Tower of Power
Local-music fans had a big surprise awaiting them on April Fools' weekend at Nita's Hideaway. The club, located in the heart of Tempe's industrial district, played host to a Friday/Saturday outdoor double bill featuring Mesa indie rockers Jimmy Eat World and Okie-psych-pop legends the Flaming Lips. While both shows were well-attended and not without their merits (especially the Lips' dazzling multimedia display), the throng of unsuspecting indie-kids and the Lips' somewhat older contingent had an equally pleasant surprise waiting for them afterward as the outdoor headlining sets were followed on both nights by indoor performances from Chicano Power Revival, a highly eclectic 10-piece East Valley Latin big band.
Led by keyboardist Raul Yanez (who has a colorful background as a veteran of the Hong Kong lounge/jazz scene) and a genuinely talented cast of musicians and singers, the group's style is one that seems to offer something for everyone. Although ostensibly a dance-music outfit, the group also explores various world-music styles, has improvisational skills worthy of the most versatile jazz combos and offers an idiosyncratic and challenging take on Latin pop that's miles removed from the similarly dubbed pap currently in vogue on the charts. Regardless of genre constructs, their efforts were enough to get those in the crowd moving throughout a pair of highly charged shows.
Bash & Pop has mentioned CPR before, most recently since it's begun a biweekly Wednesday night residency at Nita's. After making its debut with a series of shows last year at Baja Tilly's, the group took a five-month hiatus, made a few lineup changes and has since resumed a regular performing schedule. The genesis of this unique collective is a fascinating tale and one that New Times will profile fully in our April 27 issue. Stay tuned.
Chicano Power Revival is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, April 19, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Old Hags: The third in Balboa Café's Country Tribute series passed with little fanfare last week. Though a far less elaborate affair than last August's Buck Owens tribute and September's dual Hank Williams/George Jones salute, the event was an admirable showcase of the work of another Bakersfield legend and honest-to-God country outlaw, Merle Haggard. A crowd of about 50 gathered to see what may have been the most rewarding of all three shows. Running through a 20-plus-song sampling of Haggard standards was a combo led by the Dialectrics' Jim Beach (who performs a consistently amazing solo acoustic set at the Balboa every Monday) and including Nitpickers Dave Insley and Tom Post, Peacemakers Danny White and Steve Larson, and former Grievous Angel Jesse Navarro.
Especially notable were goose-bump-inducing versions of "Mamma's Hungry Eyes" and "Snowball" by Beach, a peerless interpreter of traditional country material. Though, sadly, "Silver Wings" was absent from the set list, Valley stalwart Insley, a formidable C&W vocalist in his own right, manned a sprite rendition of "Daddy Frank" -- which, despite its "up" sound, is one of the more ironically depressing songs (blind father, deaf mother, starving children camped on the side of the highway) in the Haggard canon. Later, Dialectrics drummer Andy Mendoza worked his way through ragtag sing-along versions of Hag staples like "Okie From Muskogee" and "Mama Tried."
A much higher profile and expanded cast of participants is expected for the next show, scheduled for May 1 at Balboa and set to salute the Red-Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson. Bandannas and pot are optional.
Eye for an Eye: Local musician Larry Elyea's name seems to be popping up in local circles more and more these days. As we reported in last week's column, the musician, producer and Mind's Eye Digital boss helped record Truckers on Speed's fine debut, No Sense in Runnin'. It turns out that Elyea was also at the controls for Earth in Real Audio, the new release from local aggro-funk rockers Tolerance. As a side note, the group will be celebrating the release of the disc with a party this Saturday, April 15, at the Bash on Ash in Tempe. The bill also includes Swell 26, Yoko Love, Six Point Restraint, and Flowers for June. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
Chicken-Pickin' Again: Last Wednesday's Deadbolt show had all the expected trappings -- from the police tape blocking the stage to front man Harley Davidson's chain saw to the group's virulent onstage hair spraying. You know, the usual stuff. But the real highlight of the evening came early on with a surprise appearance by Flathead front man/guitarist Greg Swanholm, who performed a mini-set with psycho-surf-a-billy openers Grave Danger, a group that features two-thirds of Flathead's lineup -- bassist Kevin Daly and drummer Vince Ramirez. Swanholm's return to the stage comes after a three-month absence, the result of an injury to his picking hand.
