Strange Brew

Bzzzt. Pop. Check. Check. So how's everybody doing out there? I said . . . how's everybody doing out there!? All right! Are you ready for the second annual New Times Music Awards Showcase!? Coooool.

Before we get started, I'd like to take a second and thank our sponsors. Especially Miller Lite. You are hereby encouraged to pound the Miller Lite and other fine Miller brewing products at the second annual Music Awards Showcase. Also, test-drive a new Volkswagen (not in that order), expand your cable package with Cox Communications, hit Dillard's for whatever it is you buy at Dillard's, and pick up a new pair of Dr. Martens. The 28-eyelet boots come in mauve and chartreuse leather now. They're totally bitchin'.

Moving on. As you may have heard, there are just a couple of changes in the festival lineup, because of strange circumstances far beyond our realm of influence. Jazz-category nominee Armand Boatman was last seen heading west on I-10 in an electric-pink 1973 AMC Gremlin, and local heavy-metal heroes Crushed are, regrettably, still recovering after that ill-fated show at the Shady Lady Dude Ranch in Bilko, Nevada, late last month. The Bilko petting zoo's prize llama is still missing.

I'm pleased to announce, however, that the Nuance Jazz Ensemble and Zig Zag Black, respectively, will take up the slack.

Hey, now, chill out. Those are both solid bands. Besides, we warned you. Just unfold your pocket guides to take a look-see at the fine print. See "Band Names & Times Subject to Change." I think what we really meant is that the actual bands are subject to change, but why quibble? Huh? What's up with that black sticker right below the legalese? Just a little communication breakdown. When we printed the pocket guides, we thought that anyone with a wristband could get in to see the Boogie Knights free. We were wrong. Our bad. You wanna Boogie, you gotta pay the five bucks, just like usual.

One more heads-up, this one just for the under-21 crowd. Last year, some Mill Avenue gutter punks absconded with several dozen festival wristbands and sold them on the street for 10 bucks apiece to underage suckers, who thought they'd be able to get into venues and buy drinks. Nyet! Every venue cards at the door and, kids, if you try to sneak in and get caught, we'll drag you to the Kenny G/John Tesh/Yanni/Zamfir showcase cell and leave you there to writhe in pain until your parents pick you up.

Oh, stop crying. At least we scored one all-ages venue this year--the outside section behind Valley Art Theatre--and it's got a hell of a lineup, including pop-punk wunderkinds Chronic Future, who market studies (and album sales) have demonstrated a bull's-eye hit with the high school classes of 1999-2006.

Speaking of "1999," it's only two years until Prince's club hit becomes a ubiquitous commercial jingle, and the state of pop is anything but static. "Electronica"--the new critspeak term for synthetic, loop and sample-based dance and ambient music--has abruptly usurped ska's pole position on the queue for next big thing. ASU students left for Christmas vacation with DJ Shadow's debut album Entroducing just out and came back to find record stores suddenly bloated with "Battle of the DJs" and "Rave All Night" compilation albums. In terms of total attendance, the Valley's rave and underground dance-club scene has more audience support than any other single genre. But most people who've only heard of raves and "techno" music aren't clear on what exactly DJs do that makes them legitimate music artists--that is, what sets them apart from the guy playing "Rock Lobster" at the company holiday party.

Hence the new DJ category, the only Music Awards Showcase genre in which all the nominees play at the same venue. The music at Club 411 will be continuous from 4 to 9 p.m., and should provide a crash course for the curious. Stop by, check it out even for a few minutes, and you'll quickly see that, these days, being a "sick" DJ means more than just having good recordings. You have to be a technical master of your hardware--two turntables and a mixer--and possess a keen sense of rhythm to "beatmatch," or subtly flow one track into the next to create a seamless aural tapestry. Learning the art of the DJ is like pulling the image out of one of those hallucinatory, double-image paintings that litter the malls: The longer you stay to watch and listen, the more it will all come together.

But, honestly, the best course of action on Showcase day is to think like a shark--keep moving or die. Mix it up. Last year at the Music Awards Showcase, 36 bands spread among nine stages drew just under 7,000 people on a sunny April Sunday. This year, we've got more venues and, more important, more musical acts from which to choose. Diversity will rule the day. Salsa groups sharing a stage with punk rockers. A jazz combo playing right before a Rastafarian reggae band. Metal heads and cowboys peacefully co-existing. If you want some help in selecting which bands to see, flip to "Righteous Paths" on page 17. In any case, come check out the weirdness. And help us keep an eye out for that llama.

--David Holthouse, New Times music editor



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