I love music, but I'm definitely not a musician.  In fact, I'm probably as far from a musician as you can get.  The bulk of my musical experience comes from a stint with the recorder during third grade.  But despite my lack of formal musical training I'm still a huge fan of music - especially local/independent music.  There's something about the music that's produced by those trying like crazy to make it big that is organic, creative, honest and full of emotion - just the way music should be.

So what local artist has caught my ear lately?  He's known as Mark Ward, which just so happens to be his name.  I must admit, the fist time I went to watch Mark I only went to impress a girl.  But wouldn't you know it, she had great taste in music, I liked what I heard and I've now seen Mark in concert a total of three times.  Here is where I'd love to be able to write my own review of Mark, but I'll let my attendance at his concerts speak for itself.  The review; I'll leave that to the expert:

"When you're one person with a guitar, you better have something compelling to separate yourself from all your like-minded compatriots. Ward definitely does - a magnetic, spine-tinglingly beautiful voice." -Jeff Echert, The Inlander

You know you want to listen now!  And if by chance the artist isn't enough for you, make sure to check out the venues!  Now feast your eyes on my three "must see" Spokane music venues:

Empyrean Coffee House: This awesome little bohemian joint, tucked into an old brick building in downtown Spokane, is the first place I saw Mark Ward play.  With performances ranging from acoustic to alternative with poetry slams and readings thrown in, the Empyrean is the only joint in town with something going down virtually every night.  Tip:  Be ready for the unexpected; anything doubles as an instrument at the Empyrean.  I once witnessed a girl playing a saw and a guy twirling beer-bong tubing.

Rocket Market:  If the Rocket Market were a recipe, this natural foods sanctuary on Spokane's South Hill would call for two parts hippie and one part yuppie.  Making the final product a . . . yippee or huppie?  But, I digress.  During the summer months this outdoor venue is my favorite in Spokane, offering live music Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday nights.  The best part?  You can grab a microbrew or bottle of wine before heading outside to enjoy the music.  Tip:  For all you lovers out there, a concert at Rocket Market is a great date idea - keep that in mind.

Zola: Located in the historic Longbotham Building (circa 1909) in downtown Spokane, this eclectic venue salvaged the majority of its décor from demolition sites around Spokane.  That includes the original tilt-a-whirl bucket booths that double as seats and the bicycle rims and license plates that double as liquor dollies and wall coverings.  Describing it as unique doesn't do it justice!  Offering live music Tuesday through Saturday nights, I've experienced everything from jazz and swing to rock and acoustic at Zola.  Tip:  Hit up Zola's happy hour, one of the best in Spokane, nightly from 4-6pm.

Is that music I hear in Spokane?  It sure is!  And now not only do you know that there's good music, you know exactly where to find it!  But don't keep it to yourself.  Who's your favorite local artist?  And where do you like to go to catch some tunes?