The time off has allowed Swanholm's Flathead mates to pursue their own decidedly skewed muse via Grave Danger (which also includes Rumble Cat Rich Merriman). Unfortunately, Swanholm's injury has slowed work on Flathead's follow-up to 1999's Play the Good One. The guitarist, who's recovered fully, says the group has recorded basic tracks for three songs with Clarke Rigsby at the producer's Tempest Studios and plans to return there in the coming weeks to complete work on that batch of songs before beginning a new round of recording. Swanholm adds that the band has "14 to 16 songs ready" for its third full-length effort, which likely will be released late this year, provided there are no further delays.
Regardless, Flathead will be participating in the "Americana" category at the New Times Music Showcase on April 30. Meanwhile, Grave Danger continues its "World Tour 2000." And folks, we hate to sound redundant, but this band is the most entertaining live act in town; you should not pass up a chance to see it, as the members' full-time commitments (and their livers) will probably force them to go on hiatus once again. Grave Danger performs three more times in April, on the 20th at Bandersnatch in Tempe (a show that will feature an opening acoustic set by Daly and Dave Insley), the 26th at Nita's Hideaway, and on the 29th at the Arizona Roadhouse, with the Rumble Cats.
Goody Got It: A bit of clarification regarding last week's item about Haggis. The local alt-poppers did win the regional quarterfinal round of the Sam Goody-sponsored Bandemonium competition in Hollywood. The group then advanced to the national finals in Florida, where they eventually placed fourth, a very respectable finish considering that there were nearly 1,000 competitors when the contest began last year. Haggis will be performing in the "Pop" category at the New Times Music Showcase on April 30.
Limb-O Rock: Proving that old Tucson rockers neither die nor fade away -- they just start making albums for San Jacinto Records -- the legendary Phantom Limbs have just released a new disc on the label, their first in more than a decade.
The album, Not in So Many Words, is a terrific if hard-to-peg offering from the Old Pueblo quartet. The group, which once described its music as "analytical cowboy despair pop passing itself off as New Wave dance music," has stayed true to its off-kilter ethos, creating another idiosyncratic platter of desert roots.
Produced by former Sidewinder/Sand Rubie David Slutes (who was responsible for one of last year's true pop joys, Maryanne's Your First, Your Last, Your Everything), the album is an engaging mix of singer Jefferson Keenan's "Dylan-meets-the-Chipmunks twang" and a crisp yet spare neo-surf guitar backing.
Though the Phantom Limbs' discography -- 1983's Romance and 1986's Train of Thought -- is limited and their recent performances even more scarce, the group holds as prominent a place as Green on Red or Giant Sand in Tucson's illustrious early-'80s musical history. Unfortunately, San Jac owner (and Luminarios leader) Rich Hopkins says the Limbs have decided that the album will be a kind of swan song. The group, which had been active as late as last year, will no longer play live. Not in So Many Words is available at Zia Record Exchange and at www.sanjacintorecords.com.
Give Me Libertine, Or Give Me . . . : The underground is always full of rumblings about the next great trash-rock outfit. Bands that get the New York Dolls-Johnny Thunders "Official Seal of Approval" are literally a dime a dozen. So it was with some suspicion that we picked up See You in the Next Life (Substandard Records), the much-touted full-length debut from New Yawk rawkers Libertine. Fronted by Belvy K. -- familiar to most as the onetime drummer for the U.K. Subs, 7 Seconds and D-Generation -- the group has received all the usual Heartbreakers/Clash nods, as well as less-common comparisons to the Psychedelic Furs and Jesus and Mary Chain.
