Guitar fest to rock area's wine, food with music

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Robin Barrett, left, plays with Billy Stoops of Junkyard Jane during the East Meets West show at The Parkade Bar & Grill.

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Members of Coyote Kings with Mush play during the Sunbanks R&B Festival in Electric City, Wash.

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Sammy Eubanks and Robin Barrett play at The Parkade Bar & Grill in Kennewick.

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Robin Barrett, founder of Coyote Kings Invitational Guitar Festival, which will play here on Saturday, is shown during the Untapped Kick-off Party at Ice Harbor Brewery in Kennewick.

WALLA WALLA - Walla Walla is on the cusp of its first bigger-than-dreamed-of, coolest-gig-this-side-of-the-Cascades guitar festival.

And its founder is just a little excited to host this kind of hullabaloo.

On Saturday at noon, things get hopping at Walla Faces with an acoustic showcase for the "Coyote Kings Invitational Walla Walla Guitar Festival."

It should be a resounding bang on the concept that musician Robin Barrett originally "pulled the trigger" in September.

The event that will bring 12 bands and hundreds of music fans to the downtown core of the city is coming about because Barrett was looking for a way to throw a party for his friends, he said with a laugh.

As leader of the "Coyote Kings with Mush" band, he was anxious for two things - to return the favor to the music people who have connected his band to blues festivals around the region. And to show off the town Barrett feels justifiably proud of.

"I've felt for four or five years now that Walla Walla has wonderful wines and foods and those are great reasons to come to Walla Walla. But I wanted to add music as another draw."

There's been good precedent, Barrett noted.

"During the tourist season, we've gone from ‘you're lucky to find any live music on the weekend' to now you've got four or five choices on any given weekend. And right now, in the off season, you've got at least two places running music consistently and you might have other choices."

When he talks to visitors from Seattle and Portland, Barrett loves hearing them praise the music they're hearing in venues from an open courtyard to tasting rooms, he said.

"Everybody's doing something. And I think that's a darn good reason to come to Walla Walla."

His vision includes making this spot on the map "the Austin of the Northwest. I want it to be a music destination," Barrett said.

It seemed time to celebrate. And if there was going to be a party, might as well be a big one, he figured.

Others seemed to agree and offers of help came pouring out. A dozen bands signed on. T-shirts are printed.

A kickoff party is planned, followed by a big show and a pub crawl. About half the tickets have already been sold, Barrett said. "People are coming from all over the Northwest already. I think it will sell out."

He loves the fact the city offers a ready-made venue, he added. "An established downtown makes this so much more do-able."

With planning an original event that will bring business to Walla Walla comes responsibility, yes, but also a certain cachet, Barrett has found. "It's very strange to be taken seriously by the business community in Walla Walla. I'm feeling like a grown-up. It's new and I'm loving it."

It's looking like Barrett's dream is going to impact everyone. Hotel rooms are filling up and local businesses have been generous with donations of giveaways, he said. "Every once in awhile, I have a really good idea."

For more information call 509-240-0947.

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