The Old Mill: Los Guys, and Tramps & Thieves at Last Exit on Friday, June 13th

By Niki D’Andrea

Better than: Most shows you’d pay ten bucks to see.

Tramps & Thieves

Surely Tempe-based Americana/rock bands get tired of the Gin Blossoms comparisons. But that’s the best measuring stick we can come up with for many of the bands making music off Mill Avenue now – including Los Guys and Tramps & Thieves. The music harks back to the days when Mill Avenue was a rock club strip, and heartfelt confessions made their way through lyrics draped over solid Americana strumming and time-tested rock rhythms. The sound always reminded me of Heartland Rock, lost in the desert and trying to find its way back.

Los Guys singer/guitarist Mark Zubia has his Gin Blossoms connections, too – one of his earliest bands, the Chimeras, included late Gin Blossoms founder Doug Hopkins (after Hopkins’ 1993 suicide, the Chimeras became the Pistoleros). Zubia’s also released some solo work and an album with his brother Lawrence as The Zubia Brohers, but it’s Zubia work with Los Guys that’s the most striking – probably because his bandmates are some of the finest musicians in the Valley, and include bassist Paul Cordone (also of funk band Chocolate Fountain), and guitarist Josh Kennedy (also of Violet Wild).

Los Guys rock out with glee at Last Exit.

Mark Zubia introduces Josh Kennedy after a fierce jam on stage.

Los Guys’ set at Last Exit was excellent – the band sounded impeccable (props to soundman Jack Maverick), and they had the crowd of hundreds dancing around near the stage. 11-year-old guitar prodigy Jack Ripper was also standing off to the side of the stage, and at one point, he joined Cordone in strumming his bass. The band’s songs all had a straight-up rock backbone, fleshed out with elements of the blues, Americana, and even a touch of rough-n-tumble country. Most disarming, however, was an upbeat garage rock cover of Nirvana’s “All Apologies.”

Jack Ripper joins Paul Cordone on bass.

By the time Tramps & Thieves took the stage, Last Exit was so packed that getting out the door and onto the patio was a 10-minute affair of squeezing through people engaged in various conversations. Standing room was at a premium, so nobody had any qualms about congregating around and blocking the doors. Thankfully, Tramps & Thieves aren’t the kind of band that uses pyrotechnics to amp up its show. They don’t need it, really.

The show was a CD release party for Tramps & Thieves’ new album, Perennials, a melodic, whiskey-tinged Americana record that builds on the strength of the band’s 2006 album, Spittin’ Into the Wind. The previous record was stripped-down and straight-ahead, but Perennials includes much more instrumentation and rock influence. As luck would have it, my camera batteries died somewhere between Los Guys’ set and the time Tramps & Thieves took the stage. Thank God for MySpace, from which the following Tramps & Thieves photos were ganked.

Tramps & Thieves

Tramps & Thieves front man Emmet DeGuvera.

Random detail: Tramps & Thieves had beer cozies for sale at their merchandise table.

Personal bias: Last Exit is my favorite venue in Tempe for local music.