The Coeur d’Alene Music Festival got off to an ambitious but somewhat slow start, a reflection of the struggle local musicians face in an area some say is saturated with good artists but lacking a cohesive music scene.
“In this area we have cultivated the idea that local music is not worth going to see,” said organizer Aaron Birdsall, lead singer of the local rock trio Flying Mammals. “There are amazing bands here who are signed on major labels that tour and play all over the country, except in town.”
In its inaugural year, the festival, which started Thursday and runs through today, features about 40 bands and offers on-site camping at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds. Most of the attendees Saturday were in one of the bands, but the musicians hope it will grow in the coming years.
“It’s a big undertaking,” Birdsall said. “It takes a lot of commitment.”
Birdsall never wanted to be a concert promoter, but he spearheaded the event to showcase local music, something he said the area sorely needed.
“There was a need and nobody was filling it,” he said. “The idea really is to get all these great players in front of everybody. There’s not a lack of music lovers. There’s a lack of having the venues, the artists and the music lovers all together.”
Most of the bands are from the Inland Northwest, though a handful come from the Seattle and Portland areas.
The event includes something for just about everyone, including rock, pop, folk, funk, jam bands, singer-songwriters and bluegrass, he said.
“We’ve really run the gamut as far as music goes,” he said.
Coeur d’Alene resident and musician Clint Hooten was at the event Saturday to hear what the area had to offer. He said it’s unfortunate many people miss out on the music the region has to offer.
“You see guys come here and play at the fairgrounds that are amazing musicians that most people will never hear,” he said. “It’s just amazing to me the quality of musicians up here. I’ve met guys that were just local musicians, and they’re some of the best musicians on Earth.”
Among the main attractions for the festival are a reunion of the area reggae-rock group Melefluent, Spokane-based pop-rocker Jerad Finck, who is signed to Warner Music Group, Spokane band The VanMarter Project, whose music is used on the Discovery HD TV series “Catchin’ Air,” and local horror-folk band Terrible Buttons.
“I think that this has been probably one of the coolest experiences of my summer,” solo musician Bill Rust said. “I’m sad we couldn’t get it bigger. Next year we’ll grow. There’s a lot of amazing talent.”