Formed in 1997, Libertine has spent the better part of the past three years playing punk rock's chitlin circuit, having toured with luminaries like the Candy Snatchers, Lunachicks and Dictators (the group also earned the privilege of being the house band at Joey Ramone's birthday bash). Ironically, Libertine has also bowed on bigger stages opening for a handful of decidedly un-punk headliners like Mötley Crüe (which is not punk, no matter what Nikki Sixx says), Kid Rock, Smash Mouth and -- gasp! -- Third Eye Blind.
Having earned praise from the punk literati (Maximum Rock 'n' Roll, Hit List) for its previous EP Guttersnipe Glamour (as well as a U.K.-only rarities disc, Slowdown) as well as recent nods in the Village Voice and CMJ, the group is poised to become punk rock's "next big thing" -- which in sales terms is roughly equal to about 12 records. Issues of commerce aside, the album looked promising based on the cover alone -- an obvious pilfer of Generation X's Valley of the Dolls. Our verdict? Well, frankly, mixed. Though most of the album is a solid if predictable mélange of influences, it does bog down toward the end with a couple of less-than-stellar cuts.
Though the lead vocals are almost completely buried and unintelligible (a fact that has never seemed to affect critical response to the Stones' Exile on Main Street), Belvy K. no doubt possesses enough front-man moxie to pull off the "live fast, die young" sentiments of "Beautiful Disaster" and "The Sound of the Saints." But our eyebrows get raised whenever we see a punk band use the word "altruistic" in a song -- even if it's meant to be ironic, as in Libertine's no-hope anthem "Volunteer."
More to the point, we'd be curious exactly how the group's experience opening for the tepid Third Eye Blind went. Hopefully, Libertine did what we would expect of any band in the same position: kick over their amp line, piss on the drummer's shoes and then try to shag über-jackass singer Stephen Jenkins' girlfriend, Hollywood nubile Charlize Theron.
With any luck, the full story will be revealed, as Libertine is set to make a pass through the desert, stopping for a show at Cannery Row on Thursday, April 13.
Libertine is scheduled to perform on Thursday, April 13, at Cannery Row in Tempe, with the Impossibles, and Sonic Thrills. Showtime is 9 p.m.
I Bring You a Testimonial: As someone who doesn't care about saving the whales, rarely gives a damn about international political unrest and could give a fuck about what happens to Little Elian, activism is not something that comes naturally.
Such an attitude is typical of most music critics -- the kind of cynicism that emerges when you're forced to hear an unending stream of publicists tout their crap acts as playing "post-millennial urban dreamscape" music, when they're really just former metalheads in leather pants and eye makeup. But every once in a while, a band or a record comes along that's so good it can actually move an unfeeling cretin such as myself to the point of religious fervor.
A group that holds such a place in Bash & Pop's little black heart is Detroit rock revivalists The Go.
Promoting the band has become something of a personal crusade as this unlikely and unheralded group of Michigan youths managed (with the help of Outrageous Cherry mastermind/producer Matt Smith) to craft Watcha Doin', last year's most unexpected and desperately needed blast of rock 'n' roll abandon. Not surprisingly, The Go's music is a cause that's been picked up by other equally sophisticated arbiters of taste and good sense (Magnet, CMJ).
Along with a triumphant set at this year's South by Southwest Festival, the group most recently logged miles with stoner rock linchpins Nebula on a six-week national tour. So it is that the band makes its Valley return this week with a show at the recently renamed Fay's Green Room -- a switch denoting not only a change in ownership but also a stylistic shift toward "heavier" music. While The Go's music is "heavy" in the Blue Cheer sense (rather than, say, the Megadeth way), its sound also has a solid pop/garage foundation that makes songs like "Summer Sun" and "Julie Don't Cry" seem like long-lost Nuggets.
Unlike most bands that try to claim some piece of faded tradition for themselves, The Go are legitimate heirs (both in terms of music and geography) to the throne of the MC5 and the Stooges, as one listen to their Sub Pop debut will, no doubt, confirm. Though their first Green Room performance last November was something of a disappointment -- marred chiefly by poor sound -- local music mavens will be missing out on a golden opportunity if they choose to pass up this show.
The Go is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, April 18, at the Green Room in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Contact Bob Mehr at his online address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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