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A few short years ago, three hairy men from Tel Aviv, Israel, routinely stalked the States with a boisterous rock show built from pure chaos, piss, and gnashed teeth. Monotonix were all punkified Black Sabbath chords and gritty distortion, lead singer and Doug Henning lookalike Ami Shalev flinging his sweaty body about sweatier crowds with no regard for his personal safety. He was Monotonix's madman focal point, but the protein in the meal was provided by way of guitarist Yonatan Gat, who managed to miss nary a note even while being pummeled in the surrounding maelstrom. Monotonix are no more, but Gat goes on. Now he's living in New York, adding his wild guitar improvisations (which vary from caress to shred) to a music and film project with Elisa Da Prato, Ex Caves. It's a spontaneous blast, and it puts Gat's virtuoso guitar playing front and center, where you can (finally) view it without threat of being injured.
Brian Whelan isn't a snob when it comes to a good song.
"I have never gave a shit if it's a pop thing or a lo-fi indie thing, I don't care," Whelan says over the phone from the South By Southwest festival in Austin, speaking over the blunt din of the festivities. "Any genre -- if it's a good song, I like it."
Up until recently, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter could be seen on stages across the nation with Dwight Yoakam, playing in the "cowpunk" pioneer's Bakersfield-evoking band, but as of 2015 Whelan is a free agent, shifting his focus to a burgeoning career which finds him fusing power pop melodies and classic country songcraft. JASON P. WOODBURY
Few bands captured the mid-'00s MTV rock essence quite like Hawthorne Heights. At its core, the band was relatable in ways that made its Total Request Live contingency ball their fists in angst and A&R heads smile greedily. Hawthorn Heights captured the Fall Out Boy crowd without the twee and the My Chemical Romance crowd without the theatrics. Hailing from Dayton, Ohio, where the band still resides, Hawthorne Heights also appealed to the restless suburban set and became the poster children for Hot Topic shoppers around the country, whether the band liked it or not. Regardless of your take on that much, much maligned term "screamo" (for which Hawthorne Heights also became the unwilling poster children), there's no denying the band's early brilliance in their instrumental approach. With the original lineup including three guitarists, there was less layering and more interplay, lending weight to an attack that was much more than just the palm-muted downpicking of their contemporaries. On last year's acoustic rerelease of The Silence In Black and White, the decade-old record still stands strong when stripped down. If not for the millennial nostalgia alone, JT Woodruff and company have always been apt songwriters -- even if their aesthetic dated them, the discontent that fueled the band's songs is ageless. K.C. LIBMAN
If a band is based in Scottsdale and plays most of its shows there or in the East Valley it is impressive when one of its T-shirts turns up at a big show at The Trunk Space. But it's even more impressive when four unconnected kids are at the same Trunk Space show all wearing the same band's T-shirt, even when that band isn't playing. But that's just kid stuff for four-piece adolescent punk outfit Doll Skin. Since the School of Rock unleashed the group onto the Phoenix scene, Doll Skin has been gigging with ferocity and quickly spreading its name far and wide throughout the Valley's underage punk scene and, as of late, into the conscience of the knowledgeable local music lover. They look like sweet kids, rock like riot girls, and actually have the talent and training to back up their fairly quick rise in Phoenix. In less than a year as a band, Doll Skin already has played some pretty huge stages, including Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding and the main stage at Super Bowl Central. For its next trick, Doll Skin will open for rock 'n' roll icons Social Distortion on the group's first trip to Phoenix since 2012. As Doll Skin's sound continues to develop, more opportunities to play the big stages certainly will continue to pop up. With drummer Meghan Shea Herring being the old maid of the group at the ripe old age of 18, and her bandmates Sydnee Dolezal, Alex Snowden, and Nicole Rich clocking in at 15, 15, and 16, respectively. As long as boys and homework don't get in the way, Doll Skin has a bright future. JEFF MOSES
It's not clear whether Reverend Peyton actually is an ordained minister or just likes the moniker, but his Delta-blues-meets-moonshine-fired-hillbilly songs are undeniably sermon-like, with an all-or-nothing fire-and-brimstone delivery. Then again, all that hootin' and hollerin' also makes him sound like a man possessed. In any case, it's the spirit of music that moves this Big Damn Band from Brown County, Indiana, on their albums. The band runs through a gamut of styles made more "authentic" (in the way the music is a sort of time warp to a distant era) via a slew of vintage amps, guitars, and mics, tackling fuzzy North Mississippi hill-country rants (à la R.L. Burnside) to Robert Johnson-styled low-down acoustic blues; from back-porch Appalachian chanteys to revved-up hillbilly shakedowns. And though the music gets you moving -- and in concert, the band is as incendiary as it gets -- the lyrics that encapsulate everyday life from an all-too-real rural perspective get you smiling. "The money goes . . . up her nose," "It's too dang hot and the bugs are too dang mean," and "I've been everywhere . . . I broke down there" just tell it like it is - somewhere else, anyway. GLENN BURNSILVER