Indie rock kids have it good. Seeing them hang around the local record store or coffee joint, we look on with no small amount of jealousy. Clutching a copy of the latest vinyl score or rifling through obscure black-and-white 'zines, they seem blissfully unaware of the horrors that rage around them -- Britney, Eminem, matchbox 20. They're oblivious, it would seem, to new media sensations or hot industry trends. It's a form of artistic isolation, and in the face of that which passes for quality music in the mainstream these days, it seems more and more to be a kind of idealized existence.
Still, it would be a disservice if this community of enlightened souls didn't let us at least share in the work of its finer talents. The local indie scene has been witnessing something of a golden age over the past few years, producing a number of worthy outfits, from stalwarts like Reuben's Accomplice to newer phenoms like Loud Americans -- both of whom will be releasing records in the coming months.
Another pair of the genre's more admirable exponents, Pinewood Derby and Fightshy, have joined forces for a new split EP titled Friends of Ours. The six-song disc is being released this week on Line Red Records, a new local imprint run by Matt Solinski. To mark the occasion, the bands will be staging a special concert at the Lucky Dragon restaurant in Tempe on Saturday, August 5. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Half Visconte, another Valley band at the top of the indie heap, will (as we reported in June) be breaking up this month. The group plays its final gig at Modified on Thursday, August 10, joined by Early Outward. Following its live farewell, the group will be releasing its full-length debut in October. While the move casts serious doubt on the band's gifts for marketing and promotion, the record is a fine epitaph for an all-too-brief career and well worth seeking out.
Lit Up: A local literary recommendation is in order, as we were seriously tickled after picking up the July issue of a slit-wrist archipelago. The handmade Mesa-based 'zine is brimming with often clever cartoons, stories, profiles, poetry and a host of other amusing bits and bytes of pop-culture nonsense.
Despite its decidedly low-cost production value, slit-wrist is full of a kind of humor which in its own modest way captures the spirit and sensibility of Michael O'Donohue-era National Lampoon.
To wit, a section titled "Water Safety Tips," which offers helpful guidelines for parents like "Teach your kids to swim at an early age. Throw them in the water and yell 'SWIM, PUSSY!'" or the equally insightful "Tell your kids that unsupervised swimming is . . . 'gay.'"
The 'zine also boasts its fair share of graphic jokes, such as a Nazi propaganda poster with a trio of serious-faced Aryan models and a Nike "swoosh" symbol emblazoned behind them, bearing the slogan "Just Do It . . . Schnell!"
Conspiracy theorists will get a kick from the "Shocking Discovery" section where the true identities of fruit-punch shill the Kool-Aid Man and beef jerky shill Randy "Macho Man" Savage are revealed.
slit-wrist has a music component as well, with issue three boasting a hilarious firsthand encounter with rap-rock royalty called "The Kottonmouth Kings Can SUCK IT!"
Distribution for a slit-wrist archipelago is somewhat sketchy (we got ours at the Tempe Zia). However, information on the publication can be found by scouring the personal Web sites of editors Marcus Root at www.u.arizona.edu/~marcusr or Jenna Duncan at www.u.arizona.edu/~jcduncan, or by simply contacting them at email@example.com.
Wong's Wepair: Long Wong's on Mill, Tempe's long-running local music juggernaut, recently closed its doors for a week to remodel its well-worn interior. Yes, yes, we know the old saying about putting a hat on a pig, but the renovations were done ostensibly to eliminate a mysterious odor and leak which had begun to grow worse in the past few months.
Not to worry, though -- the place hasn't lost any of its unique charm. Little has changed except for a couple coats of fresh paint, some new tile, and a few minor design adjustments, the biggest being the side stage cubbyhole which has been closed off and put to use as a supply closet -- and not, as some have suggested, a tiny dressing room for local über-crooner Stephen Ashbrook.
Speaking of über-crooners, Gas Giant main man Robin Wilson will be performing a special weekly happy-hour set at Wong's every Friday in August while his band takes a break from the road. Wilson's Friday sets follow Dead Hot Workshopper Brent Babb's Wednesday slot and Ashbrook's Thursday turn. Happy-hour shows begin at 6 p.m.
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Jimmy Jams: Jimmy Eat World's all-ages show this past weekend at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe turned into something of a civic spectacle, featuring all manner of fire trucks, police cars and ambulances. Ironically (and somewhat improbably), the incident in question had nothing to do with the concert itself. It's a story too long and convoluted to explain, but suffice to say it involved battling ex-spouses, tow trucks, firearms and eventually the intervention of The Man. All this happened as more than 1,000 folks, most of them kids, tore the roof off the sucker (as it were) during the much-anticipated outdoor event.
On a related note, JEW also has some new product on the shelves -- a singles comp and a new split EP with Aussie band Jebediah. Keep an eye out for reviews of those discs and a promised but delayed look at Gloritone's latest in the coming weeks.
Rock Respite: With the dog days of summer upon us, it's time for this column and Brian Smith's Dischord, which run weekly (and, we hope, in perpetuity), to take a week off so that Mr. Smith and I can make our annual company-sponsored pilgrimage to Tuscany and the Montecatini Health and Wellness Spa in an effort to purge months of bad music from of our systems. Both columns will return the following week, but in the meantime look for features on Marah, Deftones, and a fresh batch of our monthly Gumbo column, plus local pieces on DJ Megadef, Superfine Dandelion, and much more.