Crushing Rocks: The Empyrean Reborn

My aunt Kayla just moved back to Spokane after 32 years of living in Seattle. It was a big decision, not without trial and tribulation, and the process involved a lot of “selling” by the whole family. “You’ll be closer to family,” we said. “A bigger house!,” “A new job!,” “And those seeeeeasons,” I said. Don’t get me wrong, I love Seattle, but there’s nothing like spring in Spokane, Washington. Winter wipes away, the flowers come out, the temperature starts to rise, and it feels like the hard work of winter is starting to pay off. As spring arrives, I think she’ll see more of the Spokane she knows and loves, and she’ll see her courage hasn’t lead her astray.

That’s what starting new is all about, right? Having the courage to take a chance, and then sticking with it until the flowers start to bloom. There’s a lot of that going on this spring in Spokane…

In the January issue, I profiled Patrick Kendrick’s jump to Sunset Junction, and in the two months that have followed, the road’s been anything but smooth, yet things continue moving forward, aided in large part by Kendrick’s proclivity for sticking-with-it.

You’ll recall as well hearing about EMPYREAN owner CHRISY RIDDLE’S recent struggle to comply with the new sprinkler laws in her old (beloved) location on Madison. And there was more: rising rent, impending construction. Riddle made a tough decision at the end of ‘09 and moved. She moved to a space (much like another local stalwart, the BLVD) previously inhabited by another business, the Big Dipper. I caught up with Chrisy this week to see how her new year is going.

“The only tough part was remodeling the new space,“ she said of the move. “Those were some of the toughest days of my life! But since the move-in date all has been smooth.” And if nothing else, Empyrean has an exceptionally loyal following working to its advantage. “We had word out well before we moved, so everyone just followed us right over. The new space is beautiful, the sound quality is superb.”

Riddle has always been an emphatic supporter of the local music scene, and it’s exciting to see that, post-sprinkler-law-rattling, her positive outlook is back in place. “Change is good. It keeps everything healthy,” she said not only of her transition, but of those of the BLVD and Kendrick too. “For awhile it was tough to convince bands that Spokane was a worthwhile place to stop, but now it seems they are always itching to come back. We have a very hospitable city [that] continues to stretch its fledgling wings in the arts.”

You can see the new space and all of its new changes (Pizza! A full kitchen!) at 171 South Washington. Empyrean will celebrate their first few months at the new location with Grand Re-Opening festivities, March 26, 27 and 28, featuring folks like DAMIEN JURADO, THE MALDIVES and the MOONDOGGIES, with more to come. Other highlights at the venue this month include STAR ANNA (March 2), and a CD release party for local pop quartet MON CHERI (March 19).

Things have started rolling at the Gorge Amphitheatre in preparation for the new summer season. In addition to the live unveiling of the SASQUATCH! MUSIC FESTIVAL lineup in February (featuring My Morning Jacket, Pavement, Massive Attack, Vampire Weekend and MGMT), the venue announced a new stage is on the way that will make its debut at the event Memorial Day Weekend. DAVE MATTHEWS BAND will also make their annual trek in September.

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