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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Reluctant Promoter Terry Grob Has Nurtured The Spokane Music Scene More As A Fan Than A Businessman

Terry Grob’s daily fare often consists of just three cartons of Nestle Quik chocolate milk and a couple packs of Camels a day.

No solid food.

It’s simply no way to live.

Then again, neither is promoting punk rock shows in Spokane.

“Sometimes I don’t eat anything,” says the often grumpy and argumentative Grob.

“I drink two or three things of chocolate milk and that gets me through the day. There’s probably a million of them in my garbage. I’m an idiot, man.”

Spokane’s music scene would think Grob’s selling himself short with that assessment.

Grob started promoting live music in 1989.

At the time, he was a student at Eastern Washington University studying accounting. To earn a few bucks, he worked as a bouncer/doorman at the defunct Henry’s Pub.

As the bar’s business declined due to waning interest in Henry’s house band, Grob suggested the owners book out-of-town, original bands.

“I probably did 200 shows before I realized that I was a promoter,” he says with a grin. “I didn’t even take my flier costs out of my shows because I didn’t know I was promoter and didn’t want to be a promoter.”

Reluctant to assume the title, Grob was, nonetheless, a concert promoter.

As proprietor of Grobal Productions, he aggressively introduced bands - known and unknown - to the Spokane nightlife. To get the word out, he hustled all over town on his bicycle, posting cut-and-pasted fliers on telephone poles and in stores.

Thus, Terry Grob quickly became a fixture and an advocate of the local scene.

“I wanted to hear music I liked,” Grob explains. “I was a really naive person who really wanted to help build a scene. I didn’t start because I saw it as a business opportunity.”

To this day, he stays highly visible at shows, prowling around with a smirk engraved on his sideburned face, often donning knee-high cut-offs, combat boots, a bowling shirt, a Gas Huffer ballcap and horn-rimmed glasses.

Grob made the sleepy local scene a lot noisier, stocking clubs, all-ages venues and grange halls with raucous punk and rock bands like Reverend Horton Heat, NOFX, NoMeanNo, Everclear, Sunny Day Real Estate, Mudhoney and the Monks of Doom. He exposed the 21-plus crowd to a throng of significant local bands, too, such as T.F.L., Mother Load, the Fumes, Velvet Pelvis, Black Happy and the Young Brians.

“He gave us our first few shows,” says Heather Swanstrom, bassist and vocalist of the defunct Velvet Pelvis - Spokane’s first all-female punk combo. “He was behind us the whole time.

“He gave us girls a hard time, but that was just what he said. But what he did was make it possible for us to play.”

The 39-year-old Grob now books bands into Ichabod’s North. The promoter’s bill at the club tonight features three Portland bands, Elmer, The Automatics and Bomf, and a local band, the Buggers. In March at Ichabod’s, he has hockey punkers the Hanson Brothers sparring with break-neck rockers Zeke (his favorite band) and the Fumes.

Sure, other concert promoters have come along to help nuture the local scene, but none have stuck with it as long and as consistently as Grob.

And, he differs vastly from the cliche fast-talking, power-hungry, manipulative and greedy promoter. Except for being a tad territorial when he believes other promoters are cutting into his business, Grob stays relatively low-key.

Which is appropriate for someone who subscribes to the grass-roots style of promoting. He works out of his modest one-bedroom North Side apartment. Because he can’t afford to buy radio or print ads, he relies on fliers, hand-bills and word-of-mouth to bait people to go to shows.

Though most people are lured to the music business by the possibility of making big bucks, Grob wasn’t blinded by dollar signs.

After all, punk shows in Spokane generally draw paltry returns.

Grob recalls a money-making opportunity he passed up.

After assisting a Seattle concert promoter with a Concrete Blonde concert in 1990 in Spokane, the promoter asked Grob to be the company’s Spokane liaison. But when the promoter sent mainstream metal-shlockster Trixter his way, Grob, disinclined to sacrifice his integrity for a few bucks, declined.

“The guy said, ‘Well, I respect your integrity, but I don’t think you’re going to go very far in the music business,”’ Grob recalls.

“That was never my intention,” he pleads. “I didn’t really want anything to do with the music business. I just wanted to help make things a success. I was the most naive person on earth.”

Even now, he’ll book only the bands he listens to on his turntable, no matter what kind of following they command.

Yet, sometimes Grob takes his ethics a little too far - to the point where he doesn’t have enough income to pay rent.

“It’s not a living,” he says.

“I don’t have (anything),” he points around his apartment. “That couch didn’t cost me anything. This TV was sitting on a friend’s back porch. The VCR (a friend) gave that to me for free.”

It’s a wonder he’s still doing shows. The promoter has sweated blood for the music scene. His only reward, however, has been disappointment - granted, some of it by his own doing.

In 1992 Grob and local musician Rick Warriner opened an all-ages punk club called Club Pompeii in downtown Spokane. Acclaimed bands like the Hanson Brothers, Seaweed, NoMeansNo, Gas Huffer and the Gits all played there.

But following a negative portrayal in a television news story, which Grob says was inaccurate, and squabbles with building management, the club closed down after just eight months.

Pompeii’s closure, coupled with a city law banning flier-posting on utility poles the same year - Grob’s bread and butter as far as advertising - had crippling effects on his business. Any idealism he might have had was snuffed. His motivation stifled. And he grew really cynical.

“I started getting bitter from that point on. Really bitter,” he says.

Grob has toned down his aggression, especially now, as the liveliness of the local scene is flickering. Scenesters aren’t showing up as regularly as they once did. So he has to supplement his income by working part time at 20th Century Trash, a vintage clothing store where Grob looks after the books and works the cash register.

So why does he keep promoting?

“Sometimes I feel great, like when Zeke’s playing on stage, I’m having the best time of my life,” he says.

Then he pauses.

“I don’t have any options. I’m making a buck or two at it. Ichabod’s is paying me a little bit of money. I’m getting a free meal (from Ichabod’s) every now and then.

“It’s been so long since I’ve been in college; I can’t remember anything about the thing I majored in.

“To tell you the truth, I knew that I didn’t ever want to be an accountant. I’d probably be jumping off a tall building if I ever went into that field.”

If Terry Grob, the promoter, walks away from the local scene, he will, no doubt, leave a crater-sized void. With no one stepping forward to fill it.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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