First, there was Fatso, who racked up more than 54 million views on YouTube.
Then came Bento, who became known around the world.
In 2010, Skinny joined the crew, but it wasn’t until after Bento died in 2018 that he took his place behind the keyboard.
Yes, Keyboard Cat, cared for by Spokane artist/musician Charlie Schmidt, is still going strong.
And during Street Music Week, Monday through June 14 in downtown Spokane and Coeur d’Alene and Spokane’s Garland District, fans of the blue T-shirt-clad Keyboard Cat will get the opportunity to meet Skinny, dubbed Keyboard Cat 3.0, in his world-premiere performance.
Skinny and Schmidt will take selfies with fans and hand out “I Met Keyboard Cat” buttons in exchange for a donation to Second Harvest.
For the past 16 years, Street Music Week, founded by retired Spokesman-Review columnist Doug Clark, has raised money for Second Harvest by letting busking musicians and artists loose on the streets of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene for some midday entertainment.
Schmidt has performed at Street Music Week twice before but this year marks the first Keyboard Cat appearance.
Schmidt adopted Skinny, named after Fatso’s sister, just before he and Bento flew to Los Angeles to appear in a Wonderful Pistachios commercial.
The company wanted Schmidt to bring two cats, so Schmidt brought Skinny along. Though he didn’t end up appearing on camera, Skinny got a firsthand look at the Keyboard Cat life.
“It’s paying off because he’s been patient all these years and watched Bento be famous and get all the attention and now he’s really stepping up to the plate,” Schmidt said.
Transforming a cat into a Keyboard Cat, Schmidt said, comes after work to increase a cat’s “number” – the amount of time a cat will focus and allow people to interact with it.
“It’s on another level of cuteness or excitement or surprise because it’s a cat not a dog, because we’re used to dogs repeating behavior,” Schmidt said. “But we all know that cats are nuts. They’re smarter than us, that much is for sure.”
Schmidt is excited to appear at Street Music Week again because it gives him a chance to support his friend Clark, the people helped by Second Harvest and cats.
“It’s good for everybody, the hungry, the felines,” he said. “Plus I like doing it. I like expressing weird things that are on my mind. It seems somehow if I follow my instinct, it doesn’t have to make sense or money necessarily to be the right thing to do.”
Those interested in busking during Street Music Week should show up a little before noon at one of the following places: the sidewalk next to the Starbucks at Main Avenue and Post Street in downtown Spokane, the sidewalk outside the Gathering House at Garland Avenue and Post Street in the Garland District or the sidewalk outside Mix It Up, 513 Sherman Ave., Coeur d’Alene.
After signing in, buskers will receive a busker badge they can keep and a red bucket for donations. Buskers then find their own spot to perform.
After 1 p.m., buskers will bring back the donations they received to their check-in spot.
Buskers of all entertainment genres and skill levels can perform however many days they would like.
Performers should be aware that there are no electrical outlets available. Battery-powered amps are acceptable.
Last year, Street Music Week raised $29,322, raising its 16-year total to $209,322, which was used to distribute 1,046,610 meals.
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