By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
On Hemi Cuda's debut CD, Classics for Lovers, garage rock runs a red light and plows headlong into heavy metal. The sound is like scorched rubber and shattered glass, with guitars so heavy and jagged they crunch bone. Although siphoning sips of riffs and lyrics from the Stooges and the Clash, Classics owes more to the high-octane sludge of L7 and Denver rock legends the Fluid. The album was released on disc in the U.S. by the Olympia, Washington, imprint Pop Sweatshop, and a vinyl version was pressed by the German label Thunderbaby, which led to a recent tour of Europe for the band.
"It was great. A lot of it was a learning experience. We made a lot of great connections and had a blast seeing Europe through a van window," Zappe says. "A few people at our shows out there were already familiar with us, but I do think we did get a little bit of interest just because we were an American, girl-fronted band."
Although Zappe and Exley have no qualms about playing up the hot-girls-with-guitars angle of their band, novelty is the least of the reasons for Hemi Cuda's appeal. Their songs are hot-wired with pop hooks and harmonies; their live shows are demolition derbies full of noise, crushed bodies and sheer rock velocity. -- Heller
HONKY TONK HANGOVERS
NOMINATED IN COUNTRY/BLUEGRASS/ROOTS
Back when guys like Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash were walking the line, so to speak, between country music and rockabilly, little did they know they'd someday have illegitimate sons like the Honky Tonk Hangovers. The group -- bassist Donnie Jerome, drummer Brandon Webster and singer/guitarists Dave Hall and Jeff Yeary -- has been burning up bars and roadhouses across Denver for a couple of years now with its sizzling brand of roots music. Country, rock and roll, rockabilly, honky-tonk -- whatever you want to call it, the Hangovers' sound evokes the vintage twang and yodel of hillbilly music. No slick Nashville sophistication. No alt-country irony. Just lots of rustic pedal steel, two-steppin' rhythms and heartfelt singing about drinking, loving and driving trucks.
On the band's debut release, last year's Every Little Honky Tonk, the band is captured at its whooping, stomping best. Hall's rumbling baritone offsets Yeary's plaintive, lonesome warble, and Jerome and Webster pitch in harmonies while nailing down the beats with both precision and soul. The sound is authentic and retro without being kitschy; it's obvious the Hangovers have a true love affair with classic country music. The group is also a champion of Denver's roots-music scene and waves the flag for anyone in town willing to buck the trend of phony, commercialized country and play it straight from the heart. With an emphasis on songwriting, tasteful playing and unpretentious fun, the Honky Tonk Hangovers are the perfect reminder that, despite all the lofts and skyscrapers, Denver is still a city of the high-plains West. -- Heller
NOMINATED IN DJ/DANCE/ELECTRONIC
Sir Mix-It-Up might be a more fitting handle for DJ Idiom, aka Chris Cory. The platter jockey has a knack for blending disparate styles into delicious sonic smoothies. Not limited to a single-minded concept of what spinning should be, Idiom breaks down the barriers of style to please his audience and himself.
"My evolution as a musician has been a lifelong experience," he says. "I've gone all the way from listening to my mother practice for recitals as a concert pianist, to being in an alternative-rock band as a teen, to being a flamenco guitarist and B-boy throughout high school, to currently trying to turn my love for music into a career as a DJ."
When Idiom began spinning three years ago, he found that with a little practice, he could effortlessly mix alternative-rock lyrics with hip-hop instrumentals. And this kind of juxtaposing became the basis of his style: He shows "that you can listen to Jurassic 5 mixed with Al Green, Sublime mixed with the Pharcyde, Louis Armstrong mixed with Cypress Hill, Eric B. and Rakim mixed with the Smiths, Nirvana mixed with the Beastie Boys, Aphrodite mixed with Tchaikovsky, and the Grateful Dead mixed with Eydea and Abilities -- all within thirty minutes."
Think of it as sonic splatter painting. "Good music isn't confined to one genre," he says, "so why not mix it all together to make it more entertaining and enjoyable?" -- Hutchinson
NOMINATED IN HARD ROCK
6 P.M., LA RUMBA
Fans familiar with Ion's history will notice a glaring omission on the band's Web site: There are no references to any member's previous accomplishments. Leader Todd Schlafer headed the wildly popular Rocket Ajax, which split after a move to Los Angeles earlier this year. But so far, this strategy of only facing forward is proving successful: A few months after forming, the band has label interest and a sizable fan base.
Schlafer hasn't forgotten the past, however. "I was determined to stay and make something happen," he explains of his decision to linger in L.A. after the Ajax breakup. "Then I got a CD from two of my friends putting this thing together, and it was ten times better than anything Ajax did. I swear, it's unbelievable."