bourbon Vanilla Stout, a fun selection of appetizers, and a boisterously accommodating staff, it’ll be tempting to just settle in for the night and forgo the rest of the Music Walk.
But no, there’s more walking to do, more music to hear, and if you spend all your money at the Brewery, you won’t be able to buy an Absinthe at Brix Restaurant on Sherman , the next stop on our musical trek. To my knowledge, Brix is the only place in town that serves the legendary herbal green liquor. Actually, they serve an Americanized knock-off of the real-deal European Absinthe, which contains the outlawed-in-the-states psychoactive herb Wormwood. Still, it’s a tasty and rare treat, the perfect thing to accompany the relaxing ambience of the Classical and Jazz pianists scheduled to provide entertainment to Brix patrons that evening.
Head half-a-block up 4th Street to Studio 107 and let the warm, fuzzy effects of the Absinthe wear off as you take in the sights and sounds of this “urban-inspired” art gallery. “Lonesome” Lyle Morse will be in house until 9 p.m., singing and playing acoustic guitar and harmonica inspired by the immortal blues of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. The music continues across the street at the Moose Market Lounge, another new venue on the Music Walk roster for 2008, and a great place to relax with a nice espresso or glass of wine, sample some gourmet cheese or some of the multitudes of local gourmet food products on hand. Music will be provided by guitarist Mark Holt, who plays “Americana roots music with a bluesy edge, and a little bit of Cowboy Yodeling for good measure.”
Cricket’s Bar & Grill is always hopping on a Friday night, and the promise of an appearance by “eclectic acoustic groove” musician Eric-E should pack the place to the rafters. Eric’s voice has been described as “as clear as water” and he’s toured the globe opening for a diverse lot of acts including Jay Leno and Air Supply. According to his website, he will “perform at request any Top 40 song from any year in the last nine decades”, an impressive claim which begs to be tested with perhaps martini-fueled requests for random pop gems from “Fernando” to “Fergalicious”.
Facing Cricket’s across the way, Bill Parsons will be filling the Angel Gallery with the sounds of jazz piano to accompany the gallery’s exhibition of the art of Michael Carson, a nationally known artist whose intriguing, impressionistic work strongly emphasizes the relationship between light and dark. Finally, slink down to the candle-lit chill zone of Barrel Room No. 6 for some live jazz by an as-yet-to-be-determined act. While you’re there, you may want to take the opportunity to treat your refined palette to some of the finest wines made from grapes grown in Pacific Northwest vineyards. But be careful; don’t take too many samples from the cellar, because mixed with the microbrews, the absinthe, and the martini’s you won’t be able to walk at all, regardless of your gum chewing status.