Bassist Scott Moore describes the Piersons' sound as "too pussy for punk and too punk for pussies." Longtime Piersons manager and Mill Avenue Mafia godfather Charles Levy recently quit the band three weeks into a West Coast tour. "They pooped in my shoes, they shaved my head, they made me practice ancient Chinese rituals," Levy says. "When they started eating all my food, I knew it was over."--Serene Dominic and David Holthouse

Serene Dominic and the Semi-Detached
Serene Dominic? Semi-detached?

Dominic Salvatore Salerno is anything but detached from the local music scene. He fronts at least two bands, of which the Semi-Detached--Jim Speros (keyboards), Frank Hanyak (drums) and Charles Seeley (bass)--is the most viable. He lends members of his band to other local groups. He helps design the CD booklets for local discs. And he writes features and reviews about musicians for New Times.

Not bad for a guy who moved to town three years ago. Dominic was an equally ubiquitous presence in New York City circles in the late '80s/early '90s as a founding member of the Holiday Slides, a band that worked the same Big Apple rooms as Blues Traveler, the Spin Doctors and alterna-diva Joan Osborne, who sang back-up with the Slides before going solo and hitting it big.

Dominic went solo and hit it semi-big in 1990 by releasing a boxed set titled Box City: The Compleat Bastard--Serene Dominic. Dominic packaged the new songs like they were vintage recordings from the '60s, hoping record companies would assume his new stuff was old stuff from a long-gone rocker. His reasoning: "Major labels would much rather deal with a dead artist than somebody who's going to make trouble and maybe throw up in their reception area."

Such chutzpah defines the Serene Dominic persona, but he backs it up with some of the best nervous pop songs Elvis Costello never wrote. "Master of My Only Emotion" stands out any way you hear it--and there are a number of ways to do so: The seven-inch single was released last year on Atlanta-based Worrybird Records, is featured on the recently released local-music compilation Exile on Cameron Harper Street, and is one of nine new tunes on Dominic's upcoming Heathens of Vaudeville LP, also on Worrybird. The best way to hear the song, though, is live, with Dominic, bedecked in his trademark fedora, attacking the chords like a man who missed his medication.--Ted Simons

Best C&W/Americana
Curse of the Pink Hearse
Self-described as a band of "real gone, trashy, psychobilly delinquents," Curse of the Pink Hearse is the brain child of one Marco Polo Saldana--a rockabilly berserker with a big black pompadour and the attitude to match.

With Saldana on slap bass, Che Meth playing guitar and Uriah Peralta on standing drums (a la the Stray Cats' Slim Jim Phantom), Curse of the Pink Hearse plays original music inspired by teenagers-gone-rotten torch tunes of the '50s.

"We don't really play country," Saldana insists in a heavy Spanish accent. "We play more '50s trash rockabilly. We are pretty primitive. We like to roar our songs and make them as weird as we can."

CPH's stage show often outshines the band's musicianship. Saldana is famous for frenetic dancing (the singer has created whole routines to go with the Hearse originals "Crazy Legs" and "Crash Boom Bam"), and punctuates his vocals with well-timed maniacal screams.

"Screamin' Jay Hawkins is my inspiration for screaming," the Curse singer says. "When I'm dancing and I get so tired, I get energy from it. It's like a rule in rockabilly that you have to scream once in a while."--Marsha Mardock

The year is 1979. In Overgaard, a small northeastern Arizona town near the Mogollon Rim, a group of high school buddies stops listening to the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynryd long enough to learn a few chords and start jamming.

Seventeen years later, Mogollon is still at it, playing traditional country and Southern-rock covers and originals, along with the occasional tribute to Pink Floyd.

"Right now, we're a little more on the rock edge than we used to be," says lead singer Dwane Moore. "All the rockers are going to country right now, and everyone who has been mainstream country is going on the rock edge, which is a nice deal because everybody is meeting in the middle."

Moore says it was lead guitarist George Brunson's dad, country musician Andy Brunson, who encouraged the group of friends to grow a band with country roots. Brunson Sr. occasionally joins Mogollon onstage to play guitar above his head, Hendrix-style.

"He always told us, 'Don't just stand there and play music, anyone can do that,'" says Moore. "He taught us showmanship."--Marsha Mardock

The Superstition Band
Superstition Band co-lead singer/songwriter Jordan Snow says that for local country acts, it doesn't always pay to be original.

"In Arizona, if you're an alternative rock band, you're expected to play original music," she says. "But in the country community, it's not like that at all. The expectation is that they're going to recognize every song you play as a radio tune. We try to get people to change their view of that as much as we can."

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