BEST LOCAL MYSPACE FIND 2007 | Disposable Hero | People & Places | Phoenix
For a street graffiti artist, anonymity is of paramount importance. One might assume that to stay incognito, the visual vigilantes would avoid exposing Web sites like MySpace. Not so for Phoenix's Disposable Hero. The dude's art is everywhere and you've likely seen his anime-inspired panda posters, since they're stuck to almost every abandoned building in Phoenix and Tempe. This panda-pasting pirate is a marketing master, and embraces the exposure MySpace can provide while keeping us guessing about his true identity. With 7,000 friends from Phoenix to the UK, the page provides the perfect springboard for poking around to find local young artists and musicians and is great for sneaking peeks at the street art scene of other cities. That is, if you can gain access. The profile is so popular that the artist had to reset the profile view counter a couple of times and then go private to cut down on the hordes of friendship requests he received each day. And all this without even knowing who the guy is.
Big-time Valley concert promoters Live Nation and Lucky Man Productions boast dozens of employees, boffo budgets, multimillion-dollar venues, and connections to a slew of chart-topping acts across the country. So what does the smaller-scale indie-show organizer President Gator Presents have going for it? A one-man promoting powerhouse named Jeremiah Gratza, that's what. The 24-year-old scenester constantly impresses us with his tireless work ethic and sense of style in presenting some of the coolest music events in the PHX. Gratza — who also manages P-Town popsters Peachcake, and Skybox — probably won't be booking such Billboard-busters as Panic! at the Disco or Modest Mouse anytime soon. That ain't how he rolls. The dude specializes in landing more intimate gigs for up-and-coming alt-press darlings like E for Explosion, Steel Train, or Lola Ray before they get big enough to play the Marquee Theatre. (He's backed the right horses, as previous bookees like Chidos, Riverboat Gamblers, and The Polysics have gone on to greater fame). Since his shoestring income as a waiter doesn't afford full-page ads, Gratza commissions local artists to create gorgeous posters and fliers, which he pastes up around town. Basically, we wanna say grazie, Gratza, you make the Phoenix music scene that much cooler.
As a producer and engineer, Mind's Eye owner Larry Elyea's got a resumé that's hard to beat. His local credits include albums by some of Phoenix's best acts — Jimmy Eat World, Eyes Set To Kill, Authority Zero, DJ Radar, Fred Green, Gin Blossoms, Reubens Accomplice, Digital Summer, Trik Turner, and 32 Leaves' Welcome to the Fall, which landed at No. 14 on Revolver magazine's "Best Albums of 2006" list. His national cred is even better — Elyea's worked with the likes of the Beastie Boys, Kottonmouth Kings, Eminem, Primus drummer Tim Alexander, Black Lab, and Cappadonna of Wu-Tang Clan.

The guy's total list of producer credits would take up a few full pages, impressive when you consider that he opened the doors to Mind's Eye Digital just 14 years ago. With tons of high-tech equipment, ranging from the popular and expected (Digidesign/Pro Tools) to the unbelievably high-end (a 112-input, 48-frame ORAM BEQ console, one of only two in the U.S.), the studios have a setup for everyone, whether it's a hip-hop artist who wants hot hooks and snare-snappin' beats, or a heavy metal band that wants to sound burly and buried in reverb.

Influenced by a background in performance art as well as the massive number of original musical performances he's booked as co-owner of the Trunk Space art gallery and performance venue, downtown Phoenix artist JRC began this independent DIY label in 2006.

The onewordlong project focuses on sound art, found sounds and spoken word, and is truly a hands-on effort as JRC recruits the musicians, edits the raw tapes, makes the art decisions, and releases each album. The inaugural release, Live From the MTC (remixed) by Hi My Name Is Ryan, showcases Archbishop Jason Polland, The Coitus, Zach Burba, and Djentrification interpreting and remixing a tape mailed by ex-Phoenix artist extraordinaire and current Latter-day Saints missionary Ryan Avery.

Other scheduled 2007 releases include The Treasure Mammal Road Diary featuring frontman Abe Gill audio-documenting his road adventures as well as an album by John Martin, who recorded people saying nice things such as "you are the greatest" so the listener can hear people saying nice things about themselves (aw, shucks). Each professionally packaged album is released in limited editions, so be sure to pick up these sonic treasures while they're still available.

