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On Stage - Local music reviews

  It was a lot colder than it ought to have been. This winter has been so mild; there’s hardly been any snow, so my wife and I stood, under dressed for the weather, trying to stuff dollar bills into a slot the size of a number two pencil to pay for our parking space in downtown Spokane. Though our fingers were freezing, and we were cursing the inventor of this ridiculous payment system, we were excited to be on our way to see three of the coolest guys in the area play music together. Not that I knew they were going to be so cool, we hadn’t yet met, but I had a feeling that three guys who’d managed to stick together for six years, and build such a loyal fan base must be doing something right.

  Joe Kresge, Darren Wilson and Joe Welk are Coeur d’Alene’s Melefluent. They describe their music as funkrock, laced with reggae—Sublime meets K.G.B. This was to be their last local show before embarking on a tour that will encompass Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. This is far from their first tour, and is unlikely to be their last. They’ve made a living for themselves by maintaining a steady schedule on the road with Coeur d’Alene as the hub. They share the rent and expenses at home, and a van on the road. When I asked them about how they manage to play music without the ever-pesky day jobs, they said that the shared base at home and affordable housing allow them to travel. They started locally, and then decided to branch out “We used to drive to Seattle for shows anyways so why not be playing them?” Welk commented.

  I asked them if they had any good touring stories and they laid this one on me. After a great show in Anytown, USA, they were hanging out with the stragglers and asking around to see if anyone knew a good spot for free camping. They got the skinny on a place where they could park their van for the night, and after loading up the last of the gear, they set out to find their “lodging” for the night. It was around 2 am by this time, and traffic was the  only thing sparser than good lighting, so they found what they thought was the campground, parked the van and went to sleep. Kresge slept outside the van while the other two were inside, so he was the first to wake to strange voices asking if the dog had been let out or not. He awoke to discover that they’d parked in somebody’s back yard! They were beyond a small hill, just out of sight, so Kresge quickly woke the other two and they took off before they could be reprimanded for tire tracks or trespassing.

  We talked for a bit about their new album, which they are very excited about. They’ve spent about a month at Black Lab Studios recording 14 tracks. When asked about their favorites, they immediately agreed on one called One Dead End, and another instrumental tentatively titled Song #6. (They bantered briefly about whether or not the song would actually be #6 on their cd… I guess you’ll have to buy it to find out.) The album, which they’ve produced themselves with some help from Black Lab’s Joe Varela, is slated for release in May after they return from the tour and put the finishing touches on it.

Though they were planning on having it done before the tour, timelines being what they are, they decided it would be better to ensure that they’re really, really happy with the record, rather than rush it out before the tour; just one more piece of evidence that when you get right down to it, these guys love music, a fact that really comes through live as well. Some of their favorites right now include NOFX, RX Bandits, Built to Spill, and Pavement.

As enjoyable as these guys were to talk to, they were equally as enjoyable to watch perform.

They started off with Darren on guitar, Welk on bass, and Kresge on drums as always.  The crowd moved toward the stage and got into it right away. Apparently they knew what to expect because the three relaxed guys I talked to on the street had slipped into the music like they’d never known anything else. The songs were good. The show was good. The overall vibe was excellent, and as hard as I tried to be what I think a music writer’s supposed to be (this is the first such piece I’ve written and I really thought I was supposed to appear as aloof-yet-supportive as I could,) halfway through the set my body was moving in ways that my will didn’t suggest. They played a few new songs including One Dead End, and they played lots of classics including Statistical Bliss and the ever-popular Waiting For Change. It was a great show. About six songs in, Welk and Wilson swapped axes and continued to rock for another six songs or so. The last two songs were particularly memorable as Welk put down his standard six-string in favor of a lap steel guitar and took us from tasty licks to full-on solo. The crowd was completely enthralled, either shakin’ it on the dance floor or pressed up against the railing of the seating area above.

  As my wife and I left the show, I couldn’t help but think how blessed we are to live in such an incredible place as north Idaho. In our growing town of Sandpoint we’ve got a great community, spectacular natural surroundings, the best people one could ever hope to meet, and an arts culture that more than makes up in authenticity what it lacks in volume. Then there’s Spokane, a mere “three album drive” away (I like to measure car rides by the number of full-length albums one can listen to on the way) and yet offers a great city atmosphere to contrast the small town charm of Sandpoint. We drove home that night with the muted excitement of having just seen a great show. Melefluent are not only three great musicians, they’re also some of the coolest guys around. You can see the video (which I took with a handheld without looking thru the viewer and freely admit that it’s very, very rough) of the interview at and search for Melefluent. Check them out online at where you can find out more, or get a copy of their new record. And, if you should wake up some morning and find them parked in your backyard, don’t be alarmed. It’s par for the course for three guys making a living on good vibes and good music. | | | |
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