By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
3. Exit 56
Lead singer Rodd Mas is a show unto himself, wiggling and shaking like a young Elvis at the Louisiana Hayride. The rest of this endearingly raw quintet follows his spirited lead. The droning fiddle work of Hebba Rae makes this explosive young rockabilly band positively combustible.
4. The Ramblers
In the spirit of George and Tammy, The Ramblers formed around the husband-and-wife team of Jim and Sharon Forsmo, augmented by Hoodoo Kings guitarist Mario Moreno on bass. Sharon has been on hiatus from the band recently because of the birth of son James, but she plans on rejoining it soon. Even without her, this band lays down a raw, old-school hillbilly country vibe, with just a hint of rockabilly.
5. Keltic Cowboys
If you accept the argument that country music is derived from Irish drinking songs, then you can't get any more country than this sextet, which effortlessly explores the common ground between the Irish and American musical traditions. If "Ballad of John Malone" and "Cliffs of Doneen" prove the members' seriousness, then "Kiss My Irish Ass" shows that they can laugh at themselves.
One of the true godfathers of the contemporary Valley metal scene, Windigo has remained connected to its roots even as it has incorporated fresh ideas from the world of alternative rock. Band leader Matt Strangewayes pulled off one of the Valley's great rock 'n' roll moments of 1997, inciting an audience to join him in slipping and sliding through the lanes at Tempe Bowl during the band's gig there.
2. Gemini Lounge
From the ashes of Digger XL, three quarters of that band reformed with Digger's old recording engineer, Nelson Mantle, on vocals. The result is more of the same intelligent thrash, with a few new electronic wrinkles. The band also turns Berlin's ancient synth-pop hit "Metro" into the pile-driving manifesto it was always meant to be.
3. Zig Zag Black
This local war-horse survived the death of its lead guitarist four years ago, and regrouped around the sharp fretwork of new addition Mark Morrell. The members' 1997 CD release Full Wave Rectifier confirmed that they have absorbed the influence of alternative rock, and are now writing material that melds the old fire with an enhanced melodic flair.
4. Freudian Slip
A trio built on grinding rhythms and buzz-saw riffs, Freudian Slip takes its lead from the angst-ridden, borderline-scary dreamscapes of vintage Metallica. With "Wet," from its 1997 CD Involuntary Pelvic Contractions, this band proved that a song about nocturnal emissions could be funny and sorta poignant at the same time. Unfortunately, the Music Awards showcase will be the last hurrah for this lineup, with bassist Paul Schneider now playing for The Revenants and drummer Jason Graham prepared to hang up his drum sticks for good.
It only makes sense to name your band after the locale where you spend the most time. With that in mind, this band took its moniker from the South Phoenix rehearsal space where it concocts those untamed funk/metal hybrid tunes that drive the kids wild at Big Fish Pub. These guys are highly politicized snowboarding freaks who jump every few bars from one musical thought to another, making attention-deficit-disorder syndrome a kind of creative asset.
1. Victims in Ecstasy
Probably the most flamboyant band to hit the scene in the last year, VIE cuts and pastes its aesthetic together from a series of '80s cult fixtures. It takes a bit of goth gloominess from Bauhaus, a drum-heavy tribal sound from New Romantics like Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow, and a cross-dressing fashion sense from exhibitionists as disparate as the New York Dolls, David Bowie, and RuPaul. The results are murky, metallic and drenched in distortion.
This group has grown from its origins as a one-man studio lab experiment into a visceral live act. It's driven by the scabrous guitar attack of leader Scott Crowley, effectively showcased on the 1996 release Drown.
3. Blessed Be Thy Name
A potent new force on the local scene, Blessed Be Thy Name brings a well-developed melodic sensibility to its industrial dance-metal grooves. This quartet formed last May and is already drawing sizable crowds. It's also really running with this religious theme, claiming the band was "conceived through divine inspiration," and describing its freshly written material as "new scripture." Its debut EP should be out soon, with more blessings sure to follow.
1. Reuben's Accomplice
Reuben's Accomplice gushes out sensitive boy-rock augmented by alternately pretty and crushing dual-guitar melodies. Both sincere and magnetically quirky, the foursome's intricate song crafting has made it a local fave among the post-emo melodicore set. This band shows a flair for mathematical guitar tapestries and songwriting of resonant beauty. The members also have enough of a sense of humor to participate (with Les Payne Product) in a parody side project called Emo Camaro.
2. Mad At 'Em
A reigning incumbent in the punk category, this band throws down blistering slabs of XX-chromosome-oriented pop punk. Bounce, pogo, hop, maybe even bang your head a couple of times--Mad At 'Em's frenzied energy is nothing short of infectious. The band mixes anger and humor in an accessible package long on inspired amateurism. Its 1997 seven-inch on Aviator Records offers a reminder that part of punk's original mindset was based on writing catchy tunes.