Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
And then there were five. Laundry for the Apocalypse took the final round of the 2012 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase semifinals last week, nailing down a spot at the ultimate showdown on Friday, March 2, alongside The Holy Shakes, Don't Stop Please, War Chief and Joey Farr & The Fuggins Wheat Band.
Kicking off Round 5 was Fayetteville's Trasspassers, an electro pop/psych/WTF? duo made up of Michael Jordan and Gregory Moore. The band recalls the pulsing, left-field pop of early MGMT or Animal Collective. Their energy level and squiggly, twisted songcraft seemed to go over well with the crowd, though one can't help but feel they'd really shine at about 1:30 a.m. at a packed, sweaty house party.
Judge Clay Fitzpatrick noted "so many buttons and knobs, I don't know how they do it. Their last song killed. Evil dance PARTAY!" Guest Judge Danny Grace — aka Frontier Dan, of crazed psych-garage/country outfit The Frontier Circus — wrote, "Like the noise; unexpectedly Motown." Judge Sammy Williams appreciated how Trasspassers "integrated hooks in a style of music in which it is hard to do so."
Laundry for the Apocalypse took the stage second and roared right out of the gate with "Rob Zombie's Halloween 2," an upbeat ode to the shock rocker's cinematic work. "Murdertarp for the Apocalypse," took things in a darker direction, with crashing doubled drums, pulsing rhythm and frontman Aaron Sarlo's unhinged wail. Impressively, the band sustained that energy level for its entire set.
Judge Epiphany thought the band's "transitions were extra clean and the trumpet was a nice (not overused) addition." Judge Cheyenne Matthews put her take succinctly: "Duh — ruled so hard." Williams heard a "great quiet/loud dynamic, but 90 percent too much bongos," he wrote. "Vocals were great, energy was killer."
Up next were Ben Franks & The Bible Belt Boys, a bluegrass-infused five-piece that brought a lively, rollicking set of tunes to the proceedings. The Hot Springs band played heartfelt indie rock with folk instrumentation, including some fine fiddle playing from Chris Ryland Jr. that added a distinctive element to the band's sound. The group "made you feel good (despite the dreadful life you may be leading)," wrote Epiphany.
Williams thought the band played "very well together, but seem to take too many musical cues from songs from the past. Pushing the envelope, but haven't quite broken through." Grace gave the band points for "strong storytelling with a deceptively driven hoedown of fiddle and banjo. Well-rehearsed!"
Closing out Round 5 and the semifinals, Jab Jab Suckerpunch brought a 200-proof blast of pure, hedonistic rock 'n' roll to the proceedings. The band's sound could be described as The Jesus Lizard by way of Motorhead by way of an aural curbstomping. Brian Hirrell and Brett McKnight wrangled vicious riffs from their punishingly loud guitars, while the rhythm section of Brian Rodgers and Ryan Scott anchored the whole thing solidly.
Fitzpatrick was moved to the point of partially disrobing. "I took my shirt off," he wrote. "That means something — rock 'n' roll at its best." Matthews again offered condensed commentary: "Jab Jab, yes, oh yes, oh my!" Grace, too, opted for concision: "Raw power! The Detroit sound!" Epiphany heard "the type of good LOUD that's appreciated."
What the judges thought of Round 5 winner Laundry for the Apocalypse:
Guest judge Danny Grace: "An eclectic frenzy of percussion and guitar, bass and drums. A lot of fun!"
Epiphany: "Real nice package. Transitions were extra clean and the trumpet was a nice (not overused) addition."
Clay Fitzpatrick: "The frontman was amazing. The whole band was amazing. My only complaint was they really don't need the congas. I just almost felt it contradicted their sound."
Cheyenne Matthews: "Duh — ruled so hard."
Sammy Williams: "Great quiet/loud dynamic, but 90 percent too much bongos. Vocal were great, energy was killer."
So now we're down to the five finalists: The Holy Shakes, Don't Stop Please, War Chief, Joey Farr & The Fuggins Wheat Band and Laundry for the Apocalypse. Which band will become the 20th showcase winner and take home a bevy of excellent prizes and live on in infamy in the pantheon of great Arkansas bands?
You can find out Friday at Revolution. The show starts at 9 p.m. and it's $5 for ages 21 and older, $8 for ages 18-20. Contrary to how we've done things for the semifinals, we'll be tallying the score and announcing the winner that night. Also contrary to the semifinals, instead of being judged by four separate criteria, each band will receive a simple score of 0-50 from each judge.
We'll also be giving away three pairs of passes to Bonnaroo, June 7-10 in Manchester, Tenn. The gigantic music and arts festival has a killer lineup this year, with Radiohead, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Phish, The Beach Boys, Bon Iver, The Shins, The Roots, Feist, Black Star, Ludacris, Tune-Yards, Flying Lotus, St. Vincent, Bad Brains, Mimosa, Ben Folds Five, Yelawolf, Mogwai, Kurt Vile and tons more.
Building a lead so rapidly and holding it in games, even professional football, is difficult…