It looked, sounded and smelled familiar.
Roger Stevens was jamming with Dave McRae on Friday evening as fans starving for live music dined on Southern comfort food. Tim “Too Slim” Langford performed on the VIP stage under a blue sky shortly before sunset at the event in northwest Spokane.
It was the start of a picture-perfect night, as about 200 music fans soaked up the atmosphere shortly after the SRD (socially responsible distancing) Outdoor Drive-in Music Festival on Indian Trail Road commenced.
Chicken, mashed potatoes, garlic bread and corn, followed by carrot cake, sated the hungry – but perhaps not as much as the music. It had been too long.
The first area music festival since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic will feature Langford and his blues band once again on Saturday. Kalan Wolfe and the Shift are on the bill as well.
The event is like a lower-key, big-hearted Bonnaroo. Also billed as A Benefit for Jesse, the three-day, two-night run of music and camping is for a good cause, not just a welcome return of live music to the area.
Part of the proceeds will benefit Jesse Hoorelbeke, who is battling cancer. He is the son of Peter Rivera, a Spokane musician and singer-dummer for the band Rare Earth.
“When we heard about what was happening with Jesse, we had to do something,” stage manager Matt Loi said. “We wanted to help, and the best way to do that is to perform at an event like this.”
Loi’s band, Sweet Rebel D, is among the acts performing Saturday, along with Celebrate with Peter Rivera.
“I’m looking forward to performing, and it’s great for Jesse,” Rivera said. “But not all of the money is going to Jesse. I’m not getting paid but my band is getting paid for performing. I’m not going to deprive them.”
It’s been over a year since most musicians have been compensated for live performance. Rivera won’t short his loyal and dependable players.
“Most musicians don’t have money for a rainy day,” said the charismatic entertainer, who’s lived in Spokane for the past decade. “I’m not a rich guy, but I have money socked away and I survived.
“I’m excited to perform. We had our rehearsal. We had our bullpen, and now we’re ready to throw in the game. It’s about time for live music in Spokane. … This is our Woodstock.”
The Funky Blues Church with Rusty Jackson and Harry Batty will lead Sunday. Robert Edwards; Russell Kofoed; Justine Ponsness; Yeti, of Weary Traveler; Jacob Vanknowe; and the Wow Wows will follow.
After the festival, a service will be held for Tommy Gantt, who died in March. Gantt, who was known as Tommy G from the 509 was a singer-songwriter and leader of the Nug Jug Band, and a musical community leader. His girlfriend, Beth Heart, will lead the free memorial service, which starts after the festival ends Sunday.
The SRD Music Festival is slated to continue through Sunday at 11313 N. Indian Trail Road.