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Local bands gather for annual Concert for Isaac

Civilized Animal caps Saturday’s Concert for Isaac at the Knitting Factory.
Civilized Animal caps Saturday’s Concert for Isaac at the Knitting Factory.

Now in its third year, the Concert for Isaac was designed as a way to help support children with autism.

But for the first time, the event will include a performance by a child with autism, 11-year-old Elijah Friese.

“(Elijah) is a guitar player. And he loves to play music. That’s what brings him out, when he has a guitar,” said the event’s organizer, Kosta Panidis.

After age 2, when his vocabulary and social engagement began to slip, Friese’s life became a series of tests and therapies to diagnose and treat his autism.

He began taking piano lessons at age 7, but quickly gravitated toward guitar. But finding a guitar instructor who could effectively communicate with a child with autism was a challenge, and Friese ended up teaching himself to play guitar with the help of books and YouTube videos.

Friese’s dad eventually linked him up with Kit Ehrgood at the Spokane Music Institute. They have been meeting weekly ever since. The communication is often nonverbal, and mainly happens through music.

On Saturday, Friese will share the stage with the regional and local favorites, including area powerhouse bands Kelly Hughes Band, The Galaxy Forrest, and Java Kola, Civilized Animal and Sammy Eubanks.

Making its debut in this area, The Galaxy Forrest is based out of southeast Idaho and has a similar stage presence to Civilized Animal, Panidis said.

“Two sisters front the band. The first time I saw them they blew me away. They do everything from a reggae version of Pink Floyd to Michael Jackson,” said Kosta, who is a member of Java Kola, which is fronted by Jason McKinney, who also fronts Civilized Animal.

Eubanks’ three-piece band has gone through some lineup changes over the past year or so, but they are ramping up for the summer festival season and considering options for writing and recording, Eubanks said.

“We’re just waiting to find out which way I’m going to jump,” Eubanks said. “We’re always willing to help out with great causes like this. I wish it was as easy as doing a show and raising a pile of money to find the cure. That’s what we all hope for, I guess.”

In addition to the bands, there will be an auction at the event featuring autographed guitars.

All proceeds from the Concert for Isaac will benefit the Isaac Foundation, which provides educational support and financial assistance, in the form of therapy grants, to children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.