Y2 Chaos

Looking back at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of local music in 2000

As we approach the twilight of each calendar year, it seems music critics are overly eager to proclaim the preceding 12 months as the "Year of" something. You know, "The Year of Grunge," "The Year of Women in Rock," "The Year of Electronic Music" and on and on.

But if 2000 is to be remembered for anything -- save for the sight of Miss Britney Spears' exquisite jugs at the MTV Video Music Awards -- it should be "The Year of the List."

It seemed everywhere you looked in 2000, someone was compiling a poll, countdown or rating of the greatest this or most important that, the top 50 of these, the best 100 of those, until it made the eyes of even the most ardent number cruncher glaze over in despair.

Clockwise from top left: Jimmy Eat World's Adkins has a Big coming out; Fine China praises the Lord and the three-minute pop song; Bird is the word as Ghetto Cowgirl's Norman offers DiFolco a single-finger salute; Grave Danger -- are grown men supposed to be acting this way?
Clockwise from top left: Jimmy Eat World's Adkins has a Big coming out; Fine China praises the Lord and the three-minute pop song; Bird is the word as Ghetto Cowgirl's Norman offers DiFolco a single-finger salute; Grave Danger -- are grown men supposed to be acting this way?

The same year that saw High Fidelity, a film about obsessive music-list makers, also witnessed the unveiling of Rolling Stone and MTV's Top 100 Pop Songs -- an appallingly insipid poll which listed the Carlos Santana/Rob Thomas duet of "Smooth" as number 31, right in front of "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay" and "My Generation."

However, when it comes to repeated list abuse, VH1 is the worst offender. The cable network offered elaborate and seemingly endless programming detailing things like the "Top Hard Rockers," "Best Madonna Videos of All Time" and "Greatest Musical Moments on Sesame Street," among many others. List-oriented programming has become such a staple at VH1 that the "Music First" channel even has a regular show called The List, ferchrissakes.

As the coming weeks are sure to yield a whole new crop of such merciless tripe, we've decided to get a bit of a head start here. However, we won't be rating songs, albums or even groups specifically; instead, we'll be looking at the top 10 moments in local music from the year 2000. You know, those fleeting instances when someone or something rose above (or fell below) the level of the mundane. Strictly speaking, this isn't a best-of or a worst-of, more like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Valley scene for the past 12 months.

And just like Casey Kasem, we're going to start at the bottom and count 'em up to number one. Meanwhile, be sure to keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

10. Go Big Casino's Debut

When Jimmy Eat World front man Jim Adkins announced plans for an elaborately staged two-night stand to debut his orchestral-pop side project, Go Big Casino, it raised more than a few eyebrows. Could the idol of the Stinkweeds set pull off an extravaganza that seemed more appropriate for Burt Bacharach or Jimmy Webb than a much-heralded college rocker?

Dressed to the nines and leading an 11-piece big band of local luminaries, Adkins weaved his way through a clutch of sterling new compositions that owed more to the Brill Building than the Jade Tree label. With the sold-out showcase and stellar performance, Adkins proved he's more than just the guitar godhead of the underage indie crowd. Word is that the next Jimmy Eat World full-length (currently in production with Drive Like Jehu's Mark Trombino behind the board) will move away from the band's signature sound and veer into Go Big Casino territory. A true coming-out party for a big-time local talent.

9. Stand Back, Stevie

It's not easy being Stevie "The Kelvinator" Nicks. But it's even harder being a semi-pro Stevie Nicks look-alike. Witness the decadelong trials and travails of Cheryl Cusella (a.k.a. "Britney Marx"), the local Nicks clone whose efforts to carve out a career in her idol's hefty shadow led to an appearance on TV's Puttin' on the Hits and, later, a somewhat lengthier stint in prison after she defrauded investors in a concert-promotion scheme. More recently, she has reinvented herself as a country singer, a gay-rights advocate, a self-described rape victim (police became suspicious of the alleged attack when Cusella relived her ordeal on The Montel Williams Show, but refused to elaborate on details for investigators) and an animal-rights activist. But the hits keep on keeping on, and in September, Cusella pleaded guilty to bilking $500,000 out of 13 people who believed they were donating to an animal shelter -- money Cusella admitted that she actually spent on herself.

8. Big Blue Couch Loves the Sound of Breaking Glass

The famed glass window behind the stage at Long Wong's on Mill really should have had a target painted on it the whole time. The venerable venue's oversize pane always seemed ready-made to fall victim to the egomaniacal whims of some drunken Jim Morrison wanna-be eager to crash through it and onto the street. Although most figured it was just a matter of time before the proverbial wall came a-tumbling down, observers were betting it would be a punk band (or Grave Danger) responsible, rather than the art-rock up-and-comers in Big Blue Couch (frankly, I had big bucks riding on my mike-twirling colleague Brian Smith).

BBC's September 23 show was halted abruptly just a few bars into their first song due to equipment troubles. But patrons got their money's worth when a verbal argument between bassist Jon Demrick and drummer Jayson Gilbert erupted in a shoving match, then into a full-blown fistfight. Before either rhythm player could do any damage to the other, their onstage melee took on epic proportions as the two shattered the massive glass backdrop, sending shards into the street. The shock of that sight stopped the tussle dead in its tracks (the band kissed and made up later and is readying the release of its long-awaited debut next year). Meanwhile, flummoxed bouncers and frantic bar managers searched for answers -- and a late-night window repairman. But as the artist who tops this year's list might say, "Hey, that's rock 'n' roll!"

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