While the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase final has always been well attended for years at Juanita’s and starting last year at Sticky Fingerz — turnaway crowds at the finals are the norm for these 300-person capacity venues — it’s rare that anyone’s been turned away for any semifinal nights over the years. Last week, however, about midway through last Thursday’s show, there was barely room to move, and we were lucky that some of those fans who filled the place for the second band, Conway’s Latture, decided not to stay to the bitter end, which was about 1:15 a.m.
As expected, last week’s lineup was packed with outstanding talent in every act, the kind we’ve come to expect in past finals but that’s rare in most clubs on a single night. We already knew Jeff Coleman was gifted, and if you’ve ever caught him doing the Billy Joel piano bar thing at Sonny Williams’ Steak Room, you know he’s well-versed in any style music. For his band, the Feeders, though, it’s pure rock ’n’ roll of the beer-hall and swill-slingin’ variety, and his songs are the kind you can almost sing along to even if you haven’t heard them before. Coleman and his band ruled the night.
It certainly wasn’t from lack of trying from the other three bands, and we’ll get to them shortly.
There are two more semifinals left, beginning tonight (Feb. 15) with The American Years (Fayetteville), Dean Agus Band (Hot Springs), Daybreak Bandits (Little Rock) and Rein (Little Rock).
Next week’s show consists of The Global Test, Highway 5, Sean Rock and the Toltecs and Calcabrina. The styles range from the acoustic-drive folk and rock of Dean Agus and Sean Rock to the country of young Highway 5 to the heavy rock of Rein and Calcabrina.
Most of these groups have MySpace.com pages, which affords anyone with a computer and Internet access the opportunity to hear their song samples. To see how much fun Coleman and his band’s set was, check out their closing number, “Pterodactyl,” at www.myspace.com/jeffcolemanandthefeeders.
If the judges graded solely on fan support, though, Latture would be leading everyone in the showcase so far, even topping the huge sign-bearing crowd that followed Damn Bullets in the first week.
I’m glad I don’t judge, because it’s much too difficult a chore, but as I said last Friday on my “Little Rocking” blog, my new favorite group is Latture. With young, shapely eye-candy front and center (including a good violinist) and a theatrical show full of deep, very original songs that seemed to reflect a Ben Folds influence, I can’t wait to see Latture perform again, and for more than the 30 minutes we allow in the Showcase. If you missed them, check out www.myspace.com/latturemusic/. Specifically listen to the songs “Boxer” and “Gypsy,” which I thought were highlights.
Also, one of the Showcase’s few under-21 bands, Rigby Fawkes, displayed amazing talent. They are fronted by keyboardist Daniel Moody, younger brother of Evanescence founder Ben Moody (who’s now in major demand in L.A. as a session man and songwriter). The entire quartet was blessed with great ability — fantastic guitar, wonderful drumming, even inspiring trumpet from the bass player.
Maybe it was in this space that Sideshow was incorrectly dubbed a blues-rock band, based on a listen to their Showcase entry. We found out they were a real rock band with a funk element, with a fabulous keyboard player who’s visiting from Georgia. They’re a lot of fun, and they show up in the local clubs often, so check them out.
Jeff Coleman and the Feeders join Cooper’s Orbit and Damn Bullets in the March 2 finals, scheduled for the Revolution Music Room. Two more coveted spots remain. Join myself and Jeff Allen of KKPT-FM, 94.1 “The Point” at Sticky Fingerz. We may have more Alltel Arena show tickets to give away, plus some “Another Sticky Showcase” T-shirts. Admission is $5, which can’t be beat. If you encounter a turn-away crowd, though, don’t blame me.