Fun, Fun, Fun

Local promoter stages a wild and woolly music festival

Local promoter (and self-proclaimed "Independent Rock Martyr") Rob "Fun Bobby" Birmingham has announced details for the first annual Fun Bobby Festival. The three-day event, held at Mesa's Hollywood Alley, will showcase some top local acts as well as a bevy of rawk and punk bands on their way to the yearly South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas.

The festival kicks off on Monday, March 12, with a triple bill featuring Alternative Tentacles outfit Victim's Family, wild woman Texas Terri (regarded as the female Iggy Pop) -- who will be in tow with her band the Stiff Ones, while locals Hillbilly Devilspeak open. On Tuesday, March 13, L.A.'s Streetwalkin' Cheetahs headline, supported by Junk Records punks the B-Movie Rats and Tempe's Terror .45.

The final day features a bow from Canadian esoterics NoMeansNo (see the item on page 86), as well as sets from Removal and Fat Grey Cat.

Cover for the first two nights is $6, while Wednesday's entry carries a $10 price tag. Shows begin at 9 p.m.

Sonic Reducer: Although he led a number of popular and influential local groups (including Nuvo West), most folks will remember "Sonic" Mike Stevens from his days in the early '80s fronting the Red Squares. The group, which was responsible for the "Modern Roll/Time Change" single -- one of the best two-fer slabs of Valley punk ever -- has found a resurgence overseas of late thanks to inclusion on some of the Killed by Death CDs, a bootleg compilation series focusing on obscure punk bands. The renewed attention has made the Red Squares' one piece of vinyl a hot collectors' item on eBay and sparked talk of a live archival release.

But Stevens isn't content to be relegated to the dustbin of aging punks. Now residing in Prescott, Stevens visits his hometown periodically fronting an old school trash rock outfit called the Trailer Park Zorros. The band is set to invade Phoenix again this week as part of a northern Arizona triple bill featuring fellow Prescotters and rockabilly cats the High Rollers and Flagstaff's the Half Empties. The concert is set for this Friday, March 9, at Jugheads. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Helping Out:In what seems to be a rash of such events, another local musician is being aided in his hour of need. Travis Nelson, a country/bluegrass picker and member of Saturday Market and the Grasswackers, was involved in a serious auto accident in December that left him in a coma. Although Nelson emerged from his state and is well on the road to recovery, his finances have taken a hit during the incapacitation (also, the driver who struck Nelson was uninsured).

A benefit concert has been arranged to help defray his medical costs. The show will take place this Saturday, March 10, at Code 3. Slated to play are up-and-coming metal bands Makina, Jarra and Against the Natural, as well as blues outfit Fatal Attraction.

There is a $10 cover and all proceeds will benefit Nelson. For more information, contact Kimberly Thompson at 480-429-9184.

Second Time Strut:On the flight back to New Orleans after recording the Meters' eighth album, founder and leader Art Neville announced that he was leaving the band. It was 1977, and things hadn't been going well for the quartet that year; financially speaking, they never had. But it didn't feel like a fitting end to the funkiest foursome in history, the group Mick Jagger had declared "the best motherfuckin' band in the world." The players were still young men, with plenty of reason to believe their unique ensemble was on the brink of another significant recombination of sound. The title of the Meters' newly finished record -- New Directions -- suddenly took on an ironic meaning. Funk aficionados, hip-hop producers, the Rolling Stones and everyone else whose life was touched by the band can only imagine what that new, ultimately unrealized direction might have been.

Twenty-three years later, that ending still seemed premature to the group, which has mounted something of a mini-comeback over the past year. Last November, the original foursome -- keyboardist Neville, drummer Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste, bassist George Porter Jr. and guitarist Leo Nocentelli -- played a reunion gig in San Francisco to the delight of several thousand rabid fans. This week, the band -- now billed as the Funky Meters after an official name change in 1994 -- will perform at Tempe's Nita's Hideaway as part of a national tour that will carry them through the end of April. Original members Modeliste and Nocentelli are not touring with this version of the group; taking their places are trapsman David Russell Baptiste Jr. (Robbie Robertson) and guitarist Brian Stoltz (Bob Dylan, Dr. John).

In the history of popular music -- before the band and since -- the Meters stand out as an aberration. According to any conventional models for success, the Meters never should have happened, or never should have made it beyond the bayous of Louisiana -- an instrumental R&B group that was stingy on the vocals and even stingier on melody, built around the outlandish syncopation of New Orleans marching bands.

The band wasn't born out of a self-conscious desire to break any molds; it just happened that way. Neville, who was 10 years older than the other Meters, had already made a name for himself in 1955 with the Hawkettes' "Mardi Gras Mambo." After quitting that band, Neville's brother Aaron scored a big hit with "Tell It Like It Is," and Art Neville joined him on tour to support it.

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