By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
1. The Sport Model
This four-piece Tempe band evokes all the mid-'60s hyperactivity of British power-pop with enough '90s crunch to avoid sounding like a retro anachronism. The members inked a deal with locally based indie NMG Records last October, and they're putting together tracks for a full-length release later this year.
2. Les Payne Product
A guitar-drums duo which combines slacker-funk grooves with a surreal, off-kilter sense of humor and an unmistakable appreciation for show-biz razzle-dazzle. Its recently released, self-titled, six-song EP on Aviator Records captures the band in all its lovably bizarro splendor.
3. Jesus Chrysler Supercar
These guys nicely fill the void between punky alt-rock attitude and old-school hard-rock brawn, amply demonstrated on their 1997 album Latterday Speedway. Theirs is also one of the few bands on the planet able to cover Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" without sacrificing its dignity.
4. The Jennys
This band changes names and lineups like Jerry Lewis discards socks, but whether you like the members better as a trio or in their current incarnation as a quartet, whether you call them The Jennys or still refer to them by their old moniker, Spinning Jenny, you can't escape the sharp songwriting ability of band leader Stephen Easterling. The brainy pop of the band's second album, last year's Dandelion, drew a rave in Amplifier magazine, an assessment backed up by the devoted Jennyheads who pack Long Wong's and sing along with Easterling's every word.
5. Vic Masters
Formerly known as "The Morose One," this Valley Renaissance man recently rechristened himself "The Lively One" (or Mr. Gitty-Up Go, if you're nasty), and his newly sunny disposition has worked wonders for his career. Singer, songwriter, guitarist, critic, graphic artist and karaoke Zen master, Masters might be as close as we'll ever come to knowing what kind of offspring might have resulted from an unholy union of Elvis Costello and Joey Heatherton.
6. Seven Storey Mountain
This quartet specializes in spare, propulsive punky rhythms and the finely honed guitar latticework of Lance Lammers and Jesse Everhart. Lammers and Everhart formed the band four years ago, but the band has changed shape several times since then, enduring a couple of traumatic departures from Lammers and the addition of singer-bassist Aaron Wendt. With Lammers now back in place, and Wendt adding vocal muscle, this band has put together a strong new CD and hit a new peak onstage.
1. Big Nick and the Gila Monsters
This veteran band has been a pillar of the Phoenix blues scene for years. The Gila Monsters veer between straight-ahead 12-bar blues and brassy, uptown swing. Holding their eclectic sound together is some of the tastiest--and most tasteful--lead-guitar work around.
2. Big Pete Pearson
The godfather of Valley blues, this ultracharismatic, walking history of the form will soon hang up his six-string and pack up his belongings for Maine after holding court in Phoenix for three decades. His gritty authenticity and larger-than-life persona will be sorely missed.
3. Hans Olson
One of the creators of a local blues scene since his arrival in Phoenix in 1969, Olson is a harmonica wizard who specializes in haunting, understated folk blues. Olson is a journeyman in the best possible sense, honestly plying a trade for modest rewards, and invaluably enhancing the development of Phoenix blues.
4. Henry "Mojo" Thompson
An unsung figure in Phoenix music history, Thompson sang with the legendary late-'50s doo-wop group The Tads. After years of inactivity, Thompson has returned to the local music scene, playing bass and fronting a brassy, uptown rhythm-and-blues band that's sneaking up on Valley audiences.
5. Sistah Blue
This quintet stands out not only because it's the Valley's only all-female blues act, but also because its highly danceable modern blues is uniquely compelling. Any fools who would question its authenticity or command of the idiom need only see harp player Rochelle Raya cut loose on a solo.
1. Cousins of the Wize
One of the rising stars on the local scene, this band stacks psychedelic, jazz-based grooves beneath the smooth rapping of front man, and former Brothers Grim leader, Pie Gomez. The members' nomadic musicianship and experimental tendencies are explained by bassist Steve Faulkner, who says, "If we end up having to be in any one musical category, then we want to create a new category."
2. Know Qwestion
Two aspiring rappers join forces with a visionary producer and the result is what this hip-hop collective likes to call "revolutionary rhymes, evolutionary beats." Their long-awaited debut album Eclipse answers all questions as to their creative mettle.
3. Underground Empire
True to its name, this group has been building an underground base, using spare beats to augment gritty, hard-core urban tales like "Late Night Hype" and "Shadow of Death."
1. The Revenants
Until recently this group was known as the Suicide Kings, and that name suggests the regal sense of desperation behind this music. For years, front man Bruce Connole battled his own demons while leading some of the Valley's smartest rock bands, but with The Revenants, he's found the perfect mouthpiece for his sad, self-effacing tales about how lonely it is at the bottom.
2. The Cartwheels
This band fell into place inadvertently, as local pop musicians--including Vic Masters keyboardist Jim Speros on barrelhouse piano--tried a honky-tonk one-off before deciding that they really liked this stuff. This band's beginning to make some noise with its expert songcraft, including the rocking "One Dozen Roses."
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.
Two-girl/two-boy lineup cranks out complex, often abrasive emo-core saturated with both tension and tenderness. Gender politics aside, drummer Jency Rogers and guitarist/vocalist Natalie Espinoza leave audiences' mouths agape with their supercharged dynamics. This band's live appearances are infrequent, so it's often overlooked in the local punk sweepstakes, but its turbulent song constructions teem with festering emotion.
4. Hillbilly Devilspeak
Everyone has a different definition of punk, but if you consider it to be the loud, dissonant, tension-and-release seesaw rides offered by bands like The Jesus Lizard, then Hillbilly Devilspeak is the epitome of the form. Bassist Tom Reardon works up a volcanic eruption of angst on the slow-burning "Chew Well," only one of several Devilspeak songs that demonstrate that intensity need not be synonymous with fast tempos.
1. Barrio Latino
A versatile dance band if ever there was one, this group boasts of knowing more than 250 songs. It represents a vibrant bridge between the traditionalism of Mexican folk music and the crossover dreams which influence much of contemporary Latin pop.
2. Tony Gutierrez's Pan-American Band
Gutierrez leads the only major band of its kind in the Valley: a mammoth ensemble which smoothly handles the intricate demands of jazzy Latin salsa. This is one of the most musically accomplished groups in the Valley, regardless of the genre.
3. Mariachi Colonial
This traditional band of mariachis was discovered in a Phoenix gay bar by local punk singer Yolanda Bejarano, and a bracing cross-generational fusion was born. Bejarano employs the piercing siren's wail she perfected in the raucous Slugger to beautiful effect, rekindling her childhood fascination with great Mexican vocalists. She's ably supported by the rock-solid work of the long unsung Mariachi Colonial.
4. Straight Up
Basically a funky R&B dance band that just happens to have Latin roots, Straight Up takes its cue from the indestructible '70s grooves of acts like the Ohio Players, and Parliament-Funkadelic. It also does the best bilingual Rick James around. No one musical category can adequately contain it, but Latin will have to do for now.
1. Kongo Shock
Long the dominant ska band on the scene, Kongo Shock has built a loyal, underground base that's nationwide. Loose enough for the horn players to grab quick smokes between riffs, and tight enough to send any dance floor into a mad skank frenzy, Kongo Shock has justifiably earned a rep for explosive live performances.
Equal parts Phoenix and Tucson, this seminal third-wave ska act mixes originals with well-chosen covers in shows that percolate with upstroke wonder. Their ska-inflected take on Bob Marley's "Stir It Up" never fails to live up to its title.
3. Left of Center
This band mixes folk, rock and pop sensibilities with touches of Jamaican rhythms. The members' fluid bass lines and open-ended jams put them in their own, hard-to-define category. But if reggae is only one of their sonic touchstones, it's an important one nonetheless.
4. Zebbhi Niyah
Niyah has deep reggae roots, which extend back to his work with both Rita and Ziggy Marley. His move to Phoenix four years ago brought a needed dose of reggae traditionalism to the scene.
5. Grant Man and Island Beat
Born and raised in Liberia, Grant Man attacks reggae with a warm, soulful delivery that illustrates the band's motto: "Let love be at the forefront of all." His band has gone through numerous lineup changes since its origin in 1989, but the current six-piece configuration has remained in place for three years. Look for the band's long-awaited debut CD, Let's Keep Love Alive, to be released sometime this summer.
1. Lady J and Blues Ratio
Equal parts blues and jazz, this ensemble finds an irrepressibly swinging link between the two genres. It's led by the mother/daughter combination of Lady J and daughter Maxine Johnson.
Guitarist/bandleader Jack Randall not only devised a throwback to the golden days of scratchy 78-rpm jazz records, but he also invented a contraption he calls a phonophone, a long pipe through which he creates a sound that's a cross between a muted trumpet and a trombone. In Phonoroyale's original incarnation, Mary Katherine Spencer delivered ebullient Betty Boop vocals, and the band was a dapper lounge combo perfectly suited for a David Lynch film. Spencer's recent departure has reduced this group to a trio, a scruffy ensemble with a big dose of boogie-woogie coursing through its collective veins.
3. Nuance Jazz Ensemble
With the stated goal of trying to put classical jazz in a modern context, this trio takes a contemporary angle on the Monk and Miles canons, finding fresh terrain in the accepted jazz lexicon, and imposing touches of gypsy music and world beat. The group's sophisticated originals--largely composed by guitarist Stan Sorenson--manage the tough trick of holding their own amongst covers of classics like "Round Midnight."
4. Lookout for Hope
The remnants of last year's champ Odd Man Out, Lookout for Hope has consciously chosen to be the odd band out on the local jazz scene. This trio deconstructs standard jazz theories on song structure and rhythm, and opts for a free-jazz approach where new songs are played for the first time at gigs, and improvisation is completely open-ended. You won't always be sure when the group's songs are over, but once you get on its astral plane, you won't worry about where one song ends and the next one begins.
1. Fred Green
The King Kong of Valley funk-rockers, this trio scorches through one herb-friendly treatise after another, making the Chili Peppers and their ilk seem positively insipid by comparison. The 1997 sophomore CD Groover confirmed that the band's poly-rhythmic mastery extends into the studio.
2. Bionic Jive
Incorporating all the high-tech weapons in the postmodern arsenal, Bionic Jive aims for a transcendent caterwaul, a kind of cosmic slop. Formed by Mind's Eye producer Larry Elyea, this band mixes heavy funk riffing with splashes of sampled sound bites, and the distinctive soulfulness of singer-rapper Derrick Burrows. It is, as its debut CD proclaims, a six-million-dollar band.
This band took its name from a Seattle Port-a-Potty company, but its acid-laced head jams are not quite as raunchy as the name would suggest. A powerful blend of funk and rock, Honeybucket offers a sense of groove that's utterly current and always crazed.
Nothing if not ambitious, this band spent $20,000 on its debut CD, More Soul Than a Rabbit Factory, and it's established a huge, intensely loyal fan base for its dense grooves, driving horns and the sultry vocalizing of Tiffany Sullivan.
5. Yoko Love
Three Mesa kids with a ton of attitude and nearly as much virtuosity, this band rampages through hormonal anthems that mine the common turf between George Clinton, Jimi Hendrix and the corner pimp. This trio's name was inspired by a band member's girlfriend who insisted on showing up at rehearsals. Its 1997 Epiphany Records debut CD Who's Your Daddy? captured its snotty madness, and "I Hate My Girlfriend" proved that the protest song is not dead.
Internationally recognized for the masterful way he drags other idioms into the hip-hop realm, Z-Trip is the Zen master of the turntable, and the cornerstone of the eclectic Bombshelter DJ crew. He was recently lauded by URB magazine as one of the "100 Most Exciting Artists, Ideas, and Styles Emerging From the Urban Underground."
2. DJ Emile
Brash, cocky and uncompromising, Emile has also established himself as one of the most talented and eclectic DJs on the local scene. The trippy, ambient alchemist on the Bombshelter crew, he helped bring electronica to Nita's Hideaway with the Thursday-night "Mission Control" shows.
Part of the much-acclaimed Bombshelter DJs, Radar shares his friend Z-Trip's passion for hip-hop, and they've combined for some spectacular displays of vinyl acrobatics.
4. Pete Salaz
Salaz put together Red Monkey club nights along with ex-partner Eddie Amador, and he continues to keep the Red Monkey dream alive. Salaz is a loyal disciple of house, and he spreads the word whenever he gets the chance.
5. DJ Essential
A stubborn proponent of rare groove and acid jazz, and a lover of old R&B and funk, Essential recently made some noise at The Hip Joint, a Thursday club night at Scottsdale's Voodoo Bar and Grill, until patrons started asking him to spin tunes from Grease. Ravers know him better for his alter ego, as a devoted drum 'n' bass turntable guru.
Venues and Talents
4:00p - 5:00p Bionic Jive
5:20p - 6:20p Exit 56
6:40p - 7:40p Grant Man and Island Beat
8:00p - 9:00p Lookout for Hope
Bash on ash
4:00p - 5:00p The Pan-American Band
5:20p - 6:20p Polliwog
6:40p - 7:40p Keltic Cowboys
8:00p - 9:00p Seven Storey Mountain
4:00p - 5:00p Phonoroyale
5:20p - 6:20p Mariachi Colonial
6:40p - 7:40p Blues Ratio
8:00p - 9:00p Sistah Blue
4:00p - 5:00p Z-Trip
5:00p - 6:00p DJ Emile
6:00p - 7:00p Radar
7:00p - 8:00p Pete Salaz
8:00p - 9:00p DJ Essential
4:00p - 5:00p Underground Empire
5:20p - 6:20p Henry "Mojo" Thompson
6:40p - 7:40p Bldg 5
8:00p - 9:00p Warsaw
4:00p - 5:00p Gemini Lounge
5:20p - 6:20p Nihil
6:40p - 7:40p Cousins of the Wize
8:00p - 9:00p The Sport Model
4:00p - 5:00p The Revenants
5:20p - 6:20p Barrio Latino
6:40p - 7:40p Fred Green
8:00p - 9:00p Kongo Shock
9:30p The Pistoleros
4:00p - 5:00p Vic Masters
5:20p - 6:20p The Cartwheels
6:40p - 7:40p Hillbilly Devilspeak
8:00p - 9:00p Freudian Slip
Mill Cue club
4:00p - 5:00p Left of Center
5:20p - 6:20p Nuance Jazz Ensemble
6:40p - 7:40p Big Pete Pearson
8:00p - 9:00p Honeybucket
The Owl's nest
4:00p - 5:00p Jerome
5:20p - 6:20p The Jennys
6:40p - 7:40p Big Nick and the Gila Monsters
8:00p - 9:00p The Ramblers
4:00p - 5:00p Windigo
5:20p - 6:20p Mad At 'Em
6:40p - 7:40p Les Payne Product
8:00p - 9:00p Straight Up
Valley art (inside)
4:00p - 5:00p Hans Olson
5:20p - 6:20p Know Qwestion
6:40p - 7:40p BLESSBETHYNAME
8:00p - 9:00p Yoko Love
Valley art (outside)
4:00p - 5:00p Victims in Ecstacy
5:20p - 6:20p Zebbhi Niyah
6:40p - 7:40p Reuben's Accomplice
8:00p - 9:00p Zig Zag Black