Raggs Gustaffe believes he’s a messenger.
“I was sent here by the Creator,” Raggs says with the rhythmic cadence of his Caribbean accent. “He shows me these things in my heart and, as a musician, I can’t be selfish. I have a message and I want to deliver it any place. Even to Russia.”
And, say, Spokane.
For, as unlikely as it may seem, Spokane is where this Jamaican-born reggae artist has set up shop.
And the message he delivers?
“Love and peace for everyone.”
With songs like “Peace on Earth” and “Words of Wisdom,” the 37-year-old Raggs says reggae is the vehicle for his message of good will - a message he has laid down on a full-length album also called “Peace on Earth.”
Raggs was 8 when he began singing in a Jamaican church with his mother. By the late 1970s he was singing and drumming in the parks of Kingston. A true world traveler, he spent time as a musician in Germany, on cruise ships that sailed the Caribbean and then in New York.
Seven years ago, a woman he met on a cruise ship encouraged him to bring his reggae to Spokane.
Being a black man from Jamaica in predominately white Inland Northwest has offered up plenty of fodder for songs, to say the least.
Run-ins with suspicious police and people who refused to let a black man care for them (he does some part-time nursing work), spawned songs such as “Color Blind.”
Yet, the overwhelmingly positive response to one of his Spokane reggae shows years ago was the impetus for the tune “Unbelievable.”
“I was so surprised by the way these people were dancing and singing to ‘I Shot the Sheriff,’ ‘No Woman No Cry,’ and ‘Get Up Stand Up,”’ he says. “It was so unbelievable to me.”
Tonight and Saturday Raggs and his four-piece band Bush Doktor celebrate the release of “Peace on Earth” at the Bayou Brewing Company. The album was recorded partly in Seattle and partly in Jamaica with reggae legends Sly Dumbar and Robbie Shakespear. Polygram records signed on to distribute the album in Jamaica, Japan, Canada and Holland.
Reggae starts tonight and Saturday at 9 p.m. Cover is $3.
When Shoveljerk plays tonight at Ichabod’s North, it will likely be the band’s last Spokane performance.
However, that’s not to say they won’t be back.
It’s just that when they do come back - expect them sometime in January - they’ll arrive as Two Way TV.
New name, new songs, new sound.
The Seattle band that once hailed from our little corner of the world has been working on the transformation for some time. But a hiatus for the next couple of months will give the musicians a chance to finally complete the conversion.
“We’re just going to take the time off and redevelop the band and just get all the new songs done and get all the old songs out of the set,” says guitarist Greg Hjort.
As for tonight, Shoveljerk will play a mix of the old and the new. And lead singer Paul Hemenway’s brother will rejoin the band on stage.
Mark Hemenway (who used to play with both Black Happy and Shoveljerk) had to jump back in after the last bassist bailed at the last minute. He did so admirably, absolutely eating up the stage at Shoveljerk’s last Spokane show. No final word yet on whether he’s decided to remain with Shovel…I mean Two Way TV, or pursue a real life.
“The verdict is out on his part,” Hjort says. “On our part we’d take him back in a second.”
Show starts at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $5.
Go see a band
Pick a band, any band. Preferably a good one. But for crying out loud, go see a live band. Canned dance music is fine but the living, breathing, guitar-toting thing seems a bit more worthy of your financial support, don’t you think?
(I have no idea where that soapbox came from.)
Frankly, no matter what they say, there’s plenty of options for almost any musical taste this week.
We’ve got punk: The La Donnas (hometown: Denver) join The Fumes (Spokane’s very own) and Jetpack (Moscow, Idaho) Saturday at Ichabod’s North (on Division.)
I’d like to tell you more about the La Donnas, but their people haven’t gotten back to my people. So, suffice it to say they’re signed to Scooch Pooch Records along with The Fumes and those who have seen them say they’re well worth shelling out the $4 it’ll cost ya. Show starts at 9:30 p.m.
We’ve got rock: Henry’s Child flits in with the airy aura of a dream before turning into the ragged-breathed beast beneath the bed.
Then it mutates back.
Such duality makes the band’s latest album, “Clearly Confused,” (Elemental Records) an interesting study in the fine line between serenity and anxiety. The Eugene, Ore., quartet brings their cannonade of ferocious rhythms and brooding guitars to Outback Jack’s tonight. Greg and Ashland open. Cover is $3.
We’ve got blues: The Fat James Band is fronted by a big guy (Fat James himself) and performs some big time rockin’ blues. The Washington Blues Society previously awarded the foursome from Seattle “Best Band” of the year. And one of their tunes even appeared on that now-defunct Fox TV show “L.A. Firefighters.”
Fat James, et al, slide into the Fort Spokane Brewery tonight and Saturday. Cover is $6. Show starts at 9:30 p.m.
We’ve got more punk: Scared of Chaka has just landed State-side from a tour through Japan and now plans to unleash a salvo of raw fury and pop fire at Ichabod’s North Sunday night.
“It was the most incredible experience of our lives,” says singer Yanul Dave Hernandez of their 10-day, five-show jaunt through Asia. “The people in Japan are so enthusiastic and open to the music.”
How about it Spokane? Cover to see this Albuquerque, N.M., trio’s rock extravaganza is $4. Show starts at 9:30 p.m.
And, yes, there’s even some country: The Stockyards Inn has changed its format from Top 40 rock to country with a revamped house band to boot - Blaze Star is the name. They play Thursday through Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. No cover on Thursdays. It’ll cost you $3 at the door Fridays and Saturdays.
The final words
Start clearing your Thursday night schedule. The Twistin’ Tarantulas - one of the hippest rockabilly/swing bands I’ve come across of late - scuttle into the Fort Spokane Brewery at 9:30 p.m. (Cover is $4.)
Rumor on the street is they offer up one firecracker of a show. And judging by their CD - “Attack of the Twistin’ Tarantulas” - that’s no hogwash.
The Tarantulas are so good I’ve decided to write a story about them. So read all about these cool arachnids from Detroit in next Thursday’s IN Life section.
Last minute news flash - Slim Dunlap, former guitar player for the garage/pop band The Replacements will perform an acoustic set at Outback Jack’s Tuesday evening.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: Send nightclub news to Winda Benedetti at The Spokesman-Review, 999 W. Riverside, Spokane, WA 99201 or fax it to (509) 459-5098. She can be reached by phone at (509) 459-5089 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for Friday publication is the previous Friday.