The streets of downtown Spokane will be a little livelier than usual during lunch hour next week.
That’s thanks to the return of Street Music Week, an annual, weeklong showcase of musicians, professional and amateur, playing to raise money to feed people through the Second Harvest nonprofit, which leads a hunger-relief network in 26 counties in the region.
The event runs from noon to 1 p.m. every weekday, in downtown Spokane, the Garland District and downtown Coeur d’Alene. Performers do not need to sign up in advance.
“It’s pretty exciting to see a street music culture start to thrive,” said Spokane musician Tommy Gant.
Gant has come to the past five events to play what he calls nostalgic ’70s soft-rock favorites, like James Taylor, Bob Dylan and John Denver. He’ll be playing on Monday at noon at the Satellite Diner.
Hosting the festival is Doug Clark, a former Spokesman-Review columnist who began the event as a way to promote street music, and featured it in his column starting in 2003. Having retired from writing for the paper, he said this year’s Street Music Week hopes to hit the $200,000 mark the event has built toward since its inception. Raising $20,000 this year will get it there, he said.
“For a lot of musicians that come, it’s their first performance in front of a live audience,” Clark said. “It’s a good way to just get some confidence and do it for a good cause.”
In the past, performers have included a second-place world accordion champion, and Myles Kennedy, a famous musician who grew up in Spokane.
Musicians are asked to show up to three checkpoints before noon: in downtown Spokane next to Starbucks at Main Avenue and Post Street; in the Garland District outside the Gathering House coffee shop at Garland Avenue and Post Street; and in Coeur d’Alene outside the Art Spirit Gallery on Sherman Avenue.
They will receive a red donation bucket and a badge, and are asked to find their own spot to play. After the hour, they are asked to return the donations to the checkpoints. No power outlets are provided, but a battery-powered amp is allowed.
“At the time I started it, there was a horrible lack of street music in Spokane,” Clark said. The first time, on 2003, it was just Clark. The next year, he drew 12 others. Then the next year 25. Now Street Music Week attracts upward of 300 performers, he said.
Gant’s advice to new performers: “Go sing your heart out and smile a lot. Make eye contact and say nice things to people as they go by.”
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