Three down and one to go. Round three of the Showcase was the weirdest, wildest yet. Who knew that so many folks wanted to hear live local music on Valentine's Day? Sticky Fingerz was packed. At one point, there was a line out the door. People danced most of the night. Jeff Allen, from the Point 94.1, came through to help out with hosting duties. We threw candy. Belvis was in the building again. (He chided me for suggesting that he was “nationally famous.” Said to add an “inter” before that.) Best Belvis line overheard: Dude making conversation with Belvis: “What's your favorite Elvis song?” Belvis, huffy: “Man! That's like me asking you which grandma is your favorite.”
Here's a rundown on the night of music:
Ace Spade and the Whores of Babylon kicked off the night in awesome fashion. They looked amazing. They had two TVs playing old B-movies. Their set covered all your favorite Valentine's themes — murder, necrophilia, corpse brides, meth. Ace has a killer punk holler. Mr. Del Liliah, on bass, told terribly great jokes. Sofira N Brimstone, on drums, kept time like a champ. Ace was bummed that his chainsaw didn't fire and that the smoke machine puttered out, but their act was far and away the best in terms of theatricality. They edged out Benjamin Del Shreve for second. Make sure you catch them at Downtown Music on March 14.
Hats off to Brian Martin and the Circulators, from Hot Springs. They won the judges' scorecards handily in the second performance slot. Their swinging folk-blues has clearly built 'em a loyal fan base in the Spa City — a good deal of them were in the house on Thursday, singing and dancing all the way through. Martin sang and carried himself with the ease of someone who spends a lot of time on the stage. His songs touched on keystone barroom themes — dancing, drinking, getting high, Southern women — with several ditties about rambling to keep it folk. The singer/songwriter strummed his guitar adeptly, too, but his band likely put him over the edge, particularly the efforts of Greg Batterton on harmonica and trumpet. Martin and the Ciculators join 607 and Epiphany and One Night Stand in the finals on Friday, March 7.
Benjamin Del Shreve played third. It was easy to see why he and his four-piece backing band have become all the rage in Fayetteville. They played with a lot of swagger. Girls danced. One even came with flowers to throw onstage during “Flower Gazer.” A lot of folks I talked to before and after their show thought they had it locked up, but pretty much across the board, they got killed on originality (which, along with song quality, counts for more than the three other categories), possibly because they did a cover medley. They also may've been hurt by their sound. They're the only band so far that's brought their own sound guy. It was a little muddy and way overpowering. Stick with the Maestro, next-rounders. Still, look for BDS to continue to do big things in and around Fayetteville.
Rockst*r closed down the night impressively. I've seen him a handful of times and his live show is really coming together. There was no backing vocal track and Sixstring accented all the material with electric guitar. (That's Sixstring, who also plays in last week's winner One Night Stand. Don't know how they would've handled that if Rockst*r had won.) Lots of sharp guest appearances from the likes of Sean West and Mista Mayhemm. Dirtbag kept the crowd hyped throughout. Catch Rockst*r at the FRESH Goods show on Feb. 29 at Vino's.
As usual we'll have T-shirts and CDs to give away, plus tickets to an upcoming show at Alltel. Here's who is on tap at Sticky Fingerz this week:
The 4X4 Crew. A young hip-hop collective, featuring MCs SJ, Burna Boi, Truuf Tha Nusence and Koop Da Villain and DJ Fatality, 4X4 has gotten radio play out of its Ray Charles-sampling single “Tell Yo Mama (I'm From Arkansas),” but it's not putting all eggs in one basket. The crew has released two essential mixtape compilations of local hip-hop and hosted a TV show called Rocktown Lockdown, which is currently being revamped into a broader multimedia project. 4X4 currently serves as a street team for major labels, duplicates CDs, does graphic design — according to member SJ, whatever needs doing, 4X4 is there. Look out for the group's full-length debut “The Motion Picture Album” down the road.
Natural State. Not to be confused with the Natural State out of Fayetteville, the Conway-based four-piece officially debuted in April 2007. With Blake Lefler (keys, vocals), Chris Kordsmeier (drums, vocals), Edward Briggler (guitar, vocals) and William Kryzenski (bass, vocals), the band describes its sound as a mix of “a slightly O.C.D. drummer, an intellectual hobo bass player, a classical yet unrefined pianist and a down-home redneck rocker.” See them again on Saturday, March 8, at Juanita's.
Kyoto Boom. Led by Scott Cook (former lead man in Little Rock favorites Ashtray Babyhead and the Kicks) on vocals, bass and keys and featuring Dave Raymond (Mulehead) on guitar and Duke Boyne (BE) on drums, the new-wave band is currently in the studio recording songs about samurai-sword-wielding madmen. Catch Kyoto Boom again March 14 at Counterpoint and March 15 at the Village.
Damn Bullets. Formed in 2004, this Conway-based quartet came in second in last year's showcase. With Paul Morphis (guitar, vocals), Joe Sundell (guitar, banjo, harmonica, vocals), DJ Bennett (bass, vocals) and Graeme Higgins (drums), the Bullets specialize in a wild and woolly strain of Americana. Catch them playing with Justin Carr in Ghost Company on Friday at White Water Tavern.
Who? Singer/songwriter with the Boondogs
On the third round: Both Benjamin Del Shreve and Brian Martin had the crowd eating out of their hands. But the feel-good blues-folk act came across as more
authentic. The Circulators were solid.
Who? Local hip-hop impresario
On the third round: [Ace Spade and the Whores of Babylon] were high impact. Death + Sex + Rock 'n' roll = Happy Valentines Day. Brain Martin [and his band] had great chemistry. Rockst*r's “She's in Love” is a hit record.
Who? Booking agent for Porter-Jones Entertainment
On the third round: I wish we could give Ace Spade and the Whores of Babylon a special award for showmanship and originality. Their set blew me away.
Who? Editor of localistmagazine.com
On the third round: I haven't seen a better channeler of the “old weird America” around town than [Brian Martin].
Who? Director of marketing for Alltel Arena
Claim to fame: Associating with the press. Making sure the egos of mega-stars don't ruin performances before they start.