Monday, August 9, 2010

State of the North Idaho Music Scene, Summer 2010 Edition.

"I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to." ~ Elvis Presley

At various points in the not-too-distant past, any mention of a “North Idaho music scene” was probably met with laughter, confusion, and bewilderment. “What music scene?” would have been the likely response, with images of frizzy-haired cover bands performing golden oldies by Foreigner and Pat Benatar in smoky dives and hotel lounges shimmying across one’s mind like a barfly in acid washed-jeans and a tubetop.

Of course, once in a while there was certainly more going on than just that kind of thing, but only in the last several years have enough quality venues opened up and enough talent has emerged from the woodwork to form a flourishing music scene, both in terms of live performance and recorded output. In fact, it can be somewhat tricky to stay on top the details, but fret not. I’m here to provide a basic rundown of the situation.

The Coeur d’Alene music scene has come full circle in several ways recently, beginning with the reunion of our town’s most famous and beloved musical sons, Black Happy (above left). Black Happy invented an entirely original and highly energetic mix of metal and funk at a time when Northwest audiences were getting bored with grunge and wanted something fresh. They drew massive audiences at every gig, their albums garnered national acclaim, and their popularity has actually continued to rise in the 15 years since their untimely break-up.

In the last year or so, hundreds of fans petitioned for the band to reunite on a Facebook page created for that purpose and this weekend, fans finally got their wish with two sold-out reunion shows at Spokane’s Knitting Factory, to be followed later this month by three shows at Seattle’s legendary Crocodile CafĂ©. All three of Black Happy’s CDs have been recently reissued in 20th anniversary editions, and a live DVD documenting the reunion concerts is planned for this fall.

Coeur d’Alene’s Darrin Schaffer (left) spent much of the 90s entrancing audiences with his band Moments of Clarity, and continues to do so with the gorgeous instrumental ambient guitar textures of his second solo release entitled “…Places”, now available on CD and through iTunes.

Another act with deep Coeur d’Alene roots is Kite, who recently announced the autumn release of their latest progressive/alternative rock opus title “We Are Now.” Kite have always been a bit on the artsy side, and with the new songs they’ve stepped into the internet age, with plans to release one track at a time, each complete with an accompanying piece of original digital artwork. The first fruits of the band’s recent labors can be heard on their website ( starting August 31.

Continuing their upward trajectory toward taking over the world, Jesi B. and the All-Rites, Coeur d’Alene’s finest funky, bluesy rock quartet (or is that rocky, bluesy, funk quartet), have been working on recording demos and getting ready for a busy August with regular gigs in Spokane and on August 28, a show at Capone’s in Coeur d’Alene that they claim will “blow the roof off”. I can assure you, they’re probably right.

Open mic nights seem to have taken over nearly every pub, coffee shop, and rest area bathroom in the area, and no longer are they just for fey folkies with acoustic guitars singing “Smelly Cat” like Phoebe on “Friends”. One of the most popular is the Iron Horse Jam Night on Wednesdays, featuring Jesse “Bishnutz” Bishop and his “Neighborhood” who create an insane and delightful noise that incorporates household object drumming, dub electronics, and blues harmonica.

Primarily a dance club, Cd’A’s 9 Below recently got into the open mic game as well on Thursdays, and so far they’ve hosted a mad variety of acts from lady hip-hoppers, to acoustic punk rockers covering Juice Newton songs, to slam poetry and interpretive dancing.

While there’s more original music to be had locally than possibly ever before, cover bands indeed remain the meat and potatoes of the North Idaho bar scene. It’s no surprise that local bargoers mainly just want to dance to familiar favorites, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It would be hard to list them all, but bands like Simon Sez (left), the Cronkites, the Perones, Four on the Floor, Subtracting the Negative, Somebody’s Hero, Nova, and Bite the Bullet perform everywhere and they all manage to make drunken revelers shake their elbows and rattle their jewelry to everything from “Poker Face” to “California Girls” (both the Beach Boys’ and the Katy Perry versions), and a million other classics in between.

Basically, there’s no reason to stay home watching “Wipeout” and drinking Boone’s Farm again, and there’s no reason to travel across the state line just to hear live Swedish Death Reggae. There’s a bustling music scene worth supporting right here under your ears.

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