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20 bands land in showcase 

The entries to the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase poured in daily by the basketful last week, and when the selection of semifinalists was made last week, Sticky Fingerz’s Chris King and Suzon Awbrey decided again that we could go with 20 strong bands for this year’s extravaganza at the River Market district club.

So, four bands will vie on each of five Thursdays, with the winners from each night meeting in a Friday night final in March to determine the best original music band in Arkansas.

The entries cover every genre, from country to heavy rock, from indie girl pop to surf music, from hip-hop to modern rock to bluegrass-meets-rock.

This year’s semifinalists are: American Years, Branan Beau Nixon, Calcabrina, Cooper’s Orbit, Damn Bullets, Daybreak Bandits, Dean Agus Band, 4x4 Crew, The Global Test, Highway 5, Jeff Coleman and the Breeders, Latture, Paul Sammons Band, Rein, Reverburritos, Rigby Fawkes, Sean Rock and the Toltecs, Sideshow, Smitten and Stone Mountain Crew.

Because of a possible scheduling conflict involving a touring show coming to Sticky’s, the Showcase may skip Thursday, Feb. 23, and pick back up on Thursday, March 1, meaning the final will be on March 9.

The band schedule for each night will be announced early next week on KKPT-FM, 94.1 “The Point,” one of the co-sponsors of the event, and can be found on the Arkansas Times website (www.arktimes.com) as well. The Showcase will begin at 9 p.m. Jan. 25.

Cooper’s Orbit is the band fronted by Chris Henry, who was second in last year’s showcase as a solo act. Highway 5 is a country act that performed in the showcase two years ago. Sean Rock has performed as a solo act in the past. Stone Mountain Crew grew from a duo two years ago to a trio for this year’s show. Dean Agus formerly fronted Crash Meadows, a previous finalist. Beau Nixon is back in the state and back as a semifinalist after performing two years ago. The others are first-time semifinalists.

The winner will receive a bounty of prizes, including equipment from Jacksonville Guitar, recording time from Blue Chair Studio, dinner at Trio’s Restaurant, a slot in Riverfest and a photo shoot.

LIES AND THE LYING LIARS WHO TELL THEM: When Frank Broyles suddenly appeared on KABZ-FM’s “Drive Time Sports” Monday afternoon and answered questions about Gus Malzahn’s surprising departure as Arkansas Razorback offensive coordinator for a co-coordinator’s job at Tulsa, I realized what separates the UA athletic director from its current head football coach, Houston Nutt.

Broyles was so smooth, he actually sounded convincing that the UA football program was just fine. He sounded generally giddy, as if the Hogs had just beaten Texas. One of Nutt’s assistants “had gotten a promotion” in the profession, Broyles said, and you almost wanted to believe him.

Now, we know what Houston Nutt really meant when he said back during the season that he “was going to turn Gus loose.” Nutt has much still to learn from Broyles in being the ultimate salesman. There’s a reason why Broyles was so successful, when Arkansas had no tradition to offer, at recruiting all over the South and Southwest, and why Nutt manages little in the way of out-of-state recruiting success. That’s all the more important when the coach no long can keep the best in-state players home.

We now know for certain the hiring of the Springdale High School state championship coach in December 2005 was simply to keep Hog fans excited about the program and buying tickets, and to secure the signatures of the Springdale stud All-Americans and to stop a mutiny of fans for Nutt’s inability to do so himself.

All the rest we heard on the rumors that abounded since last March was cover. Arkansas’s athletic program is really about selling snake oil.

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