Kristen Black Terrible Buttons, one of The Inlander 's 2012 bands to watch.
Looking for a summer road trip? You can still jump in the car in time for Friday's first-ever Volume music fest in Spokane, organized by local alt-weekly The Pacific Northwest Inlander* in support of last week's "Bands to Watch" issue. Thirty-eight bands will perform at six venues around downtown, and a $5 wristband gets you access everything. It's a Reverb Fest for the Lilac City. Best of all, each showcase will be headlined by one of The Inlander's 2012 "Bands to Watch:" Mirror Mirror, BBBBandits, Terrible Buttons, Thumper, Tim Blood & the Gutpanthers, and Losing Skin.
Kristen Black Terrible Buttons, one of The Inlander's 2012 bands to watch.
Similar to the Willamette Week's yearly "Best New Bands" issue, The Inlander (with help from a panel of area music industry folks) has for the past three years chosen five bands they feel are worthy of some extra attention. This year, however, they couldn't narrow it down to just five. I spoke with Leah Sottile, the paper's music editor, about the Spokane scene and why they picked six bands to highlight this year.
But first, some background.
*Full disclosure: I wrote some stories for The Inlander last year.
Perhaps best remembered for its history as Bing Crosby's hometown, Spokane's music scene is known for its fans' hardcore dedication to going to shows. Supporting live music is a huge part of the city's culture, Sottile says. "There's this Spokane joke that goes 'People will come out to see the locals, and then leave before the out-of-town headliner.'"
As for the types of music represented, Sottile says the city's scene is currently the most diverse it's been in a long time. In the "Bands to Watch" issue, genres include surf, metallic hardcore, gothic folk, and dubstep. There's also a hip-hop scene and a renowned witch house producer who calls Spokane home.
"Spokane bands are willing to take a lot more risks," Sottile says, because "audiences here are really receptive to it."
"It's super easy to disregard Spokane. It's seen as a cultural void," she says. "But there is a really mobilized youth art movement here that's always anchored in the music scene. I've seen shows in boxing rings, art centers, [and] all kinds of alternative spaces. People in Spokane are scrappy about making it work. That's the backbone of the scene: making a party where there wasn't one before."
"People are surprised when they find out our music scene is actually full of edgy and cool shit."
10. Belt of Vapor
The heavy experimental-rock band is one of the longest-running acts in the Spokane scene. Sottile notes that they just put out a 7'' on Seattle's Whoa! Boat records.
9. Freetime Synthetic
The emcee has held down the Spokane hip-hop scene for fifteen years. During that time, he's shepherded a collective called Bad Penmanship that's "not a lot of Eminem type rappers, more of an Aesop Rock vibe," according to Sottile.
A former "Band to Watch" winner, Jaeda is becoming a local hip-hop heavyweight and has toured with Abstract Rude. The most random aspect: In addition to being a badass emcee, she's a mom who lives in Chattaroy, a farmy suburb of Spokane.
7. Dan Ocean/Black Ceiling
Witch house producer Dan Ocean was named a 2011 "Band to Watch." His dark, doom-laden electronic music has generated "an unbelievable online following," according to Sottile.
Jordan Magnuson, aka Thumper, is a dubstep DJ known for her finesse at choosing tracks and her live mixing ability. "We're in this area where there's a lot of cover and bar bands, and you have this 20-year-old girl from Coeur d'Alene playing a pretty unique form of old-school dubstep every week in a bar. She's paving her own way," says Sottile.
5. Mirror Mirror
A long-time project of former Olympia resident Jason Campbell, Mirror Mirror bring "a new professionalism" to the Spokane scene, Sottile says. " They put on a show." Sottile describes their music as "incredible songs with a lot of heart [that makes] this sad music accessible."
Yes, you're supposed to pronounce every B in this surf-rock band's name. "Gawain works at a bank, but he's a genius" at channeling surf guitar greats like Dick Dale, says Sottile, noting that their music is beloved by young and old. You can totally expect to see dads grooving at their shows, she says.
3. Tim Blood and the Gutpanthers
These power-pop loving punks are known for their crazy house shows. "They're from Moscow, so you have the what-the-fuck factor," Sottile says. "They have an older punk sound for being young guys."
2. Losing Skin
Losing Skin's punishing brand of metal-meets-hardcore has earned a dedicated following. "The hardcore scene has always been alive here--maybe people are particularly angry in Spokane," says Sottile. "They're lifers. The band is integral to how they live their lives."
1. Terrible Buttons
If the name sounds familiar, you may have heard Spokane ex-pat Kaylee Cole talking about this seven-piece--her sister Sarah Berentson is in the band, as well as Kent Ueland, brother of Seattle musician Dane Ueland. With that many members, they're planning to drive nonstop on their way up to an upcoming tour of Alaska. "They're turning the folk thing on its head, singing about really sad subjects like divorce, just stuff you wouldn't normally hear," Sottile says.
Got a favorite band from Spokane? Add them in the comments!