More interesting than the MP3.com Top 40 is the site's Bottom 40 -- a veritable "Who's That?" of music, including artists like Sergeant Beefheart, Tex Pistol, The Jenny Thing and the oh-so-tasty Bratwurst Orange.
Shift over to the alternative indie chart, and you'll find a similar cache of unsigned and unknown acts, save for the name at the top of that list, Haggis. The Valley alt-rock combo has been winning its fair share of online acolytes, registering the top two tracks on the poll with "Mood Ring" and "Humming." The group has been busy in more conventional ways as well, recording for a spate of new projects that pay homage to some of their musical forefathers.
The band gives the Smiths the once-over for a tribute disc being prepped for Sony's Italian subsidiary label, Speedway. That offering, due out next year, finds Haggis paying Messrs. Morrissey and Marr a bit of lip service by putting their own spin on "What She Said," from 1985's Meat Is Murder.
The group works much more familiar power-pop territory for an Australian Redd Kross salute called Kross Kovers. The band tackles "Kiss the Goat," a late period offering from the brothers McDonald, which originally appeared on the band's 1997 platter Show World. Kovers was supposed to have been released last month, but has, at last report, been postponed indefinitely.
Haggis has also recorded a cover of '80s obscurity "Away," by one-hit wonders Bolshoi, for inclusion on a comp called Bang, Sounds of the '80s. Bang -- featuring tracks by other prominent unsigned bands -- is being released by Serious Vanity Music to benefit R.A.I.N.N. (The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), a charity supported by a number of high-profile female musicians including Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan.
As for their own material, the group has demoed a trio of new songs at front man Brian Talenti's home studio (where 1998's What's Up, Haircut? and 1999's Piper Down were recorded). Haggis' bassist, Moon, says the group is at something of a recording impasse as it prepares for a much more active regional touring schedule in the next few months.
In the meantime, the band slides into a headlining role this weekend with a performance Saturday at the Bash on Ash in Tempe. The triple bill also includes ZPB and Frank Lloyd Vinyl. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Red Return: Texas Red, one of the Valley's preeminent bluesmen in the '80s, reunites his combo, the Heartbreakers, for a special show this Saturday, August 26, at the Rhythm Room. Joining Red will be local vets and original band members Chuck Hall and Dave Trippy, who've since gone on to success with the Brick Wall and Hoodoo Kings, respectively. Cover is $5 and the show begins at 9 p.m.
Signing Soma: Sipping Soma, the esoteric rock/dance duo of Mark Matson (longtime engineer at Mesa's Saltmine Studios) and Diedre Radford, has inked a deal with Tempe-based Plastik Records, the imprint owned by DJ Markus Schulz. Schulz, if you recall, used Radford's vocals on the track "You Won't See Me Cry," which turned into something of a minor international club hit.
Sipping Soma -- an outfit similar in style and premise to Garbage -- has already gotten a jump on recording its first full-length for Plastik, and the group's first since 1998's Mannequin Depressive. Soma will soon release a single -- "Superconscious (So Alive)" -- from the forthcoming album. The cut is also set to receive the remix treatment from German trackmaster Terry Lee Brown Jr. and producer Vertigo Deluxe.
Weekend Sounds: The final weekend in August proves to be an awfully busy one for live music. Saturday, Tempe's Arizona Roadhouse hosts an all-day festival called "We Can All Get By If We Unify," with performers running the gamut from trash rock to hip-hop. Among those featured will be Grave Danger, Sonic Thrills and Mob 40s, as well as Ascended Masterz, Kinetic, DJs Megadef and Fact and many others. The event is also doubling as a CD-release party for hip-hoppers the Drunken Immortals. The indoor-outdoor event starts at 2 p.m. with admission, including drink specials, running a mere $5.
Down the road at Nita's Hideaway, Hollywood Records artists Tsar -- a band responsible for the year's top power-pop platter -- will be making its third trip to the Valley, this time opening a bill headlined by perpetually twisted reverb rockers Deadbolt.
The concert also includes sets by local punks the Glass Heroes and the Peeps, who will be pulling double duty with a daytime gig at the Roadhouse as well.
Tsar is fresh off a national tour opening for Duran Duran, and about to go on another cross-country jaunt with Marvelous 3 and SR-71. The group will be playing an 8 p.m. Nita's set, so be sure to arrive early.
On Sunday, August 27, Billy Boy Arnold, the man who provided the signature harmonica sound for Bo Diddley's 1950s oeuvre, performs as part of the Phoenix Blues Society's Back Porch Blues festival at the Rhythm Room. If Arnold's latest release, Live at the Venue (Catfish Records), is any indication, the blues blower hasn't lost any of the power that made Diddley's Chess sides so unforgettable.
The Back Porch show will also feature a bow from David "Honeyboy" Edwards, a contemporary of the legendary Robert Johnson and a remarkable Delta bluesman in his own right.
Others making appearances at the show will be Uvon and the Amazing Blues Wizards, Hans Olson, Chico Chism, Johnny Rapp, and Paul Thomas. Showtime is 6 p.m., with tickets running $7 for Phoenix Blues Society members and $9 for nonmembers.