Time Is Tight

Hollywood Alley live recording delivers a hectic but sterling weekend of local music

Jim Andreas pauses for a moment.
The Trunk Federation singer/guitarist knows that his band only has a couple of minutes left before curfew considerations force it to wrap up its set. He reminds the packed crowd that tonight's show is being taped for a live CD, and half-jokingly suggests that if it makes a lot of noise, it can be interspersed across the entire CD. Suddenly, a big whoosh of appreciation rolls from the back of the crowd all the way up to the stage. Andreas recognizes a cue when he hears it.

"I want you . . . to want . . . me," he hollers, in his best Robin Zander voice, as the band kicks into its next song.

Well, the venue wasn't the Budokan, and no one played "Ain't That a Shame," but last weekend's eight-band live recording at Hollywood Alley in Mesa nonetheless had the aura of a genuine event.

Instigated by Hillbilly Devilspeak bassist Tom Reardon, the two-night showcase was Reardon's chance to mix a little self-interest with a little generosity. He hopes to use the live compilation CD to elevate the profile of both his band and his label, Slackdaddy Records, but he also seems excited about highlighting some of his favorite local bands.

On Friday night, while working the door for the first night of the Slackdaddy live recording, Reardon took a few minutes off to discuss the genesis of his band and label.

"We started the band four years ago, and we did a little bit of work with a label in England called BGR Records," Reardon says. "We shopped our stuff around for a while, but nothing came up, so we figured we'd start our own label.

"There's no record labels here, really. There are a few, and I don't want to slag anybody--they're doing what they want to do, I guess--but you can't look at Phoenix and say, 'That's where such-and-such record label is,' where you can look at any other major city and name one."

If the bands felt any self-consciousness about having their sets recorded, it couldn't be detected. The only noticeable effect of the CD project was that sets were limited to about half an hour, to allow for four bands a night. Inevitably, things fell behind schedule and some bands got squeezed. On Friday night, Les Payne Product played for only about 20 minutes, and the same fate befell L.A. noise merchants Slavic 747 the following night.

But if the shows were truncated, they weren't lacking for drama. After the workmanlike rock of Kirkland, Washington's The Mericans, Seven Storey Mountain delivered a dynamic set of propulsive dissonance that was only a dropped drumstick away from punky perfection. During a tuning break, the band's rhythm section ambled into an impromptu cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," which inspired a small contingent near the bar to hoist lighted matches in tribute. After the show, band members were overheard saying they hoped that this Steve Perry moment wouldn't be preserved on the CD.

Les Payne Product arrived at the Alley with its own new, Aviator Records CD in tow, and actually sold about 25 copies before the night was finished. The manic twosome kicked off its set with an impressive new song, "Frenchy," a bilingual thrash-folk ditty that proved what a set of language tapes and a few Brigitte Bardot videos can do for you.

As the set charged to its inevitable fireball conclusion with "At the Rodeo," drummer Chris Pomerenke climbed atop his poor, defenseless bass drum and dry-humped his equally defenseless keyboard. Notice, I called it a keyboard, not an organ.

What local band could follow such mayhem but Trunk Federation? Playing their first show in two months, the Trunksters showed no signs of rustiness as they kicked into a short but righteous set dominated by material on their forthcoming album, The Curse of Miss Kitty. Delivering on their promise of a surprise, they wrapped up the evening with a rocking rendition of Devo's "Surprise for My Baby."

On Saturday night, the crowd was somewhat smaller and the mood a tad less exuberant. But it was obvious that Reardon had taken in enough money during the weekend to guarantee that the CD was a feasible proposition. After a night of heavy, strident punk of the Melvins variety, Reardon and his bandmates finally hit the stage about 12:15 a.m.

Dressed in a white, house-painter's jumpsuit, Reardon took center stage and screamed his lungs out over the quartet's airtight, pulverizing riffs. On the slow-burning "Chew Well," the band locked into a grinding, three-note guitar-and-bass hook, and bore it into the crowd's collective consciousness until teeth started to rattle. It was a fitting finale to a hectic but rewarding weekend for Reardon and his band.

Though a couple of bands expressed concern to Reardon about the quality of their sets, he says the tapes sound extremely good. He now plans to sit down with the bands and determine which tracks they feel comfortable about using. He also has to work out a few legal issues with Trunk Federation's label, Alias Records. If all goes well, Live at Hollywood Alley should be in stores by the end of March, and Reardon will be a step closer to reaching his goals, for both Hillbilly Devilspeak and Slackdaddy Records.

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