Music News

Busy Bees

Bzzzzzzzz. Hear that noise? It might have something to do with all the Pollen in the air. Rumor has it these five cats from Pittsburgh are Steelers fans who hocked their van for Super Bowl tix and decided to stick around after the game and play for a while. Lucky us. Pollen may have crashed the Valley rock scene--seriously, the band members just moved here together from Pennsylvania--but the prediction from this angle is to give the band a few more weeks and it'll be the life of the party. Not that Pollen needs the practice time--its June 1 show at Nita's Hideaway was practically flawless, except for a few misfires behind the drum kit (hey, guys, what song are we playing again?). It'll just take some time before word of mouth will start to roar. But it's coming. I can hear the buzz in the distance, swelling like a horde of locusts on its way.

Live, Pollen looks like some evil scientist captured a high school chess club and forced it into his rockatron machine: "They stepped into the green glow a mild-mannered group of misfits. They stepped out a monster rock 'n' roll band. And the girls aren't laughing at them anymore." Pollen's drummer--the absent-minded one--looks like he might blow away in a dust storm, but he bangs the skins like he's channeling the spirit of Animal from The Muppet Show. The lead singer is a similarly scrawny guy with a fondness for pink hair barrettes--but check the shock to your system when he pours you a strong shot of whiskeyed vocals.

If you're strictly punk rock, you're not going to like this band. Otherwise, it's got something for ya--double-barreled blasts of indie-rock guitar trimmed with intricate lead lines, the occasional boot-stomper metallic groove and a shameless pop sensibility. Pollen is hard but catchy, and it's not afraid to show it. You'll be sneezing in no time (Pollen is scheduled to play Nita's again on Thursday and June 16).

Speaking of Nita's, the little cowboy bar that could celebrated its one-year anniversary as a rock venue on May 31. Manager and mastermind Charles Levy marked the occasion with the following statement: "If the Arizona club scene was a grocery store, Nita's would be the little aisle by the cashier where all the cigarettes and candy are kept. It's some people's favorite shelf, but others think it'll just give you cancer and rot your teeth."

Speaking of Nita's again, the club hosted an impromptu screening of Drunken Bees--a newly released documentary on the venerable if esoteric punk 'n' western Tucson band Giant Sand--after a scheduled showing at Valley Art Theatre Friday night crashed and burned (technical difficulties). Levy said the five Nita's regulars (we're talking Budweiser fans) who witnessed filmmaker Marianne Dissard's effort enjoyed it immensely (a second screening at Valley Art the next night was reportedly more successful). I may be no M. V. Moorhead, but I think Dissard's 27-minute flick is a decent little rock doc. Settings move from the lonesome streets of Tucson to the legendary Club Congress to an Air Force airplane graveyard where Giant Sand leader Howe Gelb gets a military man to read aloud from The Little Prince. Drunken Bees opens with a fine instructive bit from Gelb on how to install a swamp cooler in the trunk of your car. Classic segment of the band members interacting with a carload of thick-headed drunks passing through town "looking for a little action." Suffice to say, they get no help from Gelb and co. The film's title comes from a Rolling Stone review that panned Giant Sand's last album.

One of the band members reads the review onscreen: "At his best, Howe Gelb is an inbred genius telegraphing junk sculpture Giant Sand CDs from his post in the plains outside Tucson. At his worst, Gelb's an art-and-trash picker who can't, or won't, cobble his scraps into form . . . Things buzz and bump and clash as randomly as drunken bees."

Later in the film, Gelb blows off the dis like he's heard it all--and even a bit more--before. "It would have mattered eight or ten records ago," he says. Contact info for Drunken Bees (via Dissard) is: P.O. Box 984, Tucson, AZ 85702.

Rumor Control
Electric Ballroom co-owner David Seven on the current rumor that he has sold his share of the Tempe venue to partner Jim Torgeson: "It's a total lie."

While he's at it, Seven wants to clear up a few other matters: "No, I am not bisexual. No, Jim and I did not recently get into a fistfight. And, no, I was not a producer of porn in L.A. I swear, the music scene in this town is worse than the National Enquirer."

Seven says it's true he's not around the club as much as he used to be, but that's because he's writing a book. "It's a science-fiction novel called Diary of an Immortal. It starts off during WWII with the medical experiments at Dachau and leads up to the present."

End Notes
A pox upon the punks who stuck up Zia's Tempe store around midnight on May 31. Come on--robbing a record store? Sounds like the intro scene to a bad Tarantino knock-off.

Pick of the week--Pollen aside--is the Band Slam '96, a poetry slam/multiband bill combo at the Rhythm Room (1019 East Indian School) on Sunday. Kongo Shock, Sistah Blue, Polliwog and The Fake McCoys are all scheduled to perform. The whole event is a benefit to help the Phoenix Slam Poetry Team get to the national slam tourney in Portland, Oregon, later this summer. Cost is $6 or $5 and a can of food for St. Mary's Food Bank.

--David Holthouse