The Show(case) Must Go On!

After stints as a solo acoustic act and fronting an all-cop band called Night Beat, Singer formed Tempa and the Tantrums and hit the local blues circuit. Augmented by guitarist Joseph Barton, bassist/harp player Steve "Red" Wilcox and drummer Brian "Shmoopi-pie" McClure, the band has two albums under its belt: Its eponymous debut, from 2001, and last year's release, Fooya Live!. The latter was recorded at the Little Bear during a benefit for a friend who was stricken with cancer. According to the singer, the disc captured "everything, warts and all."

Armed with crisp bills from an unnamed private investor and bolstered by a potential knob twister in drum-virtuoso-turned-studio-impresario Kenny James, the band is in pre-production for its forthcoming album. The as-yet-titled disc will reveal Singer's love for reggae, psychobilly and zydeco-inflected Cajun music. Singer's also considering throwing some Bessie Smith covers into the mix. She seems excited and a bit unnerved all at once at the thought of being able to stretch her creative wings and break out of the mold.

"With this new album, everybody is going to freak. I'm hoping blues clubs will still hire me," says Singer. "I'm hoping it's not too big of a shock." -- Herrera

Mark Farina
Mark Farina

Mike Robinson of Tinker's Punishment is reasonably sure that his band will have a record deal soon. He just doesn't know with whom.

"There are a few labels that we've gotten past the point of 'Hey, what's up' with," he says. "They'll actually come to our shows and talk to our manager. He doesn't tell us much about it, though. He doesn't want us to get all freaky on stage and forget how to play."

If the members of Tinker's -- Robinson, bassist Jordan Rivas, drummer Adam Blake and guitarist Kenneth Harris -- did forget how to play, it wouldn't be for lack of practice. Five years after the band formed in Denver, its impossibly catchy guitar pop is as polished as a new set of silver. Since the October release of Zero Summer, its fourth full-length album, TP has been on the road non-stop, playing mostly to college crowds across the Southeast; the band has found a kinship in Georgia's Jump, Little Children, with whom it partners for tours, as well as a robust Southern following.

"Atlanta is our favorite. It's really a rock-and-roll town, and everyone there loves the music," says Robinson. "Denver audiences have seen us grow up; we started when we were really young. But when you're on the road, it's cool to present a finished product to audiences who've never seen us sloppy."

Or freaky. -- Bond

After spending 2002 in Germany fronting a frenetic multi-national five-piece by the name of Dumbell, former LaDonnas singer-guitarist Ross Kersten returned home to Denver and launched a new project: the Tongues. "I came back and picked the best players I knew," says Kersten of the lineup, something of a local supergroup with roots in the Mile High City's mid-'90s punk scene: Bassist Brad Stanton formerly manned the low end for the LaDonnas, and guitarist Bill Hood and drummer Tony Weissenberg are ex-Boss 302-ers.

Leading three different bands in three years is the latest chapter in a lifelong obsession for Kersten. "I've been playing in bands since I was fourteen," he says. "I can't seem to stop."

More Minneapolis than Seattle, the Tongues reveal a taste for intense guitar riffs and catchy pop structure -- but they don't have as much pop influence as the LaDonnas once claimed. Think of a muscular set of punk licks sheathed by a layer of fuzzy tastebuds, and you're heading in the right direction.

The band recently recorded a four-song demo, which it is shopping to various indie labels. After enjoying a seven-year run with the LaDonnas on Sub Pop affiliate Scooch Pooch, Kersten is optimistic that the Tongues will ink a recording deal soon. "I'd like to do it all over again," he says. "Somebody's going to pick us up." -- Peterson

Some rock bands act like they're punk. Some punk bands act like they're emo. Some emo bands act like they rock. Vaux, however, melts all three down into a gleaming, impenetrable alloy. "We've got six guys bringing in a million different influences," says bassist Ryder Robison, "so many that it would be hard to listen to one of our songs and be like, 'This is exactly where they're getting that from.'"

The formidable sextet of Robison, Greg Daniels, Quentin Smith, Joe McChan, Adam Tymn and Chris Sorensen hammers out massive slabs of texture, melody and power. Formed in 1997 under the name Eiffel, the group quickly shed its emo-pop training wheels and transformed itself into a roaring, gas-guzzling rock juggernaut. More than sheer muscle, though, Vaux wields a deft progressive complexity; its debut full-length, this year's There Must Be Some Way to Stop Them, is an ambitious disc full of heavy, intricate post-hardcore wedged somewhere between the Blood Brothers, Tool and Radiohead.

"We've got a lot of songs that aren't real heavy rock, things that are piano-based and more rhythmically based," Robison points out. "We wanted to make a recording with a lot of depth, the kind that grows on people. That's the type of music you get goose bumps from."

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