Peace, Weed and Snowboarding

From a South Phoenix foam factory, Bldg 5 battles oppression, pollution and environmental destruction

As the bowling ball plunges down the narrow wooden lane, Kevin Dye, guitarist and lead singer of Bldg 5, pivots on one leg, raises clenched fists and flashes a big-league smile. Before the group of onlookers at Tempe Bowl exhales so much as a cheer, the ball swiftly and unexpectedly yaws to the right, then thuds into the gutter and disappears.

The week has started out miserably. On Sunday, Dye and his bandmates--bassist/vocalist David Cortright, drummer Aaron Grubb and multi-instrumentalist Jason Dell--paid a long-awaited visit to the offices of The Edge. As it turned out, the 90 minutes spent with deejay Greg Paul proved less fulfilling than a trial-size bag of Cheezy Poofs.

"We drove up all excited, ran around shoving CDs in people's mailboxes, scrawling our name on the walls and basically making our presence known," recalls Dye, who's wearing his usual fashion combo: wire-rims, a baggy tee shirt and oversize jeans. "But the next day, 15 of our fans dialed the station and requested 'Clean the Green' off [the band's debut CD] Foundation, and the deejay said he didn't have it in stock."

Dye is clearly on a roll. "Phoenix has an awesome music scene, but it's the only city that doesn't play independent music during the daytime."

Grubb, a Seattle transplant sporting fuzzy remnants of a goatee, offers his take. "They'll only spin your music if a major label is stamped on the back of your CD," he says. "Before we got on The Edge, they were playing the Gin Blossoms and the Refreshments."

It's getting late, and the bar is about to close. Dell approaches with a tray of Goldschleger shots. He sniffs at a sign that says "No Drink, Food, Smoking, Resin or Powder," downs the gold-flecked liquid, then joins the convo. "Yeah, radio in this town sucks."

It's Grubb's turn to bowl, and he's in no mood to field the friendly jabs and taunts emanating from his bandmates. The guys were up partying all night, and Grubb is chasing back a hangover with aspirin and Coors Light.

Cortright launches the first attack. "Man, Aaron, we all got strikes except for you. You're like a pretty bowler, dude."

Grubb curses.
"Hey, watch your mouth," counters Cortright, who's about twice Grubb's size.
"Shut up, dude," says Grubb, "You're oppressing me."

Adjusting his jeans, Grubb saunters toward the lane and positions himself for a winning shot. Like a wizard staring into a crystal ball, Grubb regards the 14-pound urethane sphere in his hand, mumbles something under his breath, then winds his arm back to the right and scores a strike. The applause is thunderous and genuine. Beer bottles collide and backs are slapped. The week would turn out okay after all.

If you're in Bldg 5, getting to rehearsal can be hairy. The band's compound is nestled in a South Phoenix barrio, the setting for a recent episode of Cops. Dye says he sometimes hears gunfire on nights when the amps are turned down low. One time he and Cortright ran out of gas, when two guys in an El Camino pulled up alongside them, dimmed their lights, rolled down the windows and cranked the radio--sure-fire warning signs of a drive-by. The two musicians ditched their car and broke into a straight run.

It's getting dark as I drive through the wrought-iron gates of the foam factory where the band rehearses. I curve alongside a chicken-wire fence riddled with barbed wire, then pull up to a door marked "Bldg 5" and cut the engine. Cool strains of reggae leak from the corrugated steel walls, softening for a moment the bleak landscape of 20th Avenue and Fillmore Street.

Following the loamy riffs that drift through the empty parking lot, I head to the entrance, where rolls of carpet padding lean against either side of the door like giant cigarette butts.

Inside, I'm greeted by a sharp aural blast of ear-bleed metal punctuated by jagged shards of punk-rock mayhem. Four musicians in their early 20s bounce like popcorn off the walls, barely noticing a shell-shocked onlooker in the doorway.

The members of Bldg 5, as it turns out, are prone to manic mood swings. Foundation is an eddy of schizophrenic anthems that defy expectation at every chord change. It's not uncommon for the four-year-old quartet to segue, midsong, from a perky shuffle into a tricked-out funk riff, then plunge headlong into breakneck ska.

"We don't want to fit into any format," says Dye, his lively blue-green eyes visible through wisps of sandy, shoulder-length hair. "Every song we do is different."

In spring and summer, the small rehearsal room heats up to 115 degrees. Although it's situated in a foam factory, the walls are not insulated, so the band drinks cold beers to stave off heat exhaustion. Besides, rationalizes Dye, "We play with whatever the weather is. You've got to keep with the spin of the planet."

Right now the quartet is playing "Build," a song Dye wrote about Fife Symington before the court found him guilty. "Ya Fife, ya stupid motherfucker, ya get richer while more and more suffer," screams Dye. "In the end, ya think ya still just gonna walk away? We get stronger each and every day."

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