By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
BLACK BLACK OCEAN
NOMINATED IN ROCK
When asked to expound on the aesthetic of Black Black Ocean, guitarist Stephen Till gets excited. "Hold on, hold on, let me ask somebody. I want this to be cute," he says. After a murmur of voices in the background, he replies, "My brother just said 'sucky.'"
Black Black Ocean came together in 2001 as a fairly conventional indie-rock outfit; its first demo recording came complete with sharp guitars, bleating vocals and a thin veneer of poetic sensitivity. Then something went haywire in Modest Mouseland. ¡Operación!, the band's new full-length disc, is a malfunctioning toy robot with springs and sparks popping out all over the place. The music is gnarled and garbled, a tense mess of post-punk angst that taps into the jerky, sci-fi kinesis of Milemarker, Devo and Les Savy Fav. Ryan Eason is the group's resident spaz cadet, perpetually writhing, shrieking, purring, bashing guitars and pounding away at a synthesizer strapped to his chest like a bomb. The rest of the lineup -- Till, Quintin Schermerhorn and Jared Black -- is equally as erratic, jumping around like electrocuted chimps on stage.
"How about...Black Black Ocean is like diamond dust blown into your eyes?" Till continues, almost hyperventilating. "We're like Liza Minelli and Glen Danzig's love child. We're intensely brutal, with a heart of gold."
One of the more ubiquitous bands around town, Black Black Ocean has amassed a fervent following of swooning girls and pouting boys, and it's not hard to see why: The band's atmosphere is as cool and dark as the depths of the Mariana Trench. Or, as Till sums it up: "One, we don't suck. Two, we make an indescribable sound." -- Heller
ERICA BROWN BAND
NOMINATED IN BLUES
If she's ever thought of rain a day in her life or been paralyzed by gut-wrenching heartache of Sylvia Plathian proportions, you'd never know it. Her smile brightens every corner of a room. Her laughter is more infectious than doorknobs in an elementary school. She'll have you "squirting tears out your eyes" even if you didn't hear the punchline. So what, then, is Erica Brown doing singing the blues? Dropping jaws of anyone within earshot of her stellar vocals and forging a reputation as the leader of a band no one wants to follow, that's what.
The Erica Brown Band formed in 1998 after the collective members of J.D. and the Love Bandits contacted Brown with the prospect of fronting their band. As luck would have it, the soulstress was between projects (Brown previously contributed vocals to the irreverent, critically acclaimed cult bands Foreskin 500 and Cherry Bomb Club). The subsequent name change was spurred because "I'm not a 6'3" trombone player named J.D.," says Brown, laughing.
The five-piece -- bassist Rich Sallee, guitarist Mark Lawson, keyboard and Hammond organ player Jim Ayers, and Scotty Rivera, who shares vocal duties with Brown -- released its debut long-player, Body Work, in November 2000. The band's second effort, Rough Cut Stone, was recorded and produced at FTM studios by Steve Avedis, whom Brown credits as having "the sharpest ears in the business"; the recording was released in April and is already starting to gain momentum.
As a result of its inspired performances and the accolades it has garnered in its five short years of existence - the group receives regular airplay on KUVO and KGNU and was voted number one for the month of April on KRFX's specialty show, Strictly the Blues, for the month of April - the Erica Brown Band could be thrust into the national spotlight. A record label that Brown declines to disclose so as not to "hoodoo the process" has expressed interest. Whether anything comes from it, she seems content just to be in the game.
"I'm not going to be one of those little old ladies in a home -- or, worse yet, one who doesn't have a pension who eats Little Friskies because she can't afford Fancy Feast -- wishing I had done this. Someone once said, 'Don't die with the music in you,' and I couldn't agree more." -- Herrera
BUCKNER FUNKEN JAZZ
NOMINATED IN JAZZ/SWING
Rod Buckner is a teacher by day, serving as the band and orchestra instructor at Denver's Henry Middle School. By night, as the leader and namesake of Buckner Funken Jazz, among the most popular combos working the local circuit, he's had plenty of chances to teach as well.
"The band started about five years ago, and it was originally supposed to be a blues and jazz band," Buckner says. "But the first guys that I had were mainly rockers, so I had to teach them how to play jazz. That was a hard job."
Fortunately, the situation has improved over time. As Buckner Funken Jazz established a reputation via regular performances at clubs such as Herman's Hideaway and Herb's Hideout, like-minded instrumentalists were drawn to it. At present, the band consists of Buckner on trumpet and sibling Ron Buckner on bass, supplemented by saxophonist Matthew White, conga expert Bobby Hill, guitarist Devon Kurzweil, keyboardist Mark Esquibel and drummer Chad Hodges. "The guys we have now are excellent jazz musicians, and they're definitely interested in the funk, too," Buckner says. "So the band is just getting better and better."