The truth about podcasts is that most of them suck. Modern technology made it possible for any jerk off the street to broadcast himself, but most people just don't belong behind a microphone.

Luckily, we discovered Geek Method, a good answer to a slow workday. The pair of dudes behind the show are a couple of self-proclaimed computer nerds. Their motto: "We geek out so you don't have to." But they've been programmed with a set of social skills as well and, even better, a sense of humor.

The show follows a pretty basic, but successful, formula. At the top of the hour-long broadcast, they answer listener mail and dole out advice in the vein of Dan Savage (sample question: "How many guys can a girl sleep with before she's icky?") The show segues into the hosts — Michael and Ryan "CPO" doing what they do best — making fun of shit and getting geeky. Topics range from how to escape from handcuffs to video games to current headlines. You really just can't go wrong with a show that has episodes named "I Bet the Easter Bunny Likes Grand Theft Auto" and "The Earth Is Melting, So I Told My Alarm Clock to Snooze." A new episode is posted every Wednesday.

You know a radio station is free from crappy, corporate play lists when it airs a weekly show called "Zappa Universe," honoring the music of Frank Zappa. Or when it plays The Earps, an abrasive, local cowpunk band, right after classic-rock fogies like The Marshall Tucker Band. Or when listeners play DJ and pick a pile of weekend songs (and the station actually plays them).

Welcome to Radio Free Phoenix, an Internet station that plays everything from New Wave to blues to folk to psychedelic jams (and a bunch of amalgamations in between), spanning the '60s through today. Where corporate-owned radio stations use a computer program called Selector to determine their playlists (based on time, genre, and even gender limitations), Radio Free Phoenix's DJs actually choose the music they play. So instead of hearing "hit singles" all day, listeners get gems like the new song "I Think I See the Light" by Yusef Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) — which will never ride a Clear Channel frequency — along with special programs like "Rock-A-Billy & Beyond," hosted by former AZ resident Miss Holley King. There's also "Jukebox Cantina," which dishes out ditties by the likes of locals Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Truckers on Speed, and The Pistoleros. With programs like these, and on-air personalities like Liz Boyle (also on-air at KOOL FM) and Andy Olson (formerly of defunct PHX stations KRIZ and KRUX), Radio Free Phoenix has truly Net-ed a winner.

Women across the Valley are talking about this morning duo, and it's easy to see why. From sisters on spring break pimping each other out for cash, to a local woman busting her parents as swingers on Mother's Day, Johnjay and Rich take the time to listen to their callers — and they have a persistent charm that has allowed some of the Valley's darkest secrets to come tumbling out and somehow still seem wholesome.

Weirdly, even with the risqué talk, they manage to draw celebrities like Steve Nash, who stayed on the air for more than 20 minutes one morning just to chat with his former neighbor Nelly Furtado, who was running seriously late. To this pair's credit, we've never heard them cut away to commercials or get flustered; instead, they engaged Nash and got beyond the usual dull NBA small talk to something far more interesting. Johnjay and Rich are some of the best female-centric radio you'll ever hear, and that the show happens to be local in this age of national syndication is merely icing on the cake.

