This is better people-watching than First Fridays.
Behind the scenes, of course, the New Times Music Showcase is quite a handful. Our staff starts thinking about it around Christmastime, starts stressing about it right after New Year's, and then spends a solid three months fine-tuning all the details. From soliciting nominations from the local music community, to selecting and confirming the bands (easier said than done!), to lining up venues and getting the word out, it's a sprawling project for every one of our departments.
And when the event finally happens, we want gorgeous weather, we want the bands to be excited, we want the whole thing to play out effortlessly -- and we're crossing our fingers. Because most important, we want it to be a blast for you, the fans.
So to start off, we're luring you with a sweet deal: nine-dollar wristbands. That's pretty cheap for any show around town, but for so many bands -- 40 local acts, plus four stellar special guests -- we hope it's way too good to refuse. Besides, it'll leave you with some cash to quench your thirst.
And so what if it's a school night? The party starts at 5 p.m. sharp, so there's no excuse for missing out on all of the action.
Ten is the magic number for the 2006 showcase, for 10 different stages and 10 different musical genres. That way, none of the bands in a given category is competing in the same time slot, and you can satisfy your craving for Americana or hip-hop at any point in the showcase. And we intentionally have different genres on each stage, just to get people walking. (Aside from the live performances, the fun part is strolling down Mill Avenue, running into friends, and figuring out where to head next. Text messaging comes in handy for this.)
Granted, if you find one great place to camp out for the duration, you'll still be well entertained. Just take Ra, for example: You can ease into the 5 o'clock hour with acoustic sounds from Micah Bentley, dance along to indie rockers Reindeer/Tiger Team at 6, throw your hands up for Grime at 7, and rock out to Calabrese's fast, catchy punk at 8. It's just a tiny slice of the killer talent around here, but still an oddly accurate representation.
Don't forget that the bands, bottom line, are competing for your votes. We've gotten all high-tech lately, with an online ballot that you can fill out right now, but you can also stop by our two online voting stations at the event, or simply send in the paper ballot printed in this issue. While the bands are all worthy of winning the title -- truly, I am thrilled about this lineup -- only one act in each category will wind up the "best," as decided by fans.
That's right: It's still all about you.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Every year, New Times gives a Lifetime Achievement Award to a beloved member of the local music community -- nominated by the same peers who help nominate the bands -- and this go-round, I'm happy to announce that our recipient is Kimber Lanning. Many of you already know her, or know of her, through her Stinkweeds record stores in Tempe and Phoenix, both staples for independent-music lovers. But if you don't know Lanning, you're probably new to town, and you'll soon be singing her praises right along with the high school hipsters and thirtysomething art collectors, all of whom frequent her gallery/live music venue, Modified Arts, which has become an anchor of the downtown art scene. On the music front, the place is a Petri dish of local talent, and a destination for some of the country's best touring bands, thanks to the tasteful booking wizardry of Leslie Barton.
Lanning is still young, and yet she's accomplished so much. She opened the first Stinkweeds in 1987 (next year is the 20th anniversary!), opened Modified in 1999, co-founded Arizona Chain Reaction, a nonprofit advocate for local, independent businesses, in 2003 (she's now the director of its board), and launched a central Phoenix Stinkweeds branch in 2004. Lanning's not the kind of person who waits for things to happen -- she'd rather just do it herself -- and she's been leading by example since she was just a teen. In a metropolis on the verge of revitalization, Lanning is just the kind of role model we need.