Despite the abundance of aspiring and begging-to-be-disappointed pop/metal/whatever stars, there's a much more promising noise coming from deep inside the facility's second tier. Identifiable only by a fading Jurassic 5 sticker is a door that opens into the room used by Kinetic, a four-piece Valley hip-hop/funk outfit.
Whether playing a coveted slot at the "We Can All Get By If We Unify" festival, guest headlining one of the Arizona Roadhouse's hip-hop nights or performing in the decidedly non-hip-hop confines of Scottsdale's Chaser's, Kinetic is, suddenly, everywhere. And although the band has been playing out for a mere three months, the attention it's garnering is snowballing, avalanche-style.
Kinetic -- drummer Corey Manske, bassist (and occasional guitarist) Mike Hannah, turntablist Tige A. Susoreny and MC Javon Adams -- is a baby band by any measure, but that hasn't seemed to affect the mass of exposure and praise the group has been receiving. The band is the subject of an as-yet-untitled documentary (the program is set to air on Cox's Channel 9 on September 23 at 11 a.m.) intended to be the first in a series by producer Maurice Patterson that examines the local music scene and its players.
But why profile Kinetic, a band that audiences are just beginning to get exposed to? "Part of it is luck, definitely," explains Hannah. "Another big part is that we're unique-sounding; we don't sound like any other band in town, in the country even. Some people have recognized that -- it's just that the right people have recognized it."
"I think that we turned heads early," adds Manske. "We got lucky that we didn't go unnoticed."
It's difficult for anyone present at a Kinetic show not to notice the band. The Sprawl caught one of the group's early appearances, the aforementioned Chaser's gig. On a roster filled with alterna-hair bands, Kinetic was definitely out of its element (though it's hard to define exactly what its element is). Once the scattering of patrons suffered through a barrage of Goo Goo Dolls wanna-bes, the lights dimmed, a couple of quick record scratches drew attention to the shadows onstage, and the show began.
Kinetic has a mascot of sorts, a lanky brother by the name of LG who's in charge of crowd hype, dance instigation and introductions. This particular night, the intro doubled as a physics lesson -- the band's name is not simply a cool anomalous abstract -- that explained the differences between potential energy and kinetic energy. The latter is a dynamic force produced by movement, found in everything from baseball to roller coasters. Given the band's emphatic style, it's also the most appropriate moniker it could've adopted.
"You can draw comparisons to the name of the group and the sound we create because we always make you move in some form -- make your head nod, make you dance, make you smile, make you think," says Adams. "It keeps you in steady motion; we're always doing something to keep your attention. You don't gotta worry about being bored at a Kinetic show."
That's something of an understatement. When Kinetic plays, little else comes to mind aside from its delirious, beat-driven odysseys. Manske's explosive, intricate drumming paired with Hannah's rock-steady/funk-heavy bass form a rhythm section that's as unpredictable as it is tight. Alongside that, Tige (also a resident DJ at Z-Trip's Funky Cornbread nights) works his needle through the record grooves, injecting the kind of showcase leads a guitarist would normally provide. Over that wall of sound, Javon busts his deep-toned rhymes, pausing occasionally, only to explode again seconds later, sweating, bobbing and often jumping onto the dance floor to join the party.
Kinetic's tracks are a tasteful combination of the members' influences; Hannah and Manske come from a rock background, while Tige and Javon bring a hip-hop flavor to the proceedings. Thankfully, the resulting synthesis steers clear of the "rock/rap" stereotype.
"When we write songs, we have two things in mind," says Manske. "First, 'Does it groove? Can we picture the heads nodding and smiling?' Second, to diversify and challenge ourselves, and in turn, challenging ourselves challenges the listener."
For each of Kinetic's members, challenging themselves seems to be the overriding motivation. Manske and Hannah conceived the band as they were abandoning their previous, aggro-rock trio (they originally met through a "musician wanted" ad). Tige was introduced to the pair by a mutual friend and considered it carefully before straying from his comfortable hip-hop home to join the musical hybrid. "We had a personal meeting, thought Tige was cool, we jammed with him, and it was cataclysmic from there," boasts Hannah.
