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The Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase has one winner for each semi-final round. That's cool and all, but it doesn't tell the whole story. So, for our recap of Round One of Year 25, we'd like to talk about the best and the freshest.
The Best: Man, DeFrance is unfailingly tight. The 5-piece has played something like 200 live shows this year, and it shows. Drew DeFrance is a seasoned frontman who knows his craft, and the band's keyboard player, Joseph Fuller, is the Garth Hudson of the bunch; a multi-instrumentalist to be reckoned with. They played a solid show and they won the first round, which means they'll be playing the finals at Rev Room on March 10 for a chance at a prize package that includes: cold hard cash, a spot at Legends of Arkansas in September, a spot at Riverfest, a performance at the Bud Light Pavilion during the 2017 Arkansas State Fair, a spot at the Valley of the Vapors music festival, a celebration party and drink named after the winning band courtesy of Stickyz and Rev Room, a photo shoot with the Times’ own Brian Chilson, a gift certificate to Trio's Restaurant, a recording session at Capitol View Studio and a $200 Gift certificate to Dogtown Sound.
"Good understanding of structure and melody. Tendency to lean heavy on traditional structures. Would like to see them take more chances."
"Not the most original, but almost certainly the most well-rehearsed band of the night. You can tell they've been out there doing it."
"Tom Petty vibes!"
The Freshest: Sometimes you don't need to win to come out aces, and last night's runner-up was a textbook example of that principle. People that did not evidently come to Stickyz to see Spirit Cuntz slam danced to Spirit Cuntz. Women howled at Spirit Cuntz. The staff of the Arkansas Times went down the street and got tattoos that say Spirit Cuntz. There was partial nudity, there was switching around of instruments, there was a rendition of Walter's "Do you see what happens, Larry?" crowbar tirade from "The Big Lebowski," and two women from Russellville reminded us that punk rock is definitely still a thing.
"Loud/quiet/loud. It worked for the Pixies and it's working here."
"Hands down the most original band of the night. Only band I stood up for and walked to the front of the stage for."
The Brian Nahlen Band kicked things off with a mighty six-piece sound that hit highlights of its recent release "Cicada Moon." We'd have loved to hear that mean dirty sax from Dave Williams a little further up front in the mix, but hey, those are the trappings of a wind instrument contending with major guitar ampage.
"Definite 'True Detective' Season 3 (?) vibes on that first one."
"I love bands who pay attention to one another and play well together. It's imperative."
"Bassist tasteful, lived in the pocket. Sax player: MVP."
Recognizer confirmed a couple of things last night for everyone present: 1. These dudes practice. Their songs were full of unusual rhythms and crunchy stops you just don't typically nail the first time or two, and they handled them with finesse, despite technical issues. 2. Recognizer really, truly, actually, definitely has two guys named Mike Mullins/ens in the band.