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I hope it never happens. But if, for whatever reason, Arkansas ever has to shut off its borders and prove that our middle school state history teachers weren't kidding when they told us we're the only state that can be totally self-sustaining, we'll have plenty of food, loads of clean water, wicked bling from Murfreesboro and a huge amount of unbelievable music. Moreover, if the packed house at Stickyz this Thursday is any indicator, we'll still have the best crowds of music-lovers anywhere in that weird, hypothetical, post-apocalyptic world.
Round one of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase showed the frenzy the state is capable of. After Tyrannosaurus Chicken wrapped up a ferocious, rollicking set of rejiggered Delta blues, everyone from the mob in front of the stage to the barflies in the back stood as one massive, gobsmacked body of dropped jaws and pumping fists. The rambling duo stomped, hollered and slid through ... well, something nearly impossible to cleanly define. Post-primal blues? Delta garage rock? Electric hill trance?
Times contributor James Szenher wrapped up their performance as such:
"For those fans who didn't catch this set, it was kind of like having watched this beautiful vibrant dangerous caterpillar, a caterpillar that was content being the greatest caterpillar around, and then having looked away for a second and finding out that while you weren't looking, this caterpillar snuck away and went into a cocoon and then emerged as this enormous monster moth of flame and dirt that burned and sullied the souls of everyone within a mile radius."
Whatever the hell it was, Tyrannosaurus Chicken left with an invitation to the Showcase finals, not to mention a couple hundred new admirers to add to its already-exploding, well-deserved cult following. Check out video of the night's big winners on YouTube, courtesy of Times photographer Brian Chilson, at http:// arktimes.com/tyrannosauruschicken1.
But the night's roots music didn't stop there. The burly, bearded crew of Zach Williams and the Reformation plugged in and opened the Showcase with soulful, Southern choogle and charisma to spare. All guitar riffs, muddy groove and long hair shimmy, the Jonesboro rockers take a big cue from The Black Crowes, which may have hurt them in the judge's "originality" scores, but hey, if you're going to riff off of a band, it might as well be a good one. It certainly didn't stop them from wowing the crowd.
Catskill Kids crowded the stage to provide the indie rock alternative to the night's twang, tearing through a set of fantastically catchy, defiantly bouncy, summertime pop. By the time the five-piece bowed out, lead singer Matthew Cronk was wearing nothing but pants, sweat and a headband: the fashion equivalent of his band's sound.
The night closed out with Cody Ives Band, a Red Dirt bar band from Benton who brought up a crew of Saline County fans for the ride. Even if some were turned off by their beer-soaked, hedonistic take on country-rock, no one could deny that frontman Cody Ives is packing some pipes, even belting out some lagniappe vocal gymnastics during soundcheck.
Round two, 8:30 p.m. Feb. 3, Stickyz.
The Smittle Band. Regulars in jazz bars around the state, The Smittle Band offers gorgeous, fluid lounge sounds with a trickling undercurrent of classy Americana. Fronted by Stephanie Smittle, the band balances her hushed, smoky vocals with sharp guitar work from co-writer Wythe Walker, tasteful, smart keys from Jim McGehee and brushing percussion courtesy of Ray Wittenberg.
Think: "A Prarie Home Companion" with aquavit.
The Yipps. Spun off from Frown Pow'r (full disclosure: Hey, I'm in that band!) and the late, great Coach, The Yipps run a hyper-melodic streak through '60s Britrock guitar rock crunch. This marks a rare live show for the wood-shedding four-piece, all working under the pseudonyms Ronnie, Rocky, Ronin and Chelton Vanderbilt Yipp III. Guitars: jangly. Drums: chaotic. Bass: acrobatic. Songs: dangerously catchy.
Think: The Kinks rocking out at Ardent Studios.
Year of the Tiger. Another band fused together from a couple of local acts — this time the monsters of Underclaire and The Moving Front — Year of the Tiger combines rangy guitar and epic vocals from the former (courtesy of Mike Mullins) and the signature synth squawk of the latter (from Jeremy Brasher). Still relatively fresh, expect enormous chops from the crew of local veterans.
Think: Angular rock for that apocalypse we talked about earlier.
Echo Canyon. Veterans around town, the instrumental outfit of Echo Canyon is either a jam band that's not afraid to rock or a rock band that's not scared to jam. It's a tough balance, but the wailing guitars and shouting saxophones toe the line with deft musicianship and catchy dynamism. Even in a night propelled by amazing guitar work all around, this act may just wear the crown.
Think: The soundtrack for your high-speed chase from the bad vibes police.