Danger Zone

Trio of Valley vets proves to be the Wild Bunch of local music

The intimacy of Wong's has made it a second home for the group and the site of some of its most memorable moments. Grave Danger's last show at the cramped Tempe bar found the band buried amid a hail of plastic cups; bottles were banned for the evening.

"For the CD release at Wong's, I've arranged for there to be cans of Budweiser available," says Merriman. "I figure cans hurt a lot less than bottles."

"Not if the cans are full," notes Daly, from across the room.

With so much talk of drinking and debauchery, it makes one wonder where Grave Danger might be if Arizona's much-hated onstage drinking ban had not been lifted.

"That's a horrible question, man," says Daly, looking genuinely upset at the very notion. "I don't even want to think about that."

Grave Danger is set to perform a pair of CD release parties. The first is scheduled for Saturday, September 30, at the Emerald Lounge, with the Sonic Thrills. The second will take place on Saturday, October 7, at Long Wong's on Mill, with Heather Rae, and the Moonshine Boys. Showtime for both is 9 p.m.About Town: This week boasts a clutch of rock shows worth noting or avoiding, depending on your viewpoint.

Releasing their third album this week are former Valley residents Honeybucket. The group, which relocated to San Diego in mid-'98, will celebrate the debut of the 10-song Boombox Hero with a pair of local shows. First up is a Friday, September 29, gig at Boston's in Tempe. The all-ages affair will include performances from Soulcracker and our old friends the Surf Ballistics. Showtime is 8 p.m. The next night, Honeybucket will perform as part of a Bash on Ash bill featuring Dislocated Styles, 4614 and Stupid Dummyhead. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Jam rock perennials Phish stop in town on Sunday, October 1, with a set at Desert Sky Pavilion. Since the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995, Phish has risen to take the mantle of the Grateful Dead as the favorites of the patchouli 'n' incense set. The amazing popularity of the group -- which last year released a six-disc, 45-song, 314-minute concert set called Hampton Comes Alive-- is undeniable. Certainly no one could have anticipated Phish's stunning popularity from its humble roots as a Vermont college band. Nor could anyone have predicted there would be a phenomenon so annoying that the passing of ol' Jerry Bear would seem like a bad thing. Showtime is 8 p.m.

American Pearl -- a self-described "straight-up, loud, heavy American rock band" -- makes a stop at the Big Fish Pub in Tempe this week. The L.A.-based quartet is touring in support of its self-titled debut, released this summer on Wind-Up Records. That's the same label, it should be noted, that parted ways with local pop punkers Pollen after the group refused A&R executives' suggestions that the band should try to change its sound to be "more Third Eye Blind, less Rocket From the Crypt."

While American Pearl has been highly touted in hard-rock circles (much of that the result of a high-profile slot on the Scream 3soundtrack), the band's disc reveals little of note save for a few interesting guitar tones. Most of the sonic appeal is because of the efforts of the album's co-producer, former Sex Pistol Steve Jones. Jones, whose talents at the board were able to make even Buckcherry sound good, cannot help save American Pearl from being just the latest entrant in the heavily-tattooed-self-serious-hard-rock-asshole sweepstakes. As if one would need more proof, look no further than the band's official Web site bio, which tells the stirring tale of how the four lads came together at guitarist Kevin Quinn's Hollywood tattoo shop, the Quintessential Motherfucker -- a favorite ink palace of celebs including Guns n' Roses, the Cult and Marie Osmond.

Mostly, though, the band's site, like its records, is loaded with side-splitting pretentiousness, including drummer Matt Shain's assertion about the group's new record: "We see our record as a complete body of work. We don't have favorite tunes on the album. Each song shows all the emotions and moods that make us stand apart from all the other bands out right now." Right. Don'tcha get it? It's a "concept" album. Something like a tattooed version of Tommy,or Quadrophenia for Mooks.

Even better is singer Kevin Roentgen's views on the album's first single, "Free Your Mind." Characterizing it as "a whiplash-inducing rocker with a strong message," Roentgen gets all philosophical, observing, "I think that hate stems directly from one's fear, and that 'Free Your Mind' touches on that fine line between hate and fear that too often surfaces in the forms of prejudice and violence." Deep, Kev. Very deep.

Those who wish to revel in the genius of American Pearl will have their chance, as the band plays Wednesday, October 4, at the Big Fish Pub. Showtime is 9 p.m.

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