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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Festival at Sandpoint takes contemporary angle

The giant musical party known as the Festival at Sandpoint has hit the halfway point, with four concerts left to go.

If swing is your thing, you can catch clarinetist Richard Stoltzman saluting Benny Goodman. If twang is your thang, you can catch country star Clint Black singing about “A Good Run of Bad Luck.”

So far, the festival has had a great run of good luck. Last week’s thunderstorms bypassed the big white tent at Sandpoint’s Memorial Field. More than 3,000 people caught Boz Scaggs on Saturday, said director Dyno Wahl.

Meanwhile, plenty of tickets remain for this week’s concerts. If last week’s lineup had a nostalgic ’70s flavor, this week’s acts have a more contemporary feel, beginning with:

• Michelle Shocked with Jonatha Brooke, today, 7:30 p.m., $29.95 – Shocked describes herself as “the most sophisticated hillbilly you’ll ever meet.” That’s an apt description of her music, too.

This East Texas woman from the “welfare class” has been making sophisticated music for more than 20 years, combining elements of indie-rock, soul, country, folk and jazz. She isn’t shy about expressing her opinions about the state of the world, either. One of the songs on her new album, “Soul,” is titled “The Ballad of the Battle of the Ballot and the Bullet.”

Every Festival at Sandpoint produces a surprise audience favorite, and Jonatha Brooke may have the right qualifications this year. She began her career singing in Boston coffeehouses, and has since established a national following for her well-written, poignant songs. Most recently, she has recorded “The Works,” set to previously unheard lyrics by Woody Guthrie.

Sandpoint’s own Shook Twins will open the show.

This concert is also the annual Microbrew Tasting event. When gates open at 6 p.m., everyone over 21 gets free samples of beer from a number of local and regional microbreweries.

Keller Williams and Donavon Frankenreiter, Friday, 7 p.m., $34.95 – They call this the “Phat Phriday” doubleheader, which means it has two equal headliners.

The first, Keller Williams, is known as a “mad scientist” and one-man jam band. How does he jam with himself? Partly through technology and partly through his own wild creativity – you’ll just have to see for yourself. He takes the stage at 7 p.m.

Donavon Frankenreiter is already legendary in Sandpoint because of his performance last year. His set was cut short by thunderstorms, but he then jumped out in the audience and played acoustically, as if around a big campfire, and then ended up at Eichardt’s Pub, where he played for hours.

He’s a surfing buddy and musical cousin of Jack Johnson, who co-produced his first album. Frankenreiter’s music is, however, a bit funkier.

“Everybody became a big Donavon fan around here,” said Wahl. “Hopefully, lightning won’t strike twice.”

Frankenreiter takes the stage at 9 p.m.

Clint Black with Jypsi, Saturday, 6 p.m., $49.95 – Black became one of country music’s biggest stars with his debut album, “Killin’ Time,” in 1989. It spawned a ridiculous number of No. 1 country hits: “A Better Man,” “Killin’ Time,” “Nobody’s Home” and “Walking Away.”

Two other songs from the album, “Nothing’s News” and “Put Yourself in My Shoes,” went to No. 3 and No. 4 respectively, which made them practically underachievers by Clint Black standards.

Since then, Black has established himself as a proud traditionalist, with an emphasis on the Western part of country-Western. He even sang a duet with Roy Rogers.

The other act, Jypsi, is an up-and-coming family band that consists of three sisters and a brother.

“They’re really crossover-country- bluegrass-pop,” said Wahl. “People who like Nickel Creek will like them a lot.”

Veteran Sandpoint troubadour Charlie Packard opens.

Grand Finale: Swing! Swing! Swing! with the Spokane Symphony and guest clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, Sunday, 7:30 p.m., $34.95, youth $9.95 – Two clarinet legends combine for one evening under the stars: the late Benny Goodman, probably the most famous clarinetist in history, and Stoltzman, the reigning king of the clarinet.

Stoltzman will perform a tribute to Goodman with the Spokane Symphony, directed by Gary Sheldon. Think of the orchestra as an Extra-Big Band. You’ll also hear some Ellington, some Strayhorn and some Gershwin.

The festival landed the in-demand Stoltzman partly because he and Sheldon are old friends and collaborators. They have performed and recorded a CD together.

Zachariah Baker, a gifted young Sandpoint pianist who won the Coldwater Creek Music Scholarship, will perform at intermission.

This is also the annual Taste of the Stars Wine Tasting evening. Everybody over 21 will get to sample wines from 24 Northwest wineries – and get a free wine glass, too – beginning when gates open at 4:30 p.m.

The evening will end the traditional way, with a fireworks display and a symphonic encore.

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