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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eight elite nights at Festival at Sandpoint

Variety of talent comes outside to play

The big white tent is up, Lake Pend Oreille is sparkling-blue and the osprey are poised to soar picturesquely overhead.

Now it’s time for the musicians to do their part at the Festival at Sandpoint, the region’s supreme outdoor music festival. Eight concerts over the next two weekends will feature a variety of national acts, including at least two virtuosos: one on blues harmonica and one on clarinet.

Meanwhile, the crowds are poised to play their role in the festivities. Season passes sold out months ago, before the acts were even announced. Yet there are still plenty of individual tickets left for all eight of this year’s shows, according to executive director Dyno Wahl.

The recession has dampened sales somewhat, but at least three shows – Boz Scaggs, Blues Traveler and Clint Black – may end up at or near capacity.

Here’s a look at what’s coming up in the festival’s first week:

Firefall and Poco, today, 7:30 p.m., $34.95 – Call it a ’70s country-rock jamboree.

Firefall, from Boulder, Colo., had a huge hit with “You Are the Woman” in 1976 and a long string of successful singles.

Poco emerged from the ashes of Buffalo Springfield in the late ’60s with a clean country-rock sound that led directly to the Eagles; bassist Timothy B. Schmit was in Poco from 1970 to 1977, before he joined the Eagles. Original pedal-steel guitarist Rusty Young is still in the Poco lineup.

“These two bands go well together,” said Wahl. “They put together rock ’n’ roll, folk and Americana until they all merged.”

Festival-goers have had a long wait for these two bands. Both were booked last summer, but had to postpone because of scheduling mixups.

Opening night is also the traditional red-carpet champagne reception: Everyone over 21 gets a free glass of champagne as they enter the grounds.

Blues Traveler with JJ Grey & Mofro, Friday, 7:30 p.m., $44.95 – Blues Traveler is fronted by the king of the harmonica, John Popper. The band had a number of hits in the 1990s, including “But Anyway,” “Run-Around” and “Hook,” and still tours with most of the original lineup.

JJ Grey & Mofro is an up-and-coming band from Florida. They play what they call “front-porch soul,” which also contains elements of Southern rock and funk.

The acoustic opener will be Matt Keen, a young guitarist-singer-songwriter formerly from the Sandpoint area.

Boz Scaggs with The Subdudes, Saturday, 6 p.m., $49.95 – Scaggs started off as a member of the Steve Miller Band, but became famous on his own with his smash album “Silk Degrees” in 1976, which contained his biggest hits, “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle.”

“Everyone in their 40s and 50s has a copy of ‘Silk Degrees’ in vinyl in their garage,” said Wahl.

This is the top-selling concert of the festival so far, and Wahl expects it to sell out.

The Subdudes are a New Orleans-based rock band notable for its four-part harmonies and its lack of a drummer – the percussionist plays everything but a drum set.

Family Concert: “Green Eggs and Hamadeus,” Sunday, gates open and activities begin at 4:30 p.m., $5 – The Spokane Youth Orchestra and Sandpoint’s Studio One Dancers will do a musical adaptation of the Dr. Seuss story, as well as some pieces by Mozart and Strauss. There will be plenty of other activities as well, including an instrument petting zoo.

The wine-and-beer garden will be converted into an under-21 bar for this concert, serving alcohol-free Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers drinks, along with popcorn. There will also be a parents’ corner, where all parents can get a free five-minute neck-and-shoulder massage.

Next Thursday’s Today section will include more information about the festival’s second-week lineup. Meanwhile, here’s a synopsis:

Michelle Shocked with Jonatha Brooke, Aug. 13, 7:30 p.m., $29.95 (includes microbrew tasting).

Keller Williams and Donavon Frankenreiter, Aug. 14, $34.95. This is the doubleheader “Phat Phriday” concert with Williams taking the stage at 7 p.m. and Frankenreiter at 9.

Clint Black with Jypsi, Aug. 15, 6 p.m., $49.95.

Grand Finale: Swing! Swing! Swing! with the Spokane Symphony and guest clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, Aug. 16, 7:30 p.m., $34.95 (including Taste of the Stars wine tasting).

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