Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.
I missed the reception and screening of the videos and the awards ceremony. They were early. But congrats to the Moving Front and Bryan Stafford and Kevin Stanbery, who together make up Deluxe36, the production team behind the winning video, “Like Zombies.” They took the metaphor of the song — “We're just like zombies, really/being half dead is hard work/being at work is being half dead” — and made it literal. Nine-to-fivers gradually zombify before our eyes. It might be the first purely local video with fairly high production value. Or maybe not, but it's certainly sparked off a recent run on local videomaking — some of it pretty good, some of it pretty bad, but all in all, a hopeful sign for local music: the DIY spirit is spreading.
Another hopeful sign for local music: You couldn't find complacency in any of the performances I caught on Saturday, and each act — Ace Spade and the Whores of Babylon, Epiphany, the Moving Front, 607 — could've easily fallen back on the tried and true.
Ace Spade and the Whores may've gotten robbed in the competition. Their video for “Ice Crystal,” made by local filmmaker Jonathon Shackelford, was pure B-movie madness, full of motorcycles, meth-cooking in a trailer and plenty of snarls. Style has only been of paramount concern for the band. They have pun-y names straight out of a John Waters movie: Mr. Del Liliah plays bass and Sofira N. Brimstone plays a stripped-down stand-up drum kit. They all dress always in character. Del Liliah favors skinny ties and blazers with animal prints on the lapels. Sofira usually wears bustiers to match her lipstick, and Ace always dons all black, usually starting with a black leather jacket and stripping down to a sleeveless tee (ever the chameleon, he also adds hair barrettes to become Cindy Sinn, the drummer in the garage-rock girl group the Chicklettes).
On Saturday, the band added wrinkles. The set opened with Ace, emerging out of a coffin, Screamin' Jay Hawkins-style, into a cloud of smoke. Projection screens adjacent to the stage played scenes from “Jason and the Argonauts” and other B-movies. But this wasn't a style-over-substance equation — the band played the firiest, sharpest set I've seen from them. Ace didn't go so guttural with his vocals, and the band played as tight as you can play and still keep it punk. Don't worry, longtime fans; they're not softening. They're still singing songs with titles like “Murder in New Orleans” and “Succubi.”
Epiphany followed with Gina Gee singing the hooks. The local rapper and Conduit head has a new mixtape, “Low Tide,” volume one of the “IRaps4Real” series, and he performed a handful of those songs, tracks like the dramatic new collaboration with Rockst*r, “Free.”
I like what Epiphany is doing with One Night Stand, the live hip-hop band that's been backing him for the last year or so, but it was nice to hear him with just a mic and a backing track. His voice sometimes gets lost in the mix with the band, but it came through loud and clear on Saturday, and Piph's always got something worth hearing.
Award-winners the Moving Front followed with an inspired set of mostly new songs. What a testament to bands staying together. Most of the band's members have dipped in and out of local acts for years. This might be going on three years for the Front. Practicing and playing out a lot pays off. The Front has never sounded more dynamic. Lead singer Jeremy Brasher is getting more self-assured with his vocals, singing out more, working in plenty of vitriol with Mark E. Smith-style talk-singing, and the band seems to be distancing itself from the throwback post-punk of the first record into more experimental territory.
607, in the penultimate spot, was the same as he ever was: always evolving, always with a new song, a new flow, a new beat — never boring. Techno-Squid Eats Parliament closed the night. They sounded fine, but like any long dormant band that re-forms, I suspect that nostalgia lent a lot to their appeal. Still, a fine evening all in all.