Arrow-right Camera
A&E >  Entertainment

Blues Musicians Play For Intimacy With The Audience

You think singing the blues is a glamorous way to make a living?

Think again.

Playing in a blues band means constant gigs, often in front of less than 100 people in smoky little joints. Blues bands rarely get recognized by the press. Few bands have record deals waved in front of them. And they often have to peddle their goods from the stage.

Yet blues musicians often are revered for their blue-collar ethic. Playing the blues night after night is hard work.

For those who do it, it’s about the music, it’s about relating with the audience. It’s not about commercial success.

The standard of success is performing steadily, writing original material and finding ways to record albums.

Gary Yeoman, singer and guitarist for the Seattle-by-way-of-Portlandby-way-of-Spokane band Yo and de Cats, agrees.

“I have had friends say, ‘You’re great, we love you, we can’t wait until you’re successful.’

“This is a job for me. I’m successful now. I’m feeding my kids, I keep gas in the tank and I play music for a living. That, to me, is success,” says the singer whose band plays the Whitehorse Blues Festival in Spirit Lake on Saturday.

“My goal is to make music. My goal isn’t to build a mansion.”

Even if Yeoman and his cats were to, by some fluke, break out of the club circuit, the musician wouldn’t know what to do if his music afforded him the luxury of building a mansion. The truth is, Yeoman and his raw and raucous music favors a nightclub setting.

“I have a saying,” he says. “If I can’t smell them, I’m not having any fun.

“Blues is not a stadium art form. It is an intimate art form that has to do with feelings.

“When I first got turned onto blues, the T-birds (Fabulous Thunderbirds) weren’t famous yet. They weren’t playing stadium venues; they were playing little bars. I watched them progress into a stadium act, but it never translated the same for me.”

Yo and de Cats’ debut album, “It Ain’t Rocket Science,” resulted from a steamy live show at a club in Portland. For Yeoman, recording the CD live was the most proper and authentic way to capture the blues.

Because the recording was taken directly from the soundboard, it sounds shoddy in a few places. All in all, though, it’s a meaty, sweat-laden record.

And, it’s honest.

“Sometimes the vocals aren’t as thick as you want. Sometimes the bass isn’t as thick as you want. And you’re hearing people talking and glasses clinking. But that’s what the blues is about,” says Yeoman. “I am not a stadium act and I am not a studio musician. I just opted for something that captured what I sound like on a Saturday night in a real situation.”

The Whitehorse Blues Festival in Spirit Lake will be outdoors on Main Street and will run all day. Featured bands include Fat John and the 3 Slims, Paul Brasch, Chip and the Bushwhackers and many more. Tickets are $12 and are available in Spokane at G&B; outlets and the Fort Spokane Brewery, in Coeur d’Alene at the Waterin’ Hole and in Spirit Lake at the Whitehorse Saloon.

Yo and de Cats will also appear tonight at the Whitehorse Saloon.

Blues galore

If you dig harp playing, go see Hans Olson. He’s making three appearances in Coeur d’Alene this weekend. He’ll be at the Fourth Street Ale House with Jim “Bossman” Brown tonight, the Moontime Pub with Brown and the Rumrunners on Saturday and the Mad Daddy Blues Club with Brown on Sunday.

Olson can really wail on the harmonica. The veteran player has carved out a colorful career and is now at the center of the Phoenix blues scene.

Over the years, Olson has lent his talents to numerous soundtracks, albums and compilations. He even wrote the opening and closing music for the TV show “Evening Shade.” Olson’s latest record is called “Kachina Blues,” and it’s a must-have for your collection.

Tonight’s show starts at 7. The cover is $2. Saturday’s show is at 8 p.m. There’s no cover. Sunday concert happens at 8 p.m. The cover is $5.

Staying in town this weekend? The biggest (literally) blues combo in the Northwest, the Fat James Band, will assert their beefy presence at the Fort Spokane Brewery tonight and Saturday. Tickets are $7 at the door for either show. Music starts at 9:30 p.m.

Snot, not Snaut

One thing the Seattle scene cemented in the mind of the music industry is that fertile music centers can spring up in the most unpredictable places.

Portland, San Diego and Chapel Hill, N.C., are among the other cities bleeding fresh talent to the mainstream.

The newest burgeoning music center is the Southern, California coastal town of Santa Barbara. Toad the Wet Sprocket and Dishwalla are the city’s highest-profile bands. Punk unit Lag Wagon has also made some noise. But the latest band to be plucked from the city’s club circuit is Snot, not to be confused with the defunct Spokane band Snaut.

Snot, newly inked to Geffen, plays the Northern Corner in Spokane on Wednesday. Expect the rock band’s major-label debut to hit shelves before the year’s end. The band has been loosely compared to Rage Against the Machine by a publicist at Geffen.

Showtime’s at 9:30 p.m. Opening bands were not made available. The cover is $3.

Lo-fi surprise

Speaking of burgeoning music scenes, Tuscon, Ariz., is beginning to show some promise. Delta-blues/ punk band Doo Rag makes its home there. So does underground garage-rock nuisance The Fells. The Fells will join San Franciso’s Spider-Mods at Ichabod’s North on Sunday.

So far The Fells have spread their gritty musical filth on a handful of 7-inch vinyl singles and a 10-inch vinyl EP.

The band has a new 7-inch out called “The Visitor.” The A-side is a grubby number with an early Kinks riff. The B-side is an instrumental surf number. It’s on clear wax, by the way.

A full-length album on Estrus - a safe haven for lo-fi bands near and far - is soon to follow.

Just who are the Spider-Mods?

They’re a band you’ve heard a few times before. In fact, you might have even been on the other end of their wicked jabs or upper-cuts. And, they might not even be from San Francisco. Some members have often been seen moonlighting in a band called Thee Elephant Men. What’s more, the four dapper lads in the Spider-Mods have numerous records out under a different moniker. Hmm.

Those are your hints. If you haven’t figured out who the surprise guests the Spider-Mods are, get your tail down to Ichabod’s. Music starts at 9:30 p.m. The cover is $4.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo