By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
1. THE REVENANTS
Unlike most rockers who turn country, Valley music veteran Bruce Connole hasn't mellowed out. If anything, the Revenants allow him to explore his darkest obsessions. The result, as heard on the band's excellent 1998 album Artists and Whores, is an inspired mix of Hank Williams and Nick Cave, stubbornly traditional, but showing no weakness for cheap nostalgia. Their recent signing with local Americana label Hayden's Ferry should help them connect with the audience they so richly deserve.
2. THE CARTWHEELS
A side project that formed from the rib of Zen Lunatics, The Cartwheels explore the flip side of the same coin. Where the Lunatics love the rocking Buddy Holly of "Rave On," The Cartwheels admire Buddy's twangier side. Their smart, barrelhouse honky-tonk is well captured on the recently released, 12-song debut CD Dang!.
3. THE RAMBLERS
This band began as a hillbilly-twang side project for longtime roots-rock fixture Mario Moreno, guitarist for the Hoodoo Kings and the late, lamented Varmits. In recent months, Moreno has made the switch from bass to guitar, and has assumed a front-man role in this tastefully retro ensemble.
4. THE NITPICKERS
This quartet, led by the talented Dave Insley, plays warm, affable back-porch roots music that falls squarely between the bluegrass and straight country traditions.
Widely recognized as one of the most innovative hip-hop DJs on the national circuit, Z-Trip tirelessly spreads the message, earning massive acclaim for his ability to conjure hip-hop from hoary rock material, particularly the melding of Van Halen's "Eruption" and Public Enemy's "Rebel Without a Pause." He's also an unflagging adherent of the local DJ scene, selflessly offering to sacrifice some of his showcase time to open up slots for up-and-coming DJs.
2. DJ EMILE
A reliably loquacious egomaniac, Kuwaiti-born Emile Ananian is also a staggeringly talented, unpredictable component of the acclaimed Bombshelter DJs (along with Z-Trip and Radar). This erratic visionary never fails to follow his impulses and wanders bravely across the stylistic map, showing an equal command of house, hip-hop, drum 'n' bass, and trippier, esoteric fare. As he once put it: "No one complains about me as a DJ, but it seems everyone's got a complaint about my personality. And I'm like, 'Hey, I'm not asking you for a date. I just want to play some records.'"
The reigning champion of this category, Radar is a masterful hip-hop turntablist who was recently cited--along with Z-Trip--by Spin magazine as one of the 13 most influential underground DJs on the planet. Radar is a gifted DJ with a deep musical knowledge and an impeccable sense of timing. In the words of Spin: "[He] scrawls his signature with wah-wah scratches and rhythmic caterwaul."
4. PETE SALAZ
The Valley's most talented and relentless champion of house, the frequently nominated but not-as-yet victorious Salaz wryly describes himself as "the Susan Lucci of the underground." The resident and founder of the two-year-old RedMonkey club night, Salaz--and an inevitable parade of special guests--showcases his love for an unfashionable sound once a month at Riverbottom Lounge.
5. MARKUS SCHULZ
An uncompromising adherent of the Paul Oakenfold school of trance, Schulz defiantly approaches dance music as a spiritual nutrient, a source of uplifting melody, and not merely a provider of hard beats. Once a favorite at the Works, he's currently the resident DJ for Karma, the promising new club night at Bash on Ash.
Rightly praised for the heavy psychedelia of its Gilby Clarke-produced debut album on Pavement Music, Windigo is a veteran band that continues to grow. In the hands of front man Matt Windigo, their music is irreverent yet artsy, loud yet carefully crafted. The quartet's self-titled 1998 CD has earned raves from hard-rock critics across the country.
2. ST. MADNESS
Known for years as Crown of Thorns, this band has reemerged with a new name but an equally frightening horror-metal aesthetic. Led by angst-ridden metal maniac Prophet, St. Madness takes on Bill Clinton and crystal meth, among other targets, on its new CD, God Bless America, a state-of-the-union message from the bowels of hell.
3. PSYCHO GYPSY
Experts tell us that grunge signaled the end of spandex and mousse in rock, but Psycho Gypsy clings to the '80s metal dream like a drowning man clings to a life preserver. Gloriously excessive, proudly ridiculous, these guys bring mascara and mousse back to their rightful places in the rock pantheon, determined to provide pop culture with yet another dose of Poison.
4. BLDG 5
Like so many other late-'90s bands, Bldg 5 works the seam between hard rock and funk, but that barely begins to cover their rhythmic misadventures. This quartet--named after the downtown Phoenix rehearsal space they share--changes tempos and grooves with reckless abandon, as though the idea of sticking with any rhythm for more than a few bars is too boring to bear. Call it the short attention span of chronic stoners, but these guys make the most of their musical wanderlust, as heard on their debut CD, Foundation.
1. VICTIMS IN ECSTASY
For this band, "camp" isn't a place to send your little brats for the summer. VIE may be the most self-consciously flamboyant band on the Valley scene, but behind the lipstick and torn fishnets, they're basically a rock 'n' roll band with a highly developed fashion sense. But their cross-dressing proclivities and dark bombastic songs have earned the devotion of the Valley's many goth kids, and if their sound isn't exactly industrial (after all, they don't have a keyboard player), they wear the tag, as they wear those party dresses and feather boas, quite well.