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Home on the Range 

by Clint Burgess, Mike Corrigan and Leah Sottile


It's safe to say a guy like Wylie Gustafson marches to his own drummer. He fronts an outfit called the Wild West, is a nationally renowned yodeler and is country western to the bone. And this is the real deal, not the watered-down, pop-heavy stuff that passes itself off as country these days: Gustafson lives the life and makes no bones about it. He brings his low-key, happy-to-be-here style to the Met on Saturday.


The Wild West show has had its share of stops in and around Spokane, and some of the members live here or near here, but unless you catch this act for yourself, there really is a whole lot to miss just by reading about it. Imagine the most rockin' Reverend Horton Heat show sandwiched alongside the random western group from the county fair and that might begin to describe it. Wylie fuses a raucous (musically speaking) live show with outstanding musicianship and enough hardcore country to turn even the most jaded rock fans into Wylie lovers.


Fresh off a fantastic weekend in Sunnyside, Wash., Wylie keeps things interesting.


"I won a belt buckle and a few other events," says Gustafson with sincere enthusiasm. On the phone from his ranch home in Dusty, Wash., he talks about his career in country music and his place in it. "For a geographical reference," he says, "Dusty is in between Hay and Penawawa down on the Palouse." And as for country music, "I hate country," he says. "I'm actually a little embarrassed by what is being called country music today."


The work ethic, stage show and strict adherence to his personal ethos make it easy to believe that Wylie is too much for the mainstream country to handle. "I distance myself from that national scene -- I honor the roots of country music, guys like Buck Owens, George Jones and Johnny Cash -- I'm a huge Johnny Cash fan." It may be this admiration for the greats that has lead Gustafson this far down the path of a career in music.


All of the success -- or whatever you want to call his achievements -- have come to Wylie without the help of a major label. "Back in the early '90s," he recalls, "when I was going out to Nashville a couple of times a month, hanging out and recording, everyone was driving BMWs and things were good for the business." But as he points out, a lot of Gustafson's friends who were on major labels aren't working in the music business anymore. "I just feel blessed that I'm able to do what I do and make a living at it," he says.


With 10 albums under his belt, the proof is in the pudding -- and this cowboy doesn't show any sign of slowing down, either. Wylie and the Wild West try to record an album every year; they are on the road for 70 dates annually and have more in the works. He and the band will be playing this Friday in Seattle at the Tractor Tavern and will be recording a live CD as well as filming for an accompanying DVD. (Now that's enterprising.) Gustafson says he hopes to release the live material next year and continue with what has been so fulfilling to him to this point.


When you listen to the music, it is easy to see that substance is the stuff that keeps Wylie going. He's something different. The man is a vehicle to bring a lost style to the musical masses.


"The key to what we do is keeping in touch with our audience," he says. "I'll go out after shows to the lobby or the merchandise table and just talk with people.


"It's always been about the music for us," he continues, "and I really get a lot of reward out of seeing the fans enjoy the music."





Let Them Eat Prog-Rock! -- Coming into prominence during the 1980s was both a windfall and a bane for Seattle's Queensryche. For while the sovereign of Northwest metal undoubtedly sold a ton of albums due to superficial similarities with pop metal contemporaries like Van Halen, Poison and Motley Crue, thematically, it was a very different beast. The desire to be recognized as such, as something distinctive and progressive, always seemed to form the heart of the Queensryche conundrum. Yet those misunderstandings only seemed to spur the band forward, into increasingly ambitious terrain.


Queensryche returns to Spokane to reclaim its hard-won hard rock legacy this Saturday night at the Big Easy as they perform, among other things, Operation: Mindcrime in its entirety (the band is revisiting its 1988 concept album for the first time in 15 years).


A pair of Bellevue guitarists (Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton) first came together under the Queensryche banner in 1981. High school buddies Geoff Tate (vocals) and Eddie Jackson (bass), along with drummer Scott Rockenfield, were recruited to fill out the quintet. The band rehearsed for a couple of years before recording the demo tape which would prove to be its ticket to bigger and better things. Queensryche's self-released debut EP (featuring "Queen of the Reich") appeared in 1983 and sold an amazing 20,000 copies, leading to major label attention and, eventually, a record deal with EMI.


