Aaah, the new year, when music critics' hearts turn to thoughts of Top 10 lists and year-end recaps--a vacation unto itself. The last year gave indie rock a face-lift, ringing in new heroes and ditching some of the bad guys. From California to the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest and New England to right here in the Valley of the Sun, keeping up with the independent evolution was nothing less than an adventure--these are a few of Revolver's favorite things.
Don'tcha Wish They Were Locals? San Diego's Jejune maintained an almost constant presence in the Valley in '97, playing as often as some of our better local bands. The band released its debut CD, Junk, this year, but, mostly because of production faults, it couldn't touch the ferocity of Jejune's live sets.
Chris' spasmodically theatrical drumming, Joe's ebullient guitar riffs and Araby's melodic bass lines back the alternately boy/girl vocals--sometimes pretty like the Promise Ring, sometimes explosive like the Get Up Kids. There were few onstage moments as memorable this year as Araby sweetly lullabying, "Fuck you, no fuck you, no fuck you." Plus, Jejune seems to like our local bands as much as we like them--the band shared a split seven-inch with Jimmy Eat World a few months ago and will be taking Reuben's Accomplice on tour with it shortly.
Jejune is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, January 6, at Stinkweeds Record Exchange in Tempe. Showtime is 10 p.m.
Milestones (kinda makes you feel old): This year, both Fugazi and Lookout! Records hit their 10th anniversary (Lookout's birthday is actually January 1, 1998); who ever thought they'd be old school? By far the hardest-working and most dedicated band in punk rock, Fugazi kept busy this year touring overseas, working on a long-in-the-making home video and writing songs for its next album. Also, the first Fugazi offspring saw the light of day; Brendan Canty became a father early in '97.
Lookout! started 1997 with Chris Appelgren taking over ownership from founder Larry Livermore, a change infinitely for the better. The label also opened the Lookout! Store in downtown Berkeley. The Lookout! crew is celebrating its anniversary with a series of shows benefiting the Musicians Assistance Program, FSU and the Berkeley Skate Park next week in Berkeley and San Francisco.
Survival of the Fittest: It's not nice to find out that anyone's a heroin addict, but it explained a lot when Epitaph Records owner left the label to go into rehab and disappeared shortly after. Since then, personnel changes have been implemented (including a new acting CEO) and, hopefully, Epitaph will pay more attention to putting out decent recordings than macromarketing. If it can find some decent bands.
In related Epitaph news, NOFX released what is supposedly its last album, So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes. Attention, frat punks--your heroes are gone, please follow them.
One Less Dive: Continuing to revel in others' misfortune, we note that the Nile Theater in Mesa closed this year because of police problems and, well, because it sucked. The Nile has hosted its share of good shows, but it's a fucking un-air-conditioned sweatbox; the Hessian sound guys didn't understand that, at punk-rock shows, the kids don't wanna hear trashy heavy metal between the bands; it had a limited liquor license (if you didn't want beer, you were stuck with Sake); and who wants to see a punk-rock show in Mesa?
Punk, New Times Style: The scene--late afternoon at a sports bar in downtown Tempe, during the New Times Music Awards Showcase. Punk-category nominee Fucking Thunder takes the stage and rocks the hell out of a bunch of middle-age guys wearing Green Bay Packer sweatshirts. It was beautiful. Their fists were pumping in the air, I swear.
The other highlight of the Music Awards was a grrl band winning Best Punk Band. Much props to the girls (and drummer Drew Newburgh, who's not a girl even though he has long hair) for kicking some XY-chromosome ass.
Olympia, It's the Water: This year, the second-ever Yoyo A Go Go festival was held in Olympia, Washington, home of more good bands than you can name. Besides Yoyo crashing the town's Lakefair parade, underground film screenings, a cabaret variety show, a kissing booth where you could smooch your favorite punk-rock antistar and a fanzine writers' lemonade social, there were bands, too.
Built to Spill, Elliott Smith, Mocket, Love As Laughter, Lois, Red Stars Theory, KARP, Behead the Prophet (No Lord Shall Live), Tullycraft, Sleater-Kinney, Cold Cold Hearts, Modest Mouse, Dub Narcotic Sound System, Unwound . . . need we say more?
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If and when the Yoyo folks (who also run Yoyo Records) put together a third festival, go. It was punk-rock Zen.
The Cap'n Jazz Legacy: Cap'n Jazz was one of the best and most influential bands of the early '90s, pioneering a style of spastic math-emo that inspired countless numbers of bands currently doing the emo thing. Since breaking up, all of the members have ended up in one of two bands: Three members (Tim Kinsella, Mike Kinsella and Sam Zurick) are in Joan of Arc, and Davey vonBohlen fronts the Promise Ring.
Hearing and seeing the two bands, it is obvious that Cap'n Jazz's genius was directly derivative from the sum of its parts. Joan of Arc embodies the experimental, math-rock half, and Promise Ring takes the melodic side of Cap'n Jazz and multiplies it exponentially. Both bands put out exceptional recordings this year (both on Delaware's Jade Tree Records) and played amazing shows in the Valley. The passing of Cap'n Jazz would still be mourned by kids everywhere if it weren't for the two new bands sounding so fucking incredible.
We'll Say It Again--Modest Mouse: Issaquah, Washington's barely twentysomething pride and joy, Modest Mouse is the best band this lackluster decade has seen. Isaac, Jeremiah and Eric can take any style--bluegrass ("Jesus Christ Was an Only Child"), metal ("Shit Luck"), prom music ("Sleepwalking"), anything--and build monstrous works of pop beauty with little effort. When their hearts are in it, it's nothing short of genius. So far you've missed two double albums, one EP, two seven-inches and one show in the Valley; we're through saying it, find out for yourself.