Pain Relievers

After marauding up and down the East Coast, and befriending Ween, Less Pain Forever returns for the holidays

On the night before the September 11 terrorist attack, Karnes and Pomerenke were trying to cross the Canadian border for a show they'd booked in Montreal. They were surprised to find the climate less than hospitable in the land of Lorne Greene and Gino Vannelli.

"All of our friends had told us when you go into Canada, don't tell them you're in a band or that you're going to play," Pomerenke says. "So we told them we'd met some girls in New York and we were going up to Canada for fun. They asked what we did for a living, and I said, 'musicians.' Wrong answer. So he asked us to go to the office.

"This French Canadian woman took our IDs and then said we'd been denied access, she doesn't believe us, we have no rights, we can go back to our country, she doesn't want us in her country. She said she believed we were there to take money from Canadian musicians. She interrogated us for another hour, searched the RV and sent us back to New York at about 2 a.m."

The band members drove to a rest stop in upstate New York, drank some beers, and crashed. When they woke up, they learned that the world had been turned upside down.

"It was a bizarre time to get that news," Pomerenke says, "'cause we were feeling very patriotic, after having been kicked out of another country."

The group's holiday return to Phoenix will be brief. As part of their plan to go where the best weather is, they'll spend the winter working the West Coast, before heading back East in May, with a tour of Spain and Italy squeezed in somewhere.

Their stay in the Valley will allow them just enough time to play a couple of shows, get their fix of Mexican food ("on the East Coast they have no idea," Pomerenke says), hang out with old friends, and spend New Year's Eve in Rocky Point.

It should also confirm that, contrary to the impression gained by Mean Ween, the members of Less Pain are not prophets without honor in their hometown. When Ween played the Cajun House in August, their bassist approached audience members after the show to find out if they were familiar with his new friends from the Valley.

"He told us, 'When we played in Phoenix, I was asking everybody if they'd heard of Less Pain Forever, and none of them had ever heard of you guys,'" Pomerenke says. "I thought, 'Oh great.' It was kind of embarrassing. I was like, 'Uh, actually . . . we do have friends there.'"

Less Pain Forever is scheduled to perform on Saturday, December 22, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, with Down With Buildings, Reubens Accomplice, and Vic Masters.

Blooze Power: Local roots-music mecca the Rhythm Room has developed such a national reputation on the blues circuit that it's becoming a popular locale for live recordings. Ample evidence can be found on Hightone's new compilation Rhythm Room Blues, not to mention singer-harpist Kim Wilson's solo live record, Smokin' Joint.

Now Wilson is bringing his othermusical project, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, to town for two nights of live performance and live recording at the Rhythm Room. In keeping with the band's desire for an enthusiastic audience of dedicated T-Birds fans, tickets for the shows will not be available in advance, and can only be purchased at the door.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform on Friday, December 21, and Saturday, December 22, at the Rhythm Room. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door.

Zine Angst: The November issue of Zia Records' free, in-store music monthly, ZiaZine, marked the end of an era for this endearingly smart-ass publication. Early this year, the Pennsylvania-based Red Flag Media convinced Zia's ownership to allow the company to publish the magazine. In the ensuing months, the cost of maintaining both the Red Flag staff and ZiaZine's local staff grew too costly, so in November, Zia dismissed the magazine's local crew and turned the editorial content of the magazine over to the Pennsylvania company and its stable of writers. The December ZiaZine is the debut of the new-look, Red Flag version of the magazine.

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