Jonathan L's been around the music industry for a long time, and it's not unusual to hear him drop a series of names on his radio show, "The Lopsided World of L," that would probably make even vaunted music journalists like Chuck Klosterman and Neil Strauss jealous. L's hung out with the likes of Frank Black, PJ Harvey, and Joan Jett, and he's full of entertaining stories. But Jonathan L doesn't just drop names on the air; he also drops the hottest new national tunes by artists like Mindless Self Indulgence, Bjrk, and Sage Francis, right alongside songs by lauded local artists like Authority Zero and The Earps, as well as lesser-known locals like goth band Reliquary and rockers Run. His on-air interviews and in-studio performances are hot, too, whether he's got the legendary Ronnie Spector on the line or local garage band The Love Me Nots plugging in behind the sound boards. Check out the rockin' out on "The Lopsided World of L," which airs from 7 to 10 a.m. on Saturdays, and from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
If a Philly cheesesteak had a mouth, it would be John Gambadoro. The transplanted East Coaster has been peppering the Valley airwaves with his singular Jersey accent ("Did the Cah-dinals make the right choice? We might never know for shoe-ah") and acid tongue for more than a decade. In December '06, Gambo and his partner, Mark Asher, left their longtime home, XTRA-AM 910, to "pursue other opportunities." The opportunity was — how opportune! — the chance to assume the afternoon-drive slot at mighty KTAR, which was in the process of being reconfigured (see "Best Sports Morning-Drive Radio Show"). Poor XTRA was left holding an empty bag, as Gambo & Ash is, by far, the most popular local sports-talk show. While we love Ash, too, Gambo's the flame that powers this blowtorch. The dude smokes like a backyard barbecue, lashing out at deserving nitwits with a passion nonpareil and backing up the bluster with an encyclopedic knowledge of the sports world. A prime example of Gambo's East Coast-pug approach — so foreign to Phoenix's low-key lifestyle — is his and Asher's brilliant slam-dunk of former Phoenix Sun Charles Barkley, now a TNT analyst who's turned on his former team like a rabid dog since his unhappy parting of ways with the organization. Our heroes created a Barkley parody, modeled on the Budweiser "Real American Heroes" commercials, titled "Real American Bonehead." It goes something like this:

Narrator: Sports 620 KTAR presents "Real American Boneheads."
Cheesy singer: "Real American Boooone-heeeeads."
Narr.: Today, Gambo and Ash salute you, former NBA guy who hates the Suns.
C.S.: Mr. former NBA guy who hates the Suns.
Narr.: When it comes to disparaging comments about the Suns, you, O Round Mound of Putdown, have a mouth that never takes a timeout.
C.S.: Ahhh, I love Twinkies.
Narr.: From Nash's MVP award to the Suns' defense, you, Kojak of the Commentary, have a complaint about everything.
C.S.: How 'bout a nice hot cup of shut-the-f***-up?
Narr.: You share your wisdom on what it takes to get that ring, the long hours...
C.S.: ... at the topless bar.
Narr.: The fierce dedication...
C.S.: I'm gonna finish these five pizzas.
Narr.: So cheers, o Cueball of Criticism, there's a place for you in that victory parade — at the Krispy Kreme doughnut stand.

In yo face, Chuck. And anyone else who crosses Gambo's path.

On January 1, 50,000-watt behemoth KTAR dropped a bomb on the Valley radio scene, moving its news division to FM 92.3 and creating an all-sports, all-the-time format on the AM. As part of the aesthetic remodel, newly hired KTAR program director Ryan Hatch made two crucial moves. He snared longtime XTRA-AM 910 sports-talk champs John Gambadoro and Mark Asher for his afternoon-drive slot and yanked the popular ESPN Radio syndicated show Mike & Mike in the Morning in favor of a Phoenix-centric morning-drive show headed by Kansas City transplant Doug Franz and former Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowl fullback Ron Wolfley.

In short, Hatch kicked some major ass. Doug & Wolf is the best way to while away a traffic-snarled commute. Sure, the show's about sports, and sure, there's a lot of airborne testosterone floating around in the ether, but it's also smart and funny and even universal — in its way.

You're as likely to hear a segment about the best way to prepare chicken salad as you are to audit a debate about whether San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili intentionally kneed the Suns' Amaré Stoudemire in the groin. Speaking of debate, the show's core appeal is the interplay between Franz — a sometimes-shrill butt-of-all-jokes who's also an underrated interviewer/commentator — and the bassoon-voiced Wolfley, a he-man's he-man who can be surprisingly tender (he often moons about his wife, "the lovely Ms. Stephanie") and erudite (he once quoted John Updike!).

One of the duo's mainstay bits is "The Great Debate." An early version featured the following exchange: Wolf: "Douglas, you ignorant gonad." Doug: "Wolf, you're listening with your mouth." Other great needle exchanges have included the "Lindsay Lohan Hottie Quotient," "Star Wars versus Star Trek" (pro-Trek Wolf: "Luke Skywalker wore tights!"; pro-Wars Doug: "Luke Skywalker did not wear tights!"), a discussion about which character Suns point guard Steve Nash would have played in The Wizard of Oz (Toto), and "The Taseric Formula," in which the two use self-defined "rules of entazement" to determine if various news-making bozos should be zapped.

And oh, yeah, there's also a little bit of sports gab thrown in for good measure.

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