August 3, 2008

Easy on the Ears and the Gas Tank

By Jim Kershner, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.

Aug. 3--Everybody's talking about "stay-cations" -- well, the Festival at Sandpoint may be the classic Inland Northwest stay-cation.

The festival, in its 26th year, is almost a complete mini-vacation all by itself, with nationally known musical acts, picnics on the lawn, osprey soaring overhead and meteors lighting the sky above the Big White Tent.

Plenty of people have figured this out, because tickets already are selling briskly, according to festival director Dyno Wahl.

The biggest sellers are, in order: the Super Saturday concert with the Richie Furay Band, the Marshall Tucker Band and Pure Prairie League; Ziggy Marley with Children of the Revolution; and Wynonna with Bomshel.

Those three concerts may end up selling out and tickets for the entire lineup are moving smartly, beginning with a certified Motown legend named Smokey and ending with a certified classical legend named Ludwig.

Here's the schedule:

--Smokey Robinson with Chic Gamine, Thursday, 7:30 p.m., $59.95 -- This is the biggest name at the festival (with the accompanying highest ticket price). Smokey will spend the first half of the show doing a retrospective of hits -- which most of the audience will know by heart ("Shop Around, "Tears of a Clown,""I Second That Emotion"). Then he'll branch out into his more recent work. According to most reports, his high tenor is still intact at age 68.

The opening act, Chic Gamine, will provide a clear contrast. They're a French-Canadian a cappella singing act from Winnipeg. They've been making quite a splash recently on the summer festival circuit.

Fireworks (and a free glass of champagne for those over 21) will close the show.

--Brett Dennen with Donavon Frankenreiter, Friday, 7 p.m., $34.95 -- These are two singer-songwriters with loyal, and growing, audiences. Dennen, who has had airplay with songs such as "Desert Sunrise" and "Darling Do Not Fear," will open the show.

Frankenreiter's music is reminiscent of Jack Johnson, who produced his first two albums. Both emerged from the surfing scene. Now, Frankenreiter is known for being a bit funkier than his mentor.

This concert is billed as the "Phat Phriday" concert.

--Richie Furay Band, the Marshall Tucker Band and Pure Prairie League, Saturday, 6 p.m., $39.95 -- This is billed as the "Super Saturday" concert and it certainly has a lot of baby-boomer firepower.

Richie Furay was a founding member of Buffalo Springfield, the revered '60s folk-rock band which also featured Steve Stills and Neil Young. Furay went on to appear in Poco and the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band. His band will play material from all of those eras.

The Marshall Tucker Band was part of the original '70s wave of Southern rockers, best known for their hits "Heard It In a Love Song" and "Can't You See." Doug Gray remains the lead vocalist. (Marshall Tucker was never in the band at all; he was a blind piano tuner in their South Carolina town.)

Pure Prairie League is another revered country-rock act, best known for the classic tune "Amie."

--Family Concert, "Puss in Boots," with the Spokane Youth Orchestra, Aug. 10, gates open at 4:30 p.m., $5 -- The annual family concert will have a different look this year, with a children's ballet accompanying the music.

The usual kids' pre-concert activities will be offered -- the instrument petting zoo and various games -- and there will also be some special treats for adults as well. Parents can receive a free five-minute massage while their kids are playing games.

Also, for this concert only, the bar area will be converted to an "under-21 only" zone. Kids can order Shirley Temples and Roy Rogers for a small charge.

--The BoDeans and the Waifs, Aug. 14, 7:30 p.m., $32.95 -- The BoDeans burst on the rock scene from Wisconsin and were named the Best New American Band in the 1987 Rolling Stone reader's poll. They went on to have hits in both the rock and adult-contemporary charts.

The Waifs are a folk-rock act from Australia. They opened for Bob Dylan in Australia in 2003 and he liked them so much he brought them back for his North American tour.

This is the festival's annual microbrew tasting concert: Free tastings from a variety of regional microbrewers will be given to all ticketholders over 21.

--Ziggy Marley with Children of the Revolution, Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m., $55.95 -- Ziggy carries on his family's reggae tradition with his Grammy-winning music. Wahl said we can expect to see a cross-generational audience, from teens to people in their 70s.

Children of the Revolution is a Seattle-based world music band featuring electric violinist Geoffrey Castle. Their music has influences ranging from the Middle East to Eastern Europe.

--Wynonna with Bomshel and New Jack and the Rippers, Aug. 16, 6 p.m., $49.95 -- Wynonna (as in Judd) has earned a loyal following with her dozens of country hits, yet she is also one of America's finest blues-gospel belters. Bomshel is a country duo featuring Sandpoint's own Kristy O on fiddle. New Jack and the Rippers are Southern rockers from Texarkana.

--Bravo Beethoven! with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, Aug. 17, 7:30 p.m., $29.95 adults, $9.95 youth -- Gary Sheldon will conduct the orchestra in Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 ("Pastoral"). In addition, The Generations Trio will join the orchestra for the infrequently performed Triple Concerto.

This will be the annual "Taste of the Stars" concert, with free wine-tasting from more than 25 regional wineries for all ticketholders age 21 and older.

Veteran festival-goers know that the gates-opening time is just as important as the concert time. If you want to sit front-and-center, you'll have to line up before gates open.

Gates open at 6 p.m. for all Thursday and Friday concerts, 4:30 p.m. for all Saturday and Sunday concerts.

However, because the tent was moved back 40 feet last year, there is more prime real estate in front of the stage, and better sight lines, than in the old days.

Picnics are welcome; a variety of food and drink booths also are available onsite. Behind the lawn area is a grandstand, with plenty of seating for everyone.


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