Local Wire

Indie Year 2000

As unwarranted as last year's premillennial (or is it Willennial?) hysteria was, it was nothing compared to the elaborate steps city fathers took to mark the historic occasion. Between the well-attended corporate hokum of Tempe's Tostitos/Fiesta Bowl bash and the disastrously ill-conceived debut downtown Phoenix party, levelheaded citizens with a taste for less hyperbolic and glitzy fare were left scratching their heads.

As a much-needed alternative to what's expected to be another annual celebration of the utterly banal -- Hootie and the Blowfish are the "big" attraction at the Tempe event this year -- Modified impresario Scott Tennent has announced dates for the second annual Modifest. The 2000 version of the multi-evening, year-end concert series is set for December 28 through 30 at -- where else? -- Modified. During the rest of the year, the downtown performance space -- which does not serve alcohol -- doubles as both performance venue and art gallery.

"I mean, nobody's going to want to be at a non-alcohol venue on New Year's Eve," says Tennent. "But we wanted to set up [Modifest] more as a way to celebrate the end of the year with a nice little burst of shows and bands."

Though the complete lineup has not been finalized, 5 Speed will be headlining the first night of the festival, with Reuben's Accomplice members Chris Corak and Jeff Bufano doing the honors the following evening with a special acoustic performance. Fightshy brings down the curtain on the proceedings with a closing slot on December 30.

Tennent also confirms the possibility that Modifest will double as a CD release party for the long-awaited compilation disc Not One Light Red: A Modified Document. The 17-track offering features a number of rare and hard-to-find cuts from the Valley's finest indie bands. The highlight of the collection is "So Proud of You," an unreleased number from Go Big Casino, the orchestral-pop side project of Jimmy Eat World front man Jim Adkins.

Reuben's Accomplice also checks in with a track for the comp called "Leave the City." The song is an exclusive and will not be available on the band's forthcoming long player, I Blame the Scenery. According to Reuben's producer Jamal Ruhe, the disc is in the final stages of mixing and editing and will likely be out early next year -- though, he adds, pending manufacturing issues, the disc may be available earlier, perhaps in time for the Modifest shows.

As for Not One Light Red, the disc packaging incorporates the spirit of Modified's art and music amalgam by using the work of local artists. Included are paintings and illustrations by Brent Bond, Joe Betterly, Lisa Williamson and Sergio Aguirre, who created the album's cover.

More information on Modifest, as well as the compilation disc, can be found online at www.modified.org.

Holiday Blues: Though blues music sprang from the rich oral traditions and history of African-American culture in the rural South, two of the Valley's preeminent proponents of the genre -- Hans Olson and Chuck Hall -- are among its most pigmentally challenged. Regardless of skin tone, or lack thereof, few can doubt the sincerity and pedigree of these two local institutions.

Olson, who celebrated his 30th year in the Valley in '99, recently announced the formation of Sun Club Records and released a compilation disc titled The Best of Hans Olson Volume 1.

Meanwhile, Hall, who first rose to prominence as a member of '80s Valley faves Texas Red and the Heartbreakers (who reunited for a Rhythm Room show in August), has remained a strong staple on the local blues circuit. Hall's latest disc, CHB III, released last year, is still available online from www.chuckhallband.com. The year 2000 has proved to be an especially memorable one for the Texas native and 15-year Phoenix resident. In addition to the Heartbreakers reunion, Hall was honored with an induction into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame in March.

Now, fans of both men will have an opportunity to catch each performing weekly at Scottsdale's The Blue Note. The club will be hosting the two local icons throughout the month of December. Hall is scheduled to appear every Tuesday with his longtime backing combo the Brick Wall, while Olson will perform his "Best of Blues, Folk and Rock" revue every Wednesday. Showtimes for both are 9 p.m.

Happy Anniversary: It's rare that a band's freshman album propels them to the upper echelons of indie-rock stardom; indie rock, by definition, is an arena in which artists can indulge in albums' worth of pedestrian efforts before growing up and into their muse. Some bands, however, do the reverse. Take Karate, for instance. The group's 1996 self-titled debut release was a work of genius, but the band's subsequent efforts have proved mediocre, at best. Fans of the Anniversary -- and by extension, acolytes of lush, harmonic pop -- can only pray to the indie-rock gods that the band will not follow in Karate's footsteps.

The Anniversary's debut, Designing a Nervous Breakdown, was released just over a year ago to instant acclaim by the fawning, bespectacled, corduroy-wearing set (we're attempting to avoid the term "emo" here). Though the record certainly stands on its own merits as a sundry collection of delicately arranged, beautifully harmonized compositions, the Anniversary also had an ace in the hole in the form of well-known comrades and fellow Kansas City natives the Get Up Kids.

In 1998, the Anniversary -- guitarists/vocalists Josh Berwanger and Justin Roelofs, bassist James David, drummer Christian Jankowski and keyboardist Adrianne Verhoeven -- signed with Heroes & Villains Records, an imprint of Vagrant Records owned by the Get Up Kids.

The Get Up Kids further took the Anniversary under their proverbial wing, taking the band on tours across America and Europe. The international jaunt proved an especially successful adventure, the kind that even the most seasoned indie bands struggle to experience (it took the Valley's own Jimmy Eat World several years and two major-label albums to do it).

"We're really super lucky," says Verhoeven of the experiences of the past year. "We put out a record, our label pushed it a lot, we got a lot of good press, we went on some good tours, y'know. We're very pleased with where we're at now."

As a cohesive unit, the Anniversary is the modern-day American equivalent of Britain's lamented Huggybear, albeit without the endless barrage of sexual/gender-role subject matter. At its most cacophonous, as on "Emma Discovery," the band combines a riotous attack of New Wave synth flavors overlaid with harmonies that temper the melodic guitar attack. When the Anniversary is subdued, like on "Shu Shubat," the band creates a soundtrack for Valium-induced cloud gazing (this Valium cloud-gazing thing is not a metaphor; try it sometime, you'll be impressed . . .)

For those who prefer their aural sensitivity in the emo-boy rock vein, the final track, "Outro in No Minor," could sate any weeping teen's yearning for a band that understands; the loneliness expressed so eloquently on this opus is pained yet stoic, ending with Verhoeven singing the lines, "The end of this night we'll remember -- it redesigns our lives."

With the yearlong lapse since the release of Designing a Nervous Breakdown, the band has catalogued a mass of new tracks to record for its sophomore effort. For those curious as to the direction the Anniversary is heading, check out the acoustically informed epic "I Believe That the End of the Reign of Terror Is Soon Near," on Vagrant Records' new Another Year on the Streets compilation.

Meanwhile, the group has just finished the last leg of the year's final tour. The band's upcoming Valley performance will serve as an epilogue to its Y2K road tripping. "Yeah," laughs Verhoeven, "then we go home for a long time." -- Brendan Kelley