Big hair and guitar pyrotechnics certainly figured prominently in the band's initial equation. But even in its earliest recordings, close inspection reveals that Queensryche -- in terms of the intelligence and sheer scope of the songwriting -- was more closely related to the art rock of British bands like Queen and Pink Floyd than it was to any of the stateside acts then filling arenas.


Propelled by a sizzling metal guitar attack and characterized by Tate's piercing vocals, Queensryche went for the gut, coming on like a decidedly smarter American version of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. Though the band's first two major label outings (The Warning and Rage to Order) weren't exactly blockbusters, the cult of Queensryche -- which relied on word of mouth among rabidly devoted fans -- was steadily building.


The floodgates opened with 1988's Operation: Mindcrime, an Orwellian rock opera on which the group's progressive ambitions came to full fruition. Its popular and critical success cleared the way for Empire (1990), the album containing the group's biggest hit, "Silent Lucidity."


Though Queensryche slowly fell out of fashion in the mid-'90s, as that other Seattle sound began to dominate rock radio, that core fan base has never let the wicked rest -- encouraging the band to keep that one foot (at least) out of the ditch of obscurity well into the first decade of the 21st century.


Can Mindcrime II be far behind? -- Mike Corrigan





London Calling -- Punk rock is dead. That's right, kiddies. That girly "punk" music rocking in your headphones (read: Good Charlotte, MxPx, Yellowcard, the entire Vans Warped Tour) is not the pure stuff. If you're looking for the good stuff -- and I'm talking the purest, pharmaceutical-grade punk rock that you can find coming through ol' Spokane, Wash., then you best scurry down to the B-Side this Sunday ready to take notes. And go ahead and leave those wristbands and trucker hats at home.


Because on Sunday you'll be in the house of some real punk rockers: the London born and bred UK Subs. Sure, they might be really big hangovers from a long-gone musical movement, but they're worth checking out.


Originally the Subversives, the UK Subs were the brainchild of soon-to-be singer Charlie Harper, who was singing back in an R & amp;B group called the Marauders then. It was a time of musical revolution in Britain -- with bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash putting their country on the map for something other than fish and chips. Punks were giving the Queen the finger, and young Brits, including Harper, became inspired by the uprising.


After hearing groups like the Damned take over the British airwaves, Harper decided to drop the Marauders gig to form the Subversives. They called themselves the Subs for short, but soon encountered a Scottish group of the same name. Since the Sex Pistols were receiving so much praise for the single, "Anarchy in the UK," the Subs capitalized on the name -- adopting the name the UK Subs.


Trying to grab the tail end of the fast-moving punk movement, the UK Subs started getting a following in South London -- playing clubs like the Roxy and other punk havens. The hair salon where Harper worked became their headquarters to meet, practice and, most likely, cut their hair into really neato mohawks. How very convenient, and punk rock, of them.


GEM Records finally snatched the group up, and they cut their first full-length record, Another Kind of Blues, in 1979. The band saw two songs become hit singles, became the subject of a punk documentary (Julien Temple's Punk Can Take It) and did a few opening gigs for the Police in the United States. The Subs were on the punk rock map -- but it was almost too late for them at the beginning of the 1980s because of the rising popularity of new wave and synth-pop. The shift in listeners' tastes had an adverse effect on the Subs, causing them to pump out albums that sounded more like heavy metal than their native punk sound. But they, or should I say Harper, didn't stop. The band went through continual line-up changes, with Harper often being the band's only original member.


Even after the UK Subs' idols -- mainly the Damned and the Sex Pistols -- started to fizzle, they kept on going. They produced albums through the '80s and released a number of "greatest hits" style records in the 1990s. Now nearly 30 years as punk rockers, it's doubtful that they'll break up now -- but you might as well catch this show just to get a taste of what real punk rock used to sound like. -- Leah Sottile





Publication date: 10/07/04
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