'Toonsmiths

Boyhood passions and local music luminaries collide in Robin Wilson's new concept album-cum-animated series

The Poppin' Wheelies has provided Wilson with a pleasant distraction from the Gas Giants. And frankly, the way things have been going for the group, he's needed it. The band's been fraught with record-company woes, legal battles and personnel problems from the start, and the latest bump in the road came when its label, upstart online indie Atomic Pop (headed by industry bigwig Al Cafaro) went belly-up last month.

After Atomic Pop's demise, the band managed to secure the rights to its record, which has sold a disappointing 8,000 copies nationally. Wilson is contemplating a rerelease of the disc with another label, or he may simply put it out himself on the Uranus imprint. In the meantime, the combo has begun work on a new batch of material. "We've recorded one song, and I have bits and pieces -- parts of lyrics, chords, song titles -- for 12 more," Wilson says.

The Gas Giants will be showcasing at next year's South by Southwest festival in Austin, adds Wilson, who says the group will promote both themselves and the Poppin' Wheelies in the hopes of drawing the attention of a major label. More pressing is The Poppin' WheeliesCD release party, which is scheduled for this Friday, November 24, at Long Wong's in Tempe.

From the Sun Club to Saturday morning: The real Hopkins (left) and his animated counterpart.
From the Sun Club to Saturday morning: The real Hopkins (left) and his animated counterpart.
The Poppin' Wheelies: "It combines everything I love," says Robin Wilson of his new multimedia project.
The Poppin' Wheelies: "It combines everything I love," says Robin Wilson of his new multimedia project.

Wilson will begin his regular acoustic happy hour set at 6 p.m. Midway through, he'll be joined by the Gas Giants for an electric run-through of the entire album. The show will feature special appearances by a host of local luminaries including Peacemakers Roger Clyne and Scott Johnson and Pistoleros Lawrence and Mark Zubia.

Don't Ask Me No Questions:"How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?" "Will you still love me tomorrow?" "Why do fools fall in love?" These are but some of the great musical questions that have been asked over years. From Bob Dylan to the Shirelles to Frankie Lymon, the history of pop music is colored with important artists asking important things. And none more vital than the Baha Men and their plaintive cry of "Who Let the Dogs Out?"

Snicker if you will, but there's much more to this jock-rock anthem turned Billboard smash than meets the eye.

"Who Let the Dogs Out?" is not merely an infectious ode to canine escapism. No sirree. Like some divine tablet or scroll, all the secrets of life, death, love, God and salvation are in there, buried just beneath the layers of "Woof. Woof."

Frankly, I've become obsessed with unlocking the song's mysteries. Playing the track over and over again, deconstructing the lyrics "American Pie"-style, I've driven away friends, family and co-workers -- all of whom have come to regard me as a crank on an insane and highly implausible quest. But dammit, I'm a seeker by nature and I must find the answer.

Over the past months, my mania has grown so overwhelming, it's even driven away a longtime girlfriend, who, upon breaking up with me (and subsequently shacking up with a far less inquisitive construction worker), said, "It doesn't matter how hard you try. You're never going to find out who let the dogs out. And I can't love someone who doesn't know that."

Amid this very personal drama came the shocking and heartening news: The Baha Men were coming to Phoenix. Their appearance at an intimate Valley venue guaranteed that I would be no more than 75 feet away from them when they launched into their siren song. At last, I was going to find out "Who Let the Dogs Out?" firsthand.

If you go -- and why wouldn't you? -- the smart money says to expect multiple versions of the group's signature (and only) U.S. hit. There will be the original version, the single version, the extended club mix, the "Barking Mad" mix, the "Pooper Scooper Mix" and on and on. Every color of the "Who Let the Dogs Out?" rainbow will represented that evening.

Yes, the place will be jumping. There will undoubtedly be grown men barking, booties shaking and all kinds of people getting jiggy with it. But for at least one fan, it will be a sacred and profound moment.

The Baha Men are scheduled to perform as part of KZZP's Jingle Ball on Saturday, December 16, at the Celebrity Theatre. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Working On a Deal:A quick reminder on the joint CD release being staged by the Piersons and Pistoleros (both of whom were profiled on these pages last week). The bands' pre-Thanksgiving bash is being held this Wednesday, November 22, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m. Cover for the event is $15, but that charge allows patrons entry to the show pluscopies of each of the groups' new albums. Five bucks will get you in the door, sans discs.

Also, the two groups are scheduled to make a dual in-store appearance at the Tempe Zia Record Exchange on Sunday, December 3, from 1 to 3 p.m.

Clearing Up:A couple corrections and clarifications are needed for a pair of stories we ran recently. First, in our profile of local alt-country combo Chicken ("Fowl Play," October 26), we incorrectly identified guitarist Scott Hinkle as "Steve." We regret the error and can only assume it was due to the fact that the author was completely drunk when he wrote the piece.

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