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Idaho Voices

Summer nights will be hopping with waves of cool music

Sun., June 28, 2009

If downtown Coeur d’Alene were to undergo season color analysis, it would most likely be a “summer.”

Downtown Coeur d’Alene wears soft, pastel colors during the warmest months, comfortable sandals, a straw floppy hat; it accessorizes with artsy handmade baubles and music.

Without a doubt, live music is one of the primary ingredients that makes downtown Coeur d’Alene come alive on summer nights. It can be heard emanating from the doors of various wine bars, coffee shops and juke joints and thanks to Chris Guggemos and Handshake Productions, music flows free of charge every summer Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Sherman Square Park.

As usual, this year’s lineup is delightfully random, but guaranteed to be family friendly. So don’t come to the Celtic Nots concert and shout out for “My Humps;” they’re not going to play it.

The nine-week series kicks off Tuesday with the recently reunited bluegrass quintet Custer’s Grass Band, who’ve blown nearly 20 years worth of dust off their banjos and mandolins and are ready to remind the Inland Northwest of the glory days of the mid-’70s when they were known as Eastern Washington’s first and only bluegrass band.

Back in the day, they recorded and released several albums and toured college campuses and festivals until they sputtered out and went their separate ways. Bluegrass has had a recent resurgence in popularity and now those musty old Custer’s Grass Band records trade hands for 20 bucks a pop on eBay. The band was resurrected in December and includes all four original members plus the addition of a Dobro player, because these days what good is bluegrass without a Dobro?

Back Adit could be the name of a big-haired ’80s cover act clad in pleather pants, but thankfully they’re just a wacky, folksy acoustic swing act from Libby, Mont. with a full sound and a comedic edge. According to their Web site, their “recipe” consists of “2 Soggy Bottom Boys, 1 skinny guy and a girl, 3 cups Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, 1 cup ’40s style swingin’ jazz, 2 tbsp Bob Dylan, jazzed up finely, 3 parts harmony and a dash of cowboy tunes with a twist.”

I couldn’t possibly dream up a more accurate description, even if I doubled my dose of Ambien. Their repertoire includes the lively jazz of “Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy” and my personal favorite “Shut Up! (and Drink Your Beer).” How did they know my motto? Back Adit takes over the Sherman Square stage on July 7.

Celtic Nots member Carlos Alden is known to listeners of KPBX as the host of the Nacho Celtic Hour, a name which mystifies almost as much as the diversity of the music he features. Similarly, while there is an obvious Irishness to the music of the Celtic Nots, the end result is all over the map, bringing into play oddball instruments like Bodhran, Cajon, bones, djembe, didgeridoo, and uilleann pipes. It’s folk-disco music from an ancient country that only exists in our imaginations.

Alden claims Jimi Hendrix, Django Reinhardt and Bela Fleck as influences and co-Not Eugene Jablonsky, who has performed with piano diva Marian McPartland, brings some jazz elements to their magic formula. Prepare to double jig the night away on July 14 when the Celtic Nots treat downtown to their singular charms.

Somebody’s Hero could also be the name of a big-haired ’80s cover act clad in pleather pants, and this time it actually is. In reality, I have no idea about the hairstyles and fashion choices of this perpetually energetic cover band, but much of the music they cover stems from the era of neon lip gloss and legwarmers. This makes Post Falls’ Somebody’s Hero totally hot at the moment what with an ’80s resurgence in full swing.

The core of the band are Mike Little and Brenda Rogers, who also write and perform original songs along with hits from the ’70s until now. Expect everything from Pat Benatar to No Doubt on July 21 when Somebody’s Hero builds this city on rock ’n’ roll.

There’s something really calming, almost hypnotic, about the repetitive music of marimbas. I like the way the low sound of the bass makes parts of me want to move. The sound of Coeur d’Alene’s all-marimba band Coeurimba makes me want to bounce around like an African zombie-robot.

I’m convinced there’s only ever been one song written for the marimba, kind of like the bagpipe. It’s a good song, but it seems the band stops playing only to rest their wrists a moment before going right back to the same song. A magic trance is created with the polyrhythms by layering the one song on top of itself in different ways. Show up on the evening of July 28 and see how Coeurimba moves you.

On Aug. 4, downtown Coeur d’Alene will be filled with the sounds of “hot jazz” courtesy of Hot Club of Spokane, whose fever-inducing gypsy big band sound has been getting rave reviews since they formed in 2006.

A diverse line-up of musicians allows the band to infuse as much hot New Orleans jazz into their arrangements and performances as they do the brassy romance of World War II-era Paris. Led by the divine vocal acrobatics of Abbey Crawford, Hot Club has had people dancing in the aisles of venues such as Spokane’s Knitting Factory and Sandpoint’s historic Panida as well as numerous local festivals. I’d advise all you Big Daddies and Cool Kittens to come prepared for a full-on zoot suit riot of big swingin’ sound.

It just wouldn’t be Idaho without country music and Handshake Productions booked a double whammy for music fans with Cool Stream on Aug. 11 followed by The Ryan Larsen Band on Aug. 18.

Cool Stream plays music that leans toward the old-school, folk and blues side of country music, evoking long train rides and large dustballs rolling through lonesome prairies.

Ryan Larsen, on the other hand, is a high-gloss heartthrob of a performer, influenced heavily by the shiny production and precise formulas of modern country radio. Basically, if Cool Stream is Woody Guthrie then Ryan Larson is Garth Brooks.

Searching Google, I came across quite a few different Beatles tribute acts named Revolver. One of these Revolvers hits the Sherman Square stage on Aug. 25 to bring down the curtain on the Downtown Summer concert series. I suppose it doesn’t really matter which Revolver, as long as they’re able to conjure up at least a passable whiff of Beatlemania. And they must, because they’re invited back every year to mimic the moves and music of the Fab Four.

At least the children are easily fooled. After watching an Elvis impersonator perform recently in the city park, a friend’s 7-year-old son announced “Wow mom, you’re right! That Elvis is a cool guy,” convinced he had witnessed the real thing. Hopefully, Revolver will provoke a similar reaction.

Contact correspondent Patrick Jacobs by e-mail at For more restaurant and nightlife reviews, music commentary and random thoughts and photos, visit his blog at


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