By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
By Derek Askey
7. Bruce and Tessa Connole: A Father and Child Reunion
Not since Ken Griffeys Sr. and Jr. took the field together has there been so much ado about a parent and child appearing in the same lineup. Well, not really. But in local music terms, the Revenants/Weaker Sex double bill was a rather historic, if not disconcerting (at least for those who remember Connole's halcyon days as a rock 'n' roll hell-raiser) event, as proud papa Bruce shared the stage with daughter Tessa's all-girl honky tonk combo in August. Though the Weaker Sex fizzled out just a week or so later (leaving us with egg -- check that, omelet -- on our faces after writing a lengthy profile), it was still an absolute Hallmark moment. Frank and Nancy, eat your hearts out.
6. Don't Cry for Me 75-Cent Kamikaze
Take the fashion sense of a 12-year-old skateboarder, the tasteful gold accessorization of Mr. T and a grasp of the English language to rival Roberto Benigni, and you've pretty much captured former Mason Jar owner Franco Gagliano. The longtime avatar of Valley heavy metal hung it up this year, handing over the reins of the club after 20-plus years. But aging headbangers needn't worry; little has changed at the central Phoenix nightspot. Big hair, spandex and "shredding, dude" are still present and accounted for. Gagliano even reportedly makes the odd onstage cameo shilling watered-down well drinks at bargain-basement prices. And as Ol' Franc himself might say, "If you don't like eet, fuck you, maan!"
5. Fine China Rocks Harder Than You Ever Knew
This North Phoenix Christian rock quartet emerged from seemingly nowhere to snag a deal with Seattle-based indie Tooth and Nail (onetime label home to fellow Christ lovers MXPX). Regardless of its spiritual allegiances, the band was responsible for this year's finest local pop moment. Released in the fall, Fine China's debut single, "We Rock Harder Than You Ever Knew" -- an oh-so-fey, electro-pop anthem of love and understanding -- was the catchiest, sing-songiest slice of ear candy to be committed to disc. What are the chances that a band in the heart of the desert could manage to capture the best moments of the Smiths, OMD, Wild Swans and other 1980s synth-preeners? Whatever the odds, we say praise the Lord and the three-minute pop song.
4. Grave Danger . . . Baby!
Are grown men supposed to be acting like this? Probably not, hence the lure of psychobilly trio Grave Danger, which returned to regular performing early in 2000 and spent the rest of the year drowning venues in an ocean of blood, booze and hedonistic mayhem. Led by longtime local vet singer/guitarist Kevin Daly, drummer Vince Ramirez and bassist Rich Merriman, the combo quickly became a phenomenon of sorts, inspiring normally tame Valley audiences to heretofore unseen levels of excess and bottle-breaking euphoria. Meanwhile, the band released a self-titled debut (which included blood 'n' guts epics like "Mad"), began recording a follow-up (loaded with even more violent anthems like the signature "Piss on Your Grave") and capped the unforgettable year with a spectacular Halloween concert that saw the band dressed up as the Misfits and, appropriately enough, trying to beat up audience members onstage. If 2001 finds Grave Danger in the same form as this year, local clubs would be advised to stock up on the plastic cups.
3. Tempe Rock Bids Adieu
The third spot finds our only tie, as we call it, a draw, between Dead Hot Workshop's reunion and the Piersons/Pistoleros CD release party.
Both of these events were a highly symbolic -- if not a somewhat literal -- drawing of the curtain on the Mill Avenue scene of yore. Dead Hot's return (with its classic lineup intact for the first time in more than three years) was arguably the year's most anticipated local event, and the band's secret Tempe show proved one of the few had-to-be-there concerts in recent memory.
Meanwhile, the Piersons and Pistoleros celebrated the completion of their first self-released offerings in more than three years, essentially bringing the two groups back full circle to their early-'90s roots. The Piersons' celebratory set (augmented by local talents Paul Cardone and Michael "Rock-'n'-Roll-on-a-Stick" Brooks) was especially poignant as bassist Scott Moore -- still recovering from an early-October car accident -- received an emotional toast to begin the night.
What the future holds for those who emerged from Tempe's first brilliant burst remains to be seen. Dead Hot Workshop has left the door open for more dates and possible recording, while the Pistoleros continue with an eye toward another record deal. The Piersons are, understandably, on hold, though front man Patrick Sedillo is set to debut a new group (tentatively dubbed Vodka Jesus) in the coming weeks. But even if the future yields nothing more for these three outfits, the events of 2000 offered a fitting valediction to their careers.
2. Birdwatching With Claudia DiFolco
Oh, Claudia. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Ghetto Cowgirl's Mark Norman showed us one really good way when the singer flipped off DiFolco and her NewShowaudience during an August edition of the nightly info-tainment program. After offering his single-finger salute, Norman disappeared from the set, leaving his bandmates and a glib DiFolco to apologize to any oldsters in Sun City who might've taken offense. Ironic, then, that NewShow anchor Liz "Get Your Fucking Hands Off Me" Habib would employ similarly obscene language and gestures during her recent drunken brush wit da Man at Scottsdale's Dos Gringos. (Recommended reading note: The police report detailing Liz "You Guys Are SoGoing Down" Habib's arrest is by far the most fascinating thing you will lay eyes on all year. Actually, Habib -- who has an oddly attractive porcine quality about her -- is one of our new heroes for offering up a local version of John Lennon's "Lost Weekend.")