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Play it again: A love letter to The Bartlett

Posted on October 2, 2019 at 6:00 am

Photo credit: The Bartlett by Ellie Lillstrom Photography

By Susan Goertz

In late 2013, something magical happened that changed Spokane’s music scene forever, for the better. The Bartlett opened its doors. A desperately needed all-ages venue, The Bartlett was everything Spokane’s music scene was missing—an intimate space (150 person capacity versus the 1,500 capacity of The Knitting Factory) that focused on the music and sound quality.

Growing up on the West Plains, I had always found it a challenge to find something to do. If there were any good shows, they were probably at bars I was too young to get into. All-ages venues were all but nonexistent and not always considered safe by parents.

The Bartlett has been a venue the whole family could enjoy—a safe space for teens to dance without concern about mosh-pit vibes. A place where the sound is so good the vibrations moved right from your toes to your heart.

Over its six-year history, The Bartlett has introduced me to so many good musicians and their tunes and even personal anthems! I’ve met friends for life at The Bartlett and watched friends take the stage as their art brought me to tears. There are so many local bands I have discovered there and a variety of artists from all over the country who I would never have heard of if not for The Bartlett. In the local/regional scene, I was introduced to Marshall McLean Band, Shook Twins, Joseph, and Blackwater Prophet.

Another memory that still gives me goose bumps was a show one August night in 2014. A magenta haze wafted from the fog machine, glowed above the floorboards, and set a bluesy, wistful scene. As the house lights lowered, the expectant hum of the audience quieted. A silhouette emerged. The moment her fingers danced over her banjo strings I was enthralled. Her voice sprung forth, perfection. The crowd was enraptured. Valerie June reigned supreme from The Bartlett’s stage.

I have seen a lot of amazing talent, acts so big I never expected them to land in my hometown. Hands down though, the best show I have ever seen in Spokane was Valerie June. The incomparable Karli Ingersoll (whose solo project Windoe is a must listen) was the opening act.

For both sound and atmosphere, The Bartlett has had a level of quality that has held true for every show I’ve attended—album release parties, Bartfest, poetry slams, and innovative events like The Spokane Round, a live performance incorporating three songwriters, one slam poet, and a visual artist all creating right in front of the audience. The Bartlett has been a constant innovator in the Spokane arts and music scene. The place is magic, and thanks to the careful curation of owners Karli and Caleb Ingersoll, Spokane has been introduced to a whole new wave of amazing local, regional, and national musical talent.

They brought acts to Spokane usually discovered through NPR Tiny Desk concerts—musicians like Typhoon, Angel Olsen, and Future Islands. I also discovered artists from Portland to Brooklyn and everywhere in between: Jolie Holland, Young Magic, Bear in Heaven, and The Tontons just to name a few. Sallie Ford, Angel Olsen, Deep Sea Diver, and Typhoon are all constantly on my playlist now thanks to shows at The Bartlett.

For each of the life-changing shows I have been able to attend at the Bartlett, there are many more I wish I had seen. I may never get over missing Julien Baker, yet I still hold my head high knowing she played Spokane. Sarah Jarosz, Margaret Glaspy, Vacationer, Pete Yorn, Tacocat, La Luz, and San Fermin all graced Spokane with their music because of The Bartlett.

So I am finding it near impossible to say goodbye to The Bartlett.

If you haven’t been fortunate enough to check it out yet, don’t fret. You have time. The final show is on November 8. Until then there are plenty of amazing acts you won’t want to miss, like Damien Jurado and Lucy Dacus.

And if you want to relive one of your favorite Spokane music experiences, check out an artist you missed, or just sample a band before you see them live, the Library District has you covered! Music from most of the artists mentioned here is available from the library’s music CD collection or digitally on Hoopla.

And there is even more good news for Spokane. The Ingersolls have opened the Lucky You Lounge in Browne’s Addition. It’s a larger venue with impeccable sound and an atmosphere that resonates with a passion for sharing live music.

Lucky You Lounge has two stages, a restaurant run by chef Josh Grimes, and a bar. Their menu offers vegan options, which is a rarity when dining on bar food. Although it’s not an all-ages venue, LYL is offering a dizzying amount of entertainment options, including free concerts in the basement and innovative events like Sunset Story Slam. I have only been lucky enough to attend one show, so far, when local rap artist T.S The Solution opened for A Tribe Called Red. As usual, the show surpassed my expectations.

Thank you to the Ingersolls and The Bartlett for every beautiful listening moment, every dance step, every note, every mind-blowing experience. You have connected me to the arts in both tangible and intangible ways and helped me create beautiful moments with friends and family. You helped Spokane blossom. You inspired me. Most of all, you gave me songs—a soundtrack for my life—that I want to listen to forever.

Susan Goertz

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