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Doug Clark: Whatever the key, Spokane Street Music starts with a groove

Doug Clark,columnist

Blake Busch finished rocking some AC/DC on his electric guitar and then consented to an interview following his Street Music Week debut Monday in downtown Spokane.

Busch, by the way, is 11.

“So,” I said in one of those knowing adult tones that I used to hate when I was a kid, “is this your first professional interview as a rock star?”

Busch thought a second before answering …



He then proceeded to tell me about being interviewed by some TV reporter when his band Obsidian was gigging last month at Bloomsday.

Good grief. The kid’s got his own band.

Either I’m getting older or the musicians are getting much, much younger.

Busch, however, was one of 42 musicians who joined me on the downtown sidewalks of Spokane. We were all there to take part in the 14th annual event that puts musicians and entertainers on the sidewalks to raise money for Second Harvest food bank.

Street Music Week runs during the noon hours through Friday with satellite events happening simultaneously at Spokane’s historic Garland District and Sherman Avenue in Coeur d’Alene.

In the past 13 years the event has raised more than $118,000 in the fight against hunger.

But donations are only one of the motives behind this. First and foremost, the goal of Street Music Week is to add some much-needed good vibrations to our civic landscapes.

And that wouldn’t happen without the buskers, some 300 of them, who volunteer their time during the week to perform.

Speaking of which, I couldn’t have been happier to see my old friend Larry Jess show up with horns in hands.

Jess has been the Spokane Symphony’s principal trumpeter since 1975.

I sat next to Larry in the Eastern Washington University band. He played on an album I recorded in 1971 and even played at my wedding.

“Did I?” he said. “I don’t remember.”

Wow. Thanks, Larry.

Anyway, Jess improvised and grooved along with guitarist Joe Brasch, my pal and band mate, as I sang some of my originals.

“I gave up meat for you, started living on tofu …”

Trumpet players hate guitar keys. It’s almost a tradition due to the fact that guitar keys (G,D,A and E, say) have a lot of sharps for the trumpet which, if you’re keeping score at home, is a B flat instrument.

But being the consummate professional, Jess played along with hardly any complaining.

“What key is this song in?” he griped. “L?”

What fun. And it just keeps getting better.

On Wednesday, my friend and world-renowned rock star Myles Kennedy is planning to visit my spot outside the Starbucks at Main and Post to jam on some songs and play a solo number or two.

A former occasional member of my band, Trailer Park Girls, Myles abandoned me some years back to go sing and play with supposedly better musicians, like Alter Bridge and Slash.

Am I bitter about being dumped?

Very much so. But I’ve learned to hide my tears.

Also coming up, Peter Rivera, the great former lead singer from Rare Earth, will make his annual pilgrimage to the Starbucks location on Thursday.

Rivera, who sold millions of albums, gets better every time I see him. He’ll be singing his classic hits like “Get Ready,” “Celebrate,” and “Hey, Big Brother.”

And finally…

What Street Music Week would be complete without receiving a mayoral proclamation?

Like always, Jim Lyons, street music vice commander and part-time exorcist, and I showed up at the Monday night Spokane City Council meeting in time for the prayer, flag salute and reading of the proclamations.

This year Mike Fagan drew the short straw. He read the official document in his mellifluous radio voice.

“Whereas, the city of Spokane is a city with an abundance of fine musicians and a rich tradition of music appreciation…

“Now, therefore, I, David A. Condon, mayor of the city of Spokane, on behalf of the citizens of Spokane, do hereby proclaim the week of June 13 through June 17, 2016, as Street Music Week.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at