Tobias Jupiter was a strong contender for this year's "Best Band With the Worst Name" award, but the quintet dodged that honor by changing its name last month to the FlashBangs. Where Tobias Jupiter stumbled clumsily off the tongue, the group's streamlined new moniker efficiently sums up its sound: a bright, loud burst of indie-powered rock and roll sparkling with cruel hooks and brash female vocals. The band recently finished recording its debut CD with Bryan Feuchtinger of Hot IQs -- and The FlashBangs, thankfully, will be the name emblazoned across its cover.

You say love has no boundaries? Tell it to the judge, fucker. Then back up a thousand feet.

When Rocket Ajax disbanded in early 2003, many scenesters were befuddled. Just a few months earlier, the band had picked up stakes and headed for the West Coast in search of fame and fortune -- or at least a record deal. At the time, Ajax was one of the most promising hard-rock bands around. Shortly after relocating to Los Angeles, though, the outfit inexplicably imploded. Just like that, Ajax was no more. No farewell show. Nada. So when the Rocketmen regrouped for one night in January, it was a chance to mourn what might have been.

For two years, White Dynamite has been leveling stages and logic itself with its off-kilter, hardcore-spawned pandemonium. But the real show is singer/guitarist Luke Fairchild. A veteran of such Denver bands as Why Planes Go Down and Sparkles, Fairchild has at last completely surrendered to whatever demons possess him. He barks. He jerks. He chews at the air. He falls down and goes boom. And somehow, in the midst of all that rabidity, he manages to beat guitar chords into the shapes of hallucinations. Somebody, please: Stick a belt between his teeth.

Back in the day, Brian Hagman was the only real reason to watch local punk act Wretched Refuse. But when Black Lamb (né the Lambs) formed at the dawn of the millennium, the singer finally found a band that could keep up with his intensity. Crooning like some three-headed clone of Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Astbury and Glenn Danzig, Hagman prances through a veritable minefield of thunder-conjuring, sludge-boogie riffs with a derangement that borders on outright bloodlust. Catch the group live, and you'll see: Nothing short of a mushroom cloud could tear your eyes off Hagman's force-of-nature performance.

Anyone who dismisses Ghost Buffalo as just a Planes Mistaken for Stars side project doesn't quite get it. While guitarist Matt Bellinger and drummer Mike Ricketts do indeed split shifts between the two bands, Ghost Buffalo is a full-time passion for leader Marie Litton. The songwriter lends her soaring, haunting voice to the group's heartache-weary country rock; on stage, she's nearly dwarfed by her acoustic as she gazes heavenward and pours her heart out to the universe. The dazzling contributions of Bellinger, Ricketts, guitarist Josh Coyle and bassist Tom Ventura can't be overstated, but it's Litton who's the front, center and soul of Ghost Buffalo.

Artist, producer, teacher and one-man guitar battalion Dave Beegle remains an underground six-string phenom. After launching power trio Fourth Estate in the late '80s, the Fort Collins homeboy used his masterful tone -- something that mates Joe Satriani and Paco de Lucia with Johann Sebastian Bach's blessing -- to explore the instrumental nuances of flamenco, world fusion and ethno-acoustic rock. As fluent with the blind-dog blues as with a Balkan-flavored arrangement, Beegle, lauded nationally as "a guitarist's guitarist," has issued a handful of exceptional solo and group-oriented discs via brother Morris's Hapi Skratch imprint, proving what can be accomplished when simple wood and wires merge with virtuosity and heart.

Bluegrass traditions may not be ancient by the standards of Greek mythology, but they have a proud history that Fort Collins-based Open Road limns with love and skill on its latest disc for Rounder Records, ...In the Life. The longer Bradford Lee Folk and his musical partners perform this music, the deeper and more natural their playing and singing becomes. They bring the past into the present.

Jay Munly might be the star, but cellist Rebecca Vera and violinists Elin Palmer and Frieda Stalhiem are the driving force behind the Canadian transplant's "thinkin' man's country music." Weaving together complex rhythms and sensuous melodic lines, the trio of harlots augment Munly's dark, rootsy side with a chamber-driven classicism, turning lyrical murder ballads and tales of backwoods madness into uniquely beautiful arrangements. Then there's the girls' stirring vocal harmonies -- airy, crystalline, seductive and just the right balance for a Southern Gothic hoedown.

Some bands are just made for booze. ZZ Top? Tequila. Black Flag? Why, a six-pack, of course. But when listening to the ragged country punk of Out on Bail, whiskey is the only real choice. The semi-acoustic coed quartet writes songs that burn on the way down, peel the casing off your entrails and make you simultaneously sappy and feral as a pit bull. And when OOB revs out its gruff cover of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," you'd better pass that fifth over here, quick. Screw tears in your beer: These guys will leave a hunk of broken heart swimming in your shot glass.

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