Mill Landing

The sixth annual New Times Music Showcase brings together the Valley's best, brightest and weirdest

Another year, another local music extravaganza, another Sunday afternoon gauntlet to run. But there was something different about New Times' 2001 music showcase, the sixth annual version. There was a definite sense that we'd really made it. Sure, we've always had good attendance and rabid participation, but something was special this time round. Like bigger, nationally known festivals -- say South by Southwest or CMJ -- we finally saw a large number of non-sanctioned, alternate and shadow showcases trying to gravy train off our humble event. From the Knot Known Records-sponsored bash, to East Coast Subs' rock bill to any number of side-street buskers, there were a lot of people trying to jump on our coattails.

But forget the stragglers; the 40 official bands performing held more than enough promise. While this showcase was the easiest in memory to navigate, at best we still could only hope to view maybe half the acts. Thanks to a little bit of initiative and a good pair of cross-trainers, we got to see a whole lot more. A bad back and sore feet notwithstanding, we offer the following recap of the day's events.

Punk provocateurs Balls kicked off the proceedings to a packed house at the Bash on Ash. Looking resplendent in a ravishing red ensemble, frontwoman Tricie Soulos led her bandmates through a furiously paced 40 minutes, hitting the highpoint midway with a crowd-pleasing cover of Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law."

DJ Smite spins some old school at the Owl's Nest.
Paolo Vescia
DJ Smite spins some old school at the Owl's Nest.
The Hypnotwists rev up the Beeloe's crowd.
Paolo Vescia
The Hypnotwists rev up the Beeloe's crowd.

Indie entrants Fightshy were not so extroverted, as the combo had to be coaxed into continuing its splendid set of jangling, plaintive tunes at the Mill Cue Club. Elsewhere, Fat Tuesday audiences got a double shot of popsters the Royal Normans as hard/modern rock candidate Nine Volt had to cancel after frontman Andy Mitchell was sidelined with the flu.

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated wrinkle to this year's event was the return of the Valley Art Theater to the showcase fold. The recently renovated cinema house proved a perfect backdrop for the gypsy jazz of the Hammertoes, the roots muse of Sistah Blue and pretty much everything in between. Unfortunately, technical troubles marred an otherwise admirable early appearance at the venue by the Loud Americans, who literally blew the power out in the theater during their final song.

Down the street at Beeloe's, blues category competitors the James Matthews Band showed why they belong among the Valley elite as the up-and-coming crew cajoled the audience and generally worked the crowd with a solid bag of good-timey shuffles and rave-ups.

The seven o'clock hour began with a bit of old school rawk 'n' punk courtesy of the Vox Poppers, as the band's Brit-fueled sound spilled out of the Cue Club and onto the busy sidewalk, turning the heads of curious passers-by.

Yolanda Bejarano's The Slowdown did just that, as a packed and hushed Beeloe's audience -- including indie rock peers Jimmy Eat World and its comely entourage -- watched the group wind through a haltingly beautiful, if understated, set of acoustica.

Meanwhile, the ladies of Uber Alice took a totally different tack as the black-clad quartet powered through a strong outdoor appearance at Trails, exhorting the all-ages crowd to pogo toward the stage.

Across the alley in Hayden Square, there was no pogoing, but plenty of dancing as Latin big-band Chicano Power Revival got the masses shaking their collective asses. Band leader Raul Yanez prodded the crowd to lose itself in the group's multi-genre mix; the audience responded in kind, with many partaking in lambada, the forbidden dance of love.

Back at the Bash, a bittersweet air hung over Sugar High's performance, reportedly its last with guitarist Jason Garcia. The group closed a strident set of rockers with a feedback-laden version of "Personality Pills." Sugar High's appearance also included the first of several showcase tributes to the recently departed and sorely missed Joey Ramone, as the band pulled off a stellar take of "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker."

At about the same time at the Owl's Nest, DJ Tricky T deviated from his standard set of beats to scratch his way through "Rock 'n' Roll High School" in homage to the late, great Ramone. (A correction: We mistakenly ran a photo of DJ Tige next to a caption about Tricky T in last week's showcase insert. We're well-intentioned here, but also kind of dumb. Our apologies.)

Native act Clan/destine came and got its love in the heritage category, as the group proved to be one of the evening's biggest surprises with a scintillating and highly polished merger of traditional indigenous sound and modern rock.

Outside at Hayden Square, local hip-hop supergroup the Ten Commandments unleashed an impressive and unrelenting lyrical assault that seemed to go over the heads of most of the crowd, save for a contingent of hardcore rap aficionados. The group ended its set by causing a small furor, as the all-star collective slammed its microphones for dramatic effect and stalked offstage. This sent the Hayden Square sound crew and New Times ad reps doubling as showcase volunteers into a tizzy before we were forced to calm the situation, assuring everyone that they were just rappers playing the part and everything would be fine. (It should be noted for the record that most New Times ad reps are so white they make Andy Williams look like Rudy Ray Moore.)

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