"A DJ in a band has to have a different mentality than a DJ doing hip-hop venues. When I first started to ask about Tige, [it turned out] he was a music fan, well-rounded -- one of those DJs who was interested in doing different stuff. That immediately appealed to me," says Manske. "If he was strictly hip-hop, I would have wondered how he could fit in."
With each side looking to broaden its musical palette, the union proved to be an ideal match. Tige explains that "I just want to try new things. I want to expand my horizons."
And, as Hannah adds, "The main difference between Tige and other DJs in bands is that Tige is a main instrument in the band, period. He's rhythmic and melodic, like a guitar player."
With the core lineup assembled, all that was lacking was an MC. The members resorted to the strategy that originally brought the rhythm section together -- another "musician wanted" ad.
"We were practicing for a long time 'cause we couldn't find a goddamn vocalist; we were almost thinking of going instrumental," Tige recalls. But then Javon Adams, a Southern California transplant with a strong MCing background, started calling. Repeatedly. "We were like, 'Fuck it -- if he doesn't work out, we'll go instrumental,'" adds Tige.
The young DJ needn't have worried. As a stylist, Adams couldn't have fit in better with the diverse musicality of Kinetic. With his hip-hop background complementing Tige's similar pedigree, the band struck the perfect balance. It wasn't long before Adams was fully indoctrinated with the group's enlightened musical dogma. "It's all about wordplay, cadence, delivery," says Adams. "Like on 'Reactivate' (the group's signature track), when I hear the music, to me it's about trying to reignite something, keep it going. I try to form the vocals to the song. I don't retard my flow to appeal to the masses. I write lyrics I understand, that people like me can understand and relate to."
Collectively, the band points to Hannah as the driving creative force behind the group. The other members gush about the directions he's pushed the band's sound, and how easily they're able to converge and expound upon the material he brings to the table.
During the practice session, only two songs were rehearsed, both new numbers that have yet to be debuted live. These tracks differ from the rest of Kinetic's repertoire; Hannah plays electric guitar instead of the bass -- the bass lines come from the turntables. The songs, "Clutch" and "Trump Tite," more closely resemble the traditional impression of the rock/rap equation, yet still avoid the clichés the more lackluster exponents of the genre fall prey to.
"To me, it's like people are gonna wanna have their opinion on the rap/rock thing, people want to pigeonhole things. As long as you breathe creativity into it, there shouldn't be a problem sounding unique," says Adams. "We just bring good music. If people want to say, 'It's just another band doing this,' they're wrong."
"We're here to rock the party," chimes in Tige.
So far during its brief existence, Kinetic has rocked the party enough to become critics' darlings almost overnight. But, as Adams adamantly asserts, "This is just the first stroke in the big picture."
"As far as the hip-hop community goes, people talk about 'underground,' then there's people getting success, being branded as sellouts," he adds. "But 80 percent of them are doing it to provide an income for themselves and not to have to work 9 to 5. Some people are accountants, some people are good musicians. We want to be the latter."
Broadcast Stamina: Over the Labor Day weekend, Power 92 DJ AL3, the afternoon drive-time jock on the station where (commercial) "hip-hop" lives, set out to and succeeded in breaking the world record for longest continuous on-air mix. The previous record, 62 hours and 5 minutes, was eclipsed by the 66 hours AL3 spent at Gameworks in the Arizona Mills mall, mixing and, occasionally, scratching vinyl. Besides giving props for the Guinness-size triumph, it should also be noted that this was the final event in a series of benefits for underprivileged children AL3 has spent the summer promoting.
A series of AL3's mix CDs have been sold throughout the past few months, with proceeds going to buy sports uniforms for impoverished local kids. The blowout finale's take will go toward refurbishing youth centers throughout the Valley.