Sophonda Mayhem. Photo by Brian Chilson.
Wow. Too bad nobody's taking odds on the Showcase, 'cause somebody could've made some cash on this one. The Chicklettes, the fiercely punk rock girl group from Little Rock, might be the upset of contest. The band played for half an hour with middle fingers raised, bowing to no one and pissing off nearly everyone. Sophonda Mayhem, front and center above, harassed our camera guy, sexy-massaged herself with an apple on a knife, gave a heartfelt shout-out to Lux Interior
, stripped down to fishnets and hot pants, hung Barry Manilow in effigy and generally behaved like the ideal punk rock front woman: All the girls wanted to be her (or hated her guts), and all the guys wanted to make time with her, but were way too scared.
Here's what our judges had to say:
"The Chicklettes just bitch slapped the Little Rock music scene in the face — and it felt good! Can I be in this band?"Guest Judge Shannon Boshears
"Raw, real, uapologetic. Not typically my thing; in fact, it could've become off-putting, but they remained likeable, and I found myself rooting for them." Nicole Boddington
"Holy shit! The most dangerous band in the Showcase! You can't get more honest punk rock than this band. Sophia may be the best front person this year. Fast and furious!"
"When I throw it all away, I'll go looking for Sophia. Oh yeah, Chicklettes rock."
"Most personable group. I LOVE SOPHIA WITH ALL MY SOUL."
More pics and rundown after the jump.
Sophonda Mayhem. Photo by Brian Chilson.
Like most punk rock, the Chicklettes lean heavy of style and attitude, but that doesn't mean they forget music and lyrics. The latter, when you can make them out through Sophonda's bark, come ready-made for chanting along. Like the Ramones — simple, catchy — but stridently feminist. (The morning after, I couldn't shake the chorus of “PMS-Y”: “I'm PMS-Y! / You Should Stay Away from me!”). The former might sound repetitive, but it's easy to fall for its visceral appeal, too.
Midwest Caravan. Photo by Brian Chilson.
Like previous weeks, the runners-up were no slouches. The pop-rock duo Midwest Caravan opened with sly songs about crazy ex-girlfriends and youthful unease. The band's best songs featured leisurely verses — better for guitarist and lead singer Sammy Williams' bright pop vocals to shine — and punchy choruses. Drummer Joie Lyle was “very dedicated to the rhythm,” noted judge 607.
Rockst*r, Sixstring and Mista Mayhemm. Photo by Brian Chilson.
But for all the band's skill, the judges, particularly those who play in bands, longed for a bass player. Williams turned the non-traditional line-up into a joke: Between every song, he made “Hi, we're Midwest Caravan. We're from Little Rock, Arkansas” introductions, appending some reason the band's bass player couldn't make it. Bass player or not, keep an eye out for this band. What little they've recorded sounds impressive.
Rap vet Rockst*r followed. He saw the writing on the wall, and instead of relying on a backing track fed through the soundboard, he brought DJ Discipline and his turntables to the show. That, and Mista Mayhemm serving as hype man, livened the stage show up for the MC, who's been a charismatic stage performer in his own right.
Our female judges were all about him. Guest judge Shannon Boshears declared Rockst*r's “Fresh” a hit. Ditto, said Nicole Boddington (actually, she said “ ‘Fresh' is the jam”), who also said she had to fight back the urge to dance.
The rapper was fresh off a promo tour to Atlanta and New York, which he said were productive. Maybe Boddington and Boshears are onto something.
Good Time Ramblers. Photo by Brian Chilson.
Good Time Ramblers followed with a set of what 607 called “highway music.” That is, country rock focused on drinkin', wild women and misadventures. Front man John Lefler has a natural charisma and whisky-soaked voice, and his bandmates, all of whom play in the Munks, are consummate musicians. Alex Piazza's intricate slide work stood out especially for me. Jason Weinheimer called drummer Brooks Browning “refreshing — free from the tyranny of the snare drum.”
The band's sophomore release, tentatively titled “Nashville Skyline,” should be out soon. It's high on my list of anticipated local albums this year.