BEST SYNDICATED COMIC STRIP 2007 | F Minus | People & Places | Phoenix
A few years ago, the only place you could peep the screwball Far Side-style sarcasm of Tony Carrillo's comic F Minus was in the pages of ASU's student newspaper, The State Press, where the Tempe ink-slinger churned out single-panel strips filled with twisted visual puns and perversely ironic situations. (Two of our favorites back in the day featured a Golfland-like water park displaying the sign "Today's Urine Level: Moderate," and a blind woman telling her equally impaired boyfriend, "Listen Bill, I don't think we should hear each other anymore.")

These days, however, Carillo's scribblings are eyeballed by a much larger audience, to the tune of several million readers daily, as F Minus is syndicated to 125 newspapers across the country. Carrillo got his big break in 2004 when the strip won a contest sponsored by MTVu (a subsidiary of the music video giant aimed at college campuses) and nabbed a six-month developmental deal with United Features Syndicate, which eventually became a full-fledged gig in the funny papers.

Move over, Bil Keane, there's a new circus in town.

For some local concert promoters, creating a flier for an upcoming gig is a quick and dirty operation, usually consisting of an hour in Photoshop followed by 90 minutes at Kinko's running off copies. Not so with the folks at the Rhythm Room.

The cats at Bob Corritore's jazz and blues joint turn out some quality posters plugging their upcoming gigs. These promotional placards are so eye-catching, you'll wanna hang them on your wall after the show. For instance, the poster for a Robert Johnson Memorial Jam last November features a pulchritudinous portrait of the legendary bluesman strumming a guitar while taking a drag on a smoke. Another great one has rocker Ian Moore striking a soulful pose, while an ad for sultry singer Candye Kane uses an amusing caricature of the beyond-buxom blues artist in white-trash wear.

Then there's our favorite poster — created for Corritore's 50th Birthday Gala — where the studly Rhythm Room owner is decked out like Hugh Hefner, sporting some honeys in Playboy Bunny outfits under each arm. Some guys have all the luck.

Weddle's acoustic cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya!" was one of the most widely viewed YouTube clips in not just Arizona, but the world.

The video — which splices clips from Outkast's video with footage of Weddle performing the song — has been viewed more than a million times by people all over the world, including as far away as Australia and Japan.

It gained enough attention that local radio station The Edge 103.9 started playing the song and booking the band to play its shows, including the station's annual Edgefest. This led to a slew of high-profile shows for Obadiah Parker, like opening slots for the Gin Blossoms and Lifehouse, as well as an upcoming December gig alongside alt-rock pioneers the Violent Femmes. Google the words "Obadiah Parker 'Hey Ya!'" and you'll get more than 23,000 hits, most of them from Web pages in which someone's singing the clip's praises.

But perhaps the biggest impact of the YouTube clip has manifested itself in the form of radio crossover — Obadiah Parker's version of "Hey Ya!" was the most-requested song at Chicago radio station Q101 during the month of February, and they were a featured band on Tucson's KMFA 92.1 and Phoenix's Free FM 101.5.

Thanks to that YouTube clip, the band's even popped up on radar-wrangler Web site

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.

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