Showcase showdown 

Thursday marks the last semi-final round; last week, Brother Andy prevailed.

RED-DY TO ROCK: Brother Andy takes the cake.
  • RED-DY TO ROCK: Brother Andy takes the cake.

We packed out Sticky Fingerz more than in weeks past last Thursday, and all those who squeezed in were rewarded with performances by four relatively new acts, none of which sounded much alike. As they do, the judges judged and Brother Andy & His Big Damn Mouth came out on top.

And really, how could it not have? This is a band born to stand apart. Led by the Searcy-born, Russellville-bred Brother Andy, a bear of a man with an Old Testament beard and haircut and a natural metal holler to match, the trio specializes in elegant pop songs that always seem close to exploding. Lyrically, Andy comes across as religion-damaged/obsessed as Roky Erickson. “Rot Gut Redemption” remembers “what we did in the baptistry, when you got your holy water all over me,” before rhyming “chapel” with “smoke some grass from an apple.” And those are the tame bits. Another favorite, “Prayin' for a Rainy Day,” starts with Andy holding back, singing evenly, “I met a lovely girl and beside her I did lay / her legs were long as summers, her eyes were deep as wells” — before launching into a metal holler — “I knew she's Satan's daughter and she'll take me home to hell / Cause I've been in love before / and I know how it feels to have your heart fall out your ass and hit the floor.”

At least on Brother Andy's MySpace page, the band sounds a lot like Slobberbone in recording, but live, it's as dynamic as the judges suggest below (and in greater detail on my Rock Candy blog). Andy's a casually expert guitarist and Bad Chad (on drums) and Jonny D. (on bass) offer a rhythm section that can compete with anyone in town. Can't wait to see them again in the finals.

In the opening slot, Flash LaRue played well enough to advance to the wildcard round. If the group sometimes sounded like a collection of individual pieces struggling to congeal, the moments everything did come together more than made up for those that didn't. Especially when Bryan Frazier, Jeff Dunman and Shaun Hartman harmonized, and when often, soon after, the band shifted to full-out rawk. These guys are infectious.

Dangerous Idiots, in the third position, played as tightly as you'd expect of three veterans of beloved local acts. Theirs is a playful pop, with a sardonic edge. It works on songs like “I'm Cooler Than You” (“I lead a pathetic life, but I know that I'm still cooler than you”), but less so on tracks like “Titties,” which includes lines like, “I want them all the time /Give me big ones, give me small ones / I don't care, I just want them all the time,” but is mostly a lot of harmonized “Tittiiiiiiiiies.” Special props to drummer Shayne Gray, who played the show with a ruptured disc and an abdominal hernia. That, friends, is what the Showcase is all about.

In the closing spot, Rah hoWard showed that he's a local rapper to watch. But he leaned way too heavily on a reference track. Attention would-be Showcase entrants who rap: You'll never advance by rapping over a reference track (music with lyrics) that drowns out your vocals. Imagine a band playing along to its CD onstage. It'd get laughed off in no time. Also, Little Rock rappers, please stop writing songs all about how Little Rock's not getting it's due. No one beyond Little Rock — and probably few within — cares about our rap scene's plight. Create an extraordinary song. Then we'll break the rap curse. All that said, maybe Rah hoWard's got the tools to do it.

Now, to next week. At 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, once again at Sticky Fingerz, we move to round four, featuring …

Ryan Couron   Two years running, we've got a could-be country star in the Showcase (last year, you'll remember Nik and Sam). Little Rock's Couron has lately been in contact with Nashville, hosting some label folks here not too long ago and headed to Nashville in March for another meet-and-greet. The 23-year-old, who says he's been at it for six or seven years, sounds radio ready on his debut, “Play What I Feel Like,” which includes unsubtle but convincing songs like “Huntin' and Fishin'.” Another of the few Showcase acts who play music for a living, Couron comes to us a night before he plays Denton's Trotline in Benton. You can also see him regularly at Grumpy's, The Underground Pub, and Fox and the Hound.

Iron Tongue   This new throwback metal act doesn't make sense on paper. You've got producer Jason Tedford (guitar), who most memorably played bass for pop-rock heroes Ashtray Babyhead. And Stan James (drums) and Mark Chiaro (guitar), both of the blues-and-Southern-rockin' Jeff Coleman and the Feeders. Then, there's Reid Raley (bass), of Fayetteville metal act Deadbird and CT (vocals) of Southern sludge gods Rwake. Together, they channel Sabbath, Motorhead and maybe a little Molly Hatchet. Look for a split vinyl EP in the near future and a full length in the summer. In the meantime, for Thursday's show, bring your earplugs, Tedford warns.

Outstanding Red Team   Perhaps the newest band in the Showcase, this rock outfit features Loch Ness Monster vets “Scottish” Brian Hirrel (guitar, lead vocals) and Jimmy Young (bass), San Antokyo's Slaughterhouse (guitar) and Jesse King (drums). Everyone but the drummer sings. Look for an EP soon with a full-length to follow. Like the band's name, the latter's songs might all be named for “Apocalypse Now” references, according to Hirrel.

Underclaire   One of Central Arkansas's most active bands, Underclaire comes to the Showcase after more than a decade together as a band. Fresh off the release of its third album, “Making Sky,” recorded with Little Rock's Barry Poynter, the quartet of Bryan Baker (drums), Rob Brackett (bass), Edison DeLeon (guitar) and Mike Mullins (guitar and vocals) brings an anthemic brand of modern rock to the stage. Listen, too, for lyrics that bleed from song to song. “Making Sky” is a song-cycle about fraternal twins, with relationship problems, a suicide and a killing spree central to their story.

Read Rock Candy online (arktimes.com/blogs/rockcandy) for more on the Showcase, including song samples, audio, video and post-show reviews.

Feb. 25: Stella Fancy, Big Boots.
March 5: Bobby, Elise Davis, Brother Andy & His Big Damn Mouth

Who? Lead singer/songwriter in last year's winner, Velvet Kente.
On Brother Andy. Raw, ingenious and brutally honest rock.

Leigh Wood
Who? Director of the Arkansas Community Arts Cooperative (ACAC).
On Brother Andy. These dudes don't care about haircuts or showers — they only care about ROCKIN'.

Greg Spradlin
Who? Local guitar god and vocalist.
On Brother Andy. They remind me of what it would sound like if Larry Brown had started a punk band — not Larry Brown the Southern writer, but the Larry Brown who ran a backhoe back in Pangburn.

Natalie Elliott
Who? Music critic.
On Brother Andy. Bro Andy works best when it's nasty, almost white-trash power pop. There's a Busch Lite-spattered intensity there that's hard not to raise a fist to.

Ben Jones
Who? Local and regional booker for Riverfest.
On Brother Andy. Bro Andy is a freight train of raw, loud, unapologetic rock. And my new favorite local band.




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