RISKY BUSINESSMusicians aren't so different from the rest of us. They spend time with their families for the holidays, which often ends up being too much time with their families, and then they decide to get far away from their families. (Dad, if you're reading this, I love you!)
So, what do they do? Well, they usually plot their escape in the form of a tour at the beginning of the year. In other words, the first couple of months of the year normally constitute a banner concert-going period. But, in case you haven't noticed, things have been unusually slow so far in the Oh-Seven. In the words of Jerry Seinfeld (and a couple of thousand cut-rate comedians that followed him), what's up with that?
Maybe South by Southwest has ruined it. An awful lot of acts these days wait around to start touring in order to time their road stints to accommodate that March megafest, leaving the months prior to poor saps willing to brave sub-zero temperatures and icy roads. Of course, that used to translate to bands hitting towns in warmer climes, like, say, Tucson, during the cold months. But hell, as I type this on my 'pooter, I'm shivering from this desert cold spell. (Do musicians consult the Farmers' Almanac when they plan their tours these days or something?)
I guess my point, if I have a point at all, is to not let the lack of big-name acts coming through town, nor the sub-freezing temperatures we've been experiencing, deter you from heading out to see some live music. Just because you've never heard a band before doesn't mean you shouldn't risk a $5 cover charge to see what they're all about.
So, this week's column is all about acts you might not have heard of. (And there are a few big-name acts passing through this week, but we'll let our listings section take care of that for you.) Take some risks, people--you just might discover your new favorite band.
DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION (NOW WITH 50 PERCENT MORE LAUGHS)Ah, the Germans: fodder for so many jokes, from "Sprockets" ("Touch my monkey! Touch him! Love him!") to "Springtime for Hitler," to Bruno (Sacha Baron Cohen's clueless, gay German fashionista). And why are all these German stereotypes so fun to poke fun at? Why, because they have no sense of humor. (Which, of course, really isn't true, but that's at least why we perceive them to be funny.)
A few years ago, someone living in my apartment complex played me some songs by a guy who recorded under the name Kompressor. They were parodies of krautrock bands like Kraftwerk, who are obviously awesome, but intentionally or unintentionally (and I think it's the former) hilarious. Are we really supposed to take a band seriously when they're writing songs called "It's More Fun to Compute" and "Computer Love," with lyrics sung by robotic voices? Well, when they combine those ridiculous lyrics with hypnotic electronic grooves, yeah, I suppose we are. Well, this Kompressor guy basically played sterile-but-funky Kraftwerkian jams, and sang lyrics even more absurd than Kraftwerk over them. One that sticks out in my mind is "Kompressor Does Not Dance," and there was another one about how he's going to crush our "American burger." In other words, it was a parody of something that was pretty funny to begin with, and it was pulled off well enough to be very, very funny.
I have no idea where Porsches on the Autobahn (whose name is culled in part from one of Kraftwerk's best-known songs) are from, and I don't really need to know. All I need to know is that they basically take Kompressor's concept of singing ridiculous lyrics in broken English, in a German accent, and layer them on top of electro-dance beats, to its logical, absurd conclusion. Take, for example, "Amusement Park Diers," a tongue-in-cheek ode to "100, 200 people" (they're not sure how many) who died in an amusement-park disaster in Paris in 1994. "It's very sad," they explain at the beginning of the song, because, you know, sometimes people without emotions need to be told how to feel. In pained voices, they explain, "Oh, amusement park diers, we have sadness for you / You go to amusement park, expect to have fun, instead you die." They go on to tell us that a raccoon died that day, too, which is especially sad, because raccoons are "nocturnal."
But Porsches on the Autobahn aren't always sad. One listen to "New Song Happy Dance" will drive that point home quickly. Just as their cheesy Euro suits and portable keyboards will drive the point home that these guys probably aren't German at all.
Expect to dance and giggle in equal measure when Porsches on the Autobahn bring their Fastest Drivers 2007 Tour to Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, Jan. 19. Golden Boots and Music Video open at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $5. For more information, call 798-1298.
A TASTE OF THE VALLEY OF THE SUNA pair of relatively new Phoenix-area bands are making the trek down Interstate 10 this week, both in support of their debut CDs.
In October, headliners Chief Beef self-released Something About Rock, 11 songs that sound straight outta the Midwest--straightforward indie rock with a durable rhythm section, big guitar chords and hummable vocal melodies. They may not change the world, but they're sure to appeal to fans of Shiner and Traindodge, or even Queens of the Stone Age.
Openers Emperors of Japan also self-released their debut, Your Freak Majesty, back in October, but they're a different beast entirely. They're not afraid to get a little ethereal on your ass, as they do on album-opener "Reptile," which puts a slow, fuzzy guitar riff up against eerie keyboards and a gorgeous vocal melody that soars into falsetto territory. It's hypnotically repetitive even as it grows a bit louder with each run-through, until, at song's end, it's completely soaring. Elsewhere on the album, there are shards of Nirvana-style rock (quiet-loud dynamics and all), the occasional programmed beat and staccato guitars that contribute to the band's quirky pop factor. Speaking of quirky pop, these guys remind us a bit of Phoenix's Less Pain Forever, minus the comedy.
Both bands perform at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, Jan. 24, with locals Early Black sandwiched in between. Showtime is 10 p.m. Call 622-3535 for further details.
TUESDAY IS EMO DAYIt's not uncommon these days for the Internet to help spawn overnight sensations, and Ronnie Day seems perfectly poised to become one of them. The Redwood City, Calif., native tested out of high school at age 16 because he wanted to realize his dream of becoming a touring musician. To that end, he began teaching music to raise money, taught himself how to record his own songs and then started putting them online. As he says in his press kit, "I started reading up on promotion and buzz marketing; I learned HTML and Java and used that knowledge to start selling CDs. Then once I sold enough CDs to fund a tour, I borrowed my mom's car and hit the road, and all these kids from MySpace would be there at the shows."
To make the teenage tale even better (he's still only 18), he set out to create the ultimate breakup album. Again, from the press kit: "I wanted the world to know that Jamie broke my heart, so I started building this concept record." That concept record is The Album, released last year by The Militia Group, and wouldn't you know it, it's chock full of woe-is-me, heart-on-sleeve, sensitive singer-songwriter tunes sure to make the young girls swoon. It's tough to imagine them not falling for him when he sings lines like, "It's getting painful now / Yeah, it hurts to think about your smiling face / And breathing's just a luxury for me / I can't breathe deeply without you," over tastefully strummed acoustic guitar. It's like someone invented a songwriting program, then fed keywords like "Conor," "sad," "emo" and "radio-friendly" into it, and The Album is what popped out.
Ronnie Day performs second on a bill that also includes Daphne Loves Derby, Meg and Dia and House of Fools, at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway Blvd., on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 on the day of show. Call 358-4287 for more info.