This Year's Sport Model

After tinkering with its original mod design, this hard-rocking foursome is ready to cruise off the showroom floor

Still, no amount of Blur recordings will drive a man to smash his beloved ax to smithereens. Garcia's inevitable collision course with audience expectations and autodestruction preambles led him to make this dunderheaded ultimate sacrifice one night last June. But he didn't do the deed in Tempe, where audiences probably wouldn't be looking at the stage long enough to see it; rather, he chose San Francisco. Or it chose him.

"We smashed our shit at the Transmission Theater in San Francisco because it felt good," recalls Garcia. "It was a huge scooter crowd who didn't care that we didn't play Britpop and really got into us anyway. I didn't really want to do it, but people were just egging us on and it just felt right. I rammed my Epiphone hollow body into my Marshall combo. Those amps are like a brick wall. Crunch! People wanted more, and we gave it to them. It was nice seeing people rush the stage and grabbing little pieces of our instruments."

"That didn't lead to any autodestruction trend," Englehardt points out cautiously. "We can't afford that trend." Englehardt joined in the onstage melee by tossing his bass at the wall. Parkin couldn't resist participating in what he now calls "that stupid rock 'n' roll fantasy thing," and he kicked over his amp. Only Martusciello, who admits to being "too chickenshit of risking even the tiniest scratch" on his drums, failed to self-destruct.

If anything, the equipment-trashing experience was a turning point. Having proven to itself it really wasn't a mod band, the Sport Model just settled into being plain ol' modern. While the music retained its aggressive edge, the band never put wanton exhibitionism above musicianship. The members have always been topnotch players, and it's quite riveting to watch the skilled ensemble plow through a song such as "Unusual," which features an extended rave-up in its middle. Instead of reducing their guitars to kindling trying to express the song's innate frustration (most of the Sport Model's lyrics seem to be about being misunderstood in a relationship), the band members take control of their instruments as if they were master craftsmen on This Old House, coaxing feedback from their amps like they were building an addition onto the garage.

When the subject of establishing a substantial following in its hometown comes up, the band allows that it is resigned to eking out a living in a stagnating club scene that prefers sweating to the oldies to tuning in to something new and original. "I'm glad we're doing the single and going out of town more and more often," asserts Englehardt. "Fuck it, you do what you can, go out of town, have your fun, especially with the heat rolling around."

For Martusciello, "Phoenix is about friends coming to shows. It should start there and grow."

Along with outfits such as Autumn Teen Sound and the Lemmings, the Sport Model plans to present "Night of 100 Hooks" shows, which will feature four pop bands and a DJ spinning pop selections chosen by those same bands. (The groups also are scheming to publish a monthly newsletter called The Vic--after Queen Victoria, natch--which will report informally on their activities and those of like-minded bands.) "If there's only a hundred people in town that are into the same type of music we like, by controlling the bill and the music in between sets, we can keep them there and entertained the whole night," theorizes Parkin.

Keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for the Sport Model. Its members are honest and self-effacing about the stylistic mistakes they've made. But now, seemingly, all of their missteps are behind them. After its 45 has been out there for a while, the band will concentrate on recording a full-length CD. "By that time," kids Garcia, "industry terms like 'agro' and 'emo' will have run their course, and the world will be ready for a band that's like us. Agreeemo!"

The Sport Model is scheduled to perform on Friday, June 13, at Hollywood Alley in Mesa. Showtime is midnight.

WAR IS HELL (ON REAL ESTATE)

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