I have a confession: Occasionally, I pass judgment on bands based on their name without having listened to their music or seen one of their shows. I have an aversion to words like “mother,” “love,” “bone,” “mama,” “soul” and a few others. Whenever these words are included in a band’s moniker, a red flag goes up in my mind and I’ve already decided not to like it. As you might have guessed, I loath Mother Love Bone with a passion and I’ve actually heard its music.
To make a short story long, like judging a book by its cover, I made up my mind about Mama’s Dogma before I had even experienced its music. Big mistake, I thought, as I watched the band unleash a wickedly fun performance unbounded by genres about a month ago. I could live with the name, I decided.
Singer-guitarist Kelly Vance didn’t see the humor in my attitude as he explained why he chose the name Mama’s Dogma.
“You’re growing up all your life and your mama’s telling you what to do, shaping you into this mold of her dogmatic beliefs,” he says over coffee at a South Hill restaurant. “Then you go out into society and you don’t have your mother doing it to you anymore, you have your boss and you got all these people with their dogmatic beliefs. It’s just this society control thing.”
If Mama’s Dogma, which plays a CD-release party at the Northern Corner tonight and another show at the Fort Spokane Brewery Thursday, followed its own dogma, it’s not to have dogmatic beliefs, especially when it comes to making music.
This five-piece Spokane band doesn’t limit the kinds of music it introduces into its one-of-a-kind sound. Strains of jazz, blues, rock, Latin music, reggae and psychedelia are the essential nutrients rounding out this band’s repertoire. It’s an endearing combination that makes for an unpredictable, exciting and cathartic live show. It’s also what’s made a whole music scene take notice.
Mama’s Dogma was formed last year by Vance, drummer/ percussionist Scott Goodwin and brother and pianist Don Goodwin.
When the three came together, Vance had just returned from Europe, where he lived for more than a year. For a time, the streets of Belgium - where he often played his music just for pocket change - were his livelihood. They were also where he slept at night. Vance eventually joined a band called Dow Jones, but that quickly imploded. Before too long, the vagabond found his way home and to an open mike night at a local nightclub where he met Scott Goodwin.
“I just noticed that he was someone I could probably work with,” said Scott. “I figured some people I knew could probably work with him, too.”
The brothers Goodwin and Vance rounded up a bass player and started jamming at the Goodwins’ South Hill garage. After auditioning a couple of basses, the three settled on Colby Davis, a high school buddy of Scott’s.
“For me,” Scott says, “the first time we jammed, I was pretty psyched. I was like, ‘We should do something with this.”’ In August of 1995, Mama’s Dogma was born, although it remained primarily a fixture of the Goodwin garage. Percussionist Bob Reese, a friend of the Goodwin brothers from college, was added to the lineup two months later.
On Dec. 30, Mama’s Dogma appeared for the first time at a Spokane nightclub. The setting was the now-closed Mother’s Pub and surprisingly the place was full.
“That was weird … we got paid well after the first gig,” recalls Scott.
Following the show, word got out: This band was hot. As their loyal fan base continues to grow in this town, it’s safe to say Mama’s Dogma is one of the best bands to come along in the Lilac City in quite awhile.
Oddly enough, most band members are classically trained. Don Goodwin earned his music degree from Eastern Washington University last spring; both Scott Goodwin and Rees are just two quarters away earning music degrees from EWU. Davis studied music at Whitworth College.
Vance didn’t receive any formal training. Life has been his college, one could say.
Mama’s Dogma’s training and its broad-based influences are reflected in the eclectic music it plays.
The combo is a jazzy, jam-oriented groove band whose songs contain more unexpected twists and turns than a mountain pass highway. Because they are top-flight players with amazing instincts, they can handle the erratic, spontaneous changes their music requires and still keep the song on the road. Most jam combos - the Fishes and the Rusted Roots - lack the musical chops and usually wind up in the ditch. (Or they bore their always-sedated followers into a slumber.)
The aptly titled “Highway Song,” from Mama’s Dogma’s debut CD “Hope” is a perfect example of the band’s adeptness. The song motors on for 15 minutes, taking the listener on a thrilling journey. Along the way, the band threads together a multitude of styles.
Mama’s Dogma doesn’t always know where the songs are going to end up. Sometimes their spontaneous diversions fall apart.
“I think good music comes from the ability to take risks,” says Vance. “If (you’re) afraid, you just stagnate.”
But the band doesn’t mind making mistakes. Most of the time its risks pay off. Mama’s Dogma’s new CD, which was recorded in a single day, contains a number of jams that weren’t rehearsed.
“If we sat there and orchestrated everything all perfect, we’d get sick of it after awhile,” says Don Goodwin.
Once Rees and Scott Goodwin finish school, Mama’s Dogma hopes to commit to the road full time. In the meantime, the band will just stick to playing dates in the Northwest and promote its eight-song album “Hope.”
So, the lesson learned: From now on, I will only dislike bands with the words “soul,” “love” and “bone” in their names.
Tonight’s show starts at 10. The cover’s $4. CDs will be available for $12. Thursday’s show at the Fort Spokane Brewery kicks off at 9 p.m.; the cover’s $3.
Elsewhere in the night
Two other shows not to miss this week: Fatty Lumpkin and Lopez will engage in a night of musical terror at Ichabod’s North tonight.
Fatty Lumpkin just released its second full-length tape, “Legion of Jigglers.” And though I’d love to tell you all about it, the band sold out all of its copies during its West Coast tour with Lopez and Big Comb two weeks ago.
Noise at 10 p.m. The cover is $3.
New York punk trio Fur plays Outback Jack’s Tuesday.
The female-fronted Fur forges pop-saturated punk rock as if its oldschool predecessors like the Ramones never mattered. The band’s been known for captivating hormonally charged audiences with its sleazy sexual magnetism. Image aside, this band can play, as demonstrated by its self-titled debut album on Blackout! Records. Fur comes from the same scene that’s making rock stars out of derivative punk bands like the Goops, D Generation and the New York Loose. Once Fur gets its turn in the spotlight, the aforementioned combos will join the infinite list of forgotten bands.
Music starts at 9:30 p.m. with local band Strawberry Woodhammer. The cover is only $2.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Nightwatch picks Best bets at area clubs: TONIGHT: Fatty Lumpkin and Lopez at Ichabod’s TUESDAY: Fur and Strawberry Woodhammer at Outback Jack