The last time I saw the local band Burns Like Hellfire perform, I detected something new -- something about the band's performance I'd never noticed before. It wasn't the set list, or singer Brian Young's iridescent blue-and-white polka dot shirt and smartly tailored suit jacket, or the fact that guitarist Jamie Maker actually seemed a little tipsy with holiday cheer. Nope. It was something that smelled like ... professionalism. It was subtle, but it was there -- not a brashness masking deep-seated insecurities (you see that every day), but a casual confidence that emanates from a group of musicians who have things screwed down tight -- a self-assurance that frees them from jitters or any second thoughts and allows them to just have a blast.
"It really is by accident," says Young. "I guess after enough practice and recording and all that stuff, it was bound to happen. We've been noticing it in rehearsals quite a bit. We'll get done playing a song, and we're like, 'Jeez, is that too slick? Somebody needs to screw something up in there.' "
Well, don't expect too many slip-ups this weekend, as BLH takes the stage at the B-Side (on Friday night) and at Capone's in Coeur d'Alene (on Saturday night) for CD-release parties heralding the release of the band's long-anticipated debut album, One for the Losers.
Spokane's Burns Like Hellfire --Young (guitar, vox), Bill Barrington (bass), Cameron Norton (drums) and Jamie Maker (lead guitar) -- has steadily and not so quietly been gaining potency for years. And that live-show professionalism has certainly carried over into the band's new studio venture. The performances and engineering that went into One for the Losers give the album a sonic authority rarely heard in local productions.
The process of getting the album out was a long and laborious one, yet it brought forth some unexpected benefits.
"This thing has taken awhile," Young explains. "And to keep ourselves sane, we've been writing a bunch of new material. We have enough now for almost two more albums. Jamie is busy finishing up some recording with [his other band] the Makers, so we're looking at early summer at the latest for getting into the studio again. We'll probably be going over to Seattle this time, do the basic tracking over there, then bring it over here to have it all overdubbed and mixed."
Young says the band will also be doing a lot more gigging in the near future. "In April," he says, "we're gonna hit the whole region really hard."
And what better way to promote the band than with a kick-ass new album?
"Oh, I hope so," laughs Young. "Of course, I've lost all objectivity, but this record has really been seven or eight years in the making. It's what I've always wanted to do, and it finally got done. So I'm really excited to see what comes next."
Ridiculous Maximus -- GWAR STORY, VERSION I: The Legend of GWAR began millions of years ago. The group was originally part of a rampaging gang of galactic pirates called the Scumdogs of the Universe. Unfortunately, they pissed off their master and were exiled on Earth ("the most remote mudball in the galaxy"). They killed off the dinosaurs, accidentally created the human race by raping pre-historic apes and were eventually entombed in Antarctica. They were discovered (and awakened) in the 20th century by pimp/pusher/pornographer/record company executive, Sleazy P. Martini who -- sensing a sensation in the making -- took GWAR to NYC, gave them electric guitars and set them loose once again to ravage and enslave an unsuspecting world.
GWAR STORY, VERSION II: GWAR began in the late 1980s as a satirical marketing experiment at Virginia Commonwealth University. Consisting of art students, musicians and dancers, the group created the GWAR mythology, the aliases (Oderus Urungus, Balsac the Jaws of Death, Flattus Maximus, Beefcake the Mighty, etc.) and the costumes (sort of Conan meets Evil Dead) made out of latex and papier-m & acirc;ch & eacute;. Though the band's thrashy speed metal was never all that great, GWAR became instantly infamous for its gory and perverse stage shows which typically featured mock-pagan rituals, demon baby births, executions and gallons of fake bodily fluids spewed in all directions. Spokane rock fans who attended the group's legendary 1989 performance at the old 123 Arts (which didn't even start until 3 am) still can't get those stains out of their jackets.
After all this time, the ever-entertaining GWAR is returning to Spokane this Sunday (this time at the Big Easy) to pick up some sloppy seconds. So get in line. And bring a rain poncho. -- Mike Corrigan
Take 10 -- Local rock/punk/ska favorites 10 Minutes Down will be headlining a show this Sunday evening featuring three touring bands: Big D and the Kids' Table (a punk/ska dynamo from Boston that has done stints on the Warped Tour and the Ska Is Dead Tour), River City Rebels (a punk/rockabilly band from Vermont) and the Phenomenauts (a costume-and-prop-heavy synth-pop band from the San Francisco Bay Area).
"This show is a great chance for Spokane to get to know some of the new faces in the national punk scene," says 10MD's Ted Teske, who is also acting as promoter for the show. "These guys are all signed to various independent labels and will most likely head out on the Warped Tour this summer."
This show will also be 10MD's only February Spokane date, as the band is in the process of working on a new EP at a Seattle studio. "This EP will have all new songs and be a great springboard toward our next full album, which we're still writing music for," says Teske.
Advance tickets for the Sunday night show are available at Boo Radley's, Fat Tuesday's, the Long Ear in CDA and 4,000 Holes. -- Mike Corrigan
Are You Hep to the Jive? -- The hep-cat slang of the 1930s and '40s? Like "Mash me a fin" for "give him five dollars"? That's the way my granddaddy talked, man.
Except that the jive talkin' of the Harlem swing musicians is still among us: "he blew his top," "they came on like gangbusters," "we had a ball," "that's groovy" and more. ("Keep On Truckin'" was a kind of dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1933.)
And the Poet Laureate of Hip back in those days was a man in a wide-rimmed, white pheasant-feathered hat and two-tone shoes: the Minister of Jiveformation, His Royal Highness of Hi-De-Ho, the man who put the "zoot" ("exaggerated") in the suit ... Mr. Cab Calloway.
Baby boomers may remember him from The Blues Brothers; moviegoers of an older generation might recall Calloway and Lena Horne in Stormy Weather. But it was on Harlem bandstands -- playing with the likes of Bojangles, Louis, Duke and Dizzy -- that Calloway made his name. For years, Calloway (1907-94) -- who had become a household name with "Minnie the Moocher" when he was just 25 -- was dismissed as nothing but a flashy showman, a novelty act. But his verbal inventiveness, the way he attracted top sidemen (Milt Hinton and Ben Webster among them), his injection of call-and-response into the swing-dance frenzy, his sheer popularity -- all have made him seem, in retrospect, like a jazz innovator. His was not arm-around-the-shoulder, misty-eyed-nostalgia, Glenn Miller-style swing band music; instead, he offered a get-up-and-boogie, hard-swinging groove experience.
The Calloway sound-rocket is still speeding through the sky these days, though now at the controls is Calloway's grandson, Christopher Calloway Brooks. "C.B." brings the 14-piece Cab Calloway Orchestra to Northern Quest on Friday night.
Though C.B. dresses like his grandfather and performs his tunes, his band isn't doing an imitation. Tenor saxophonist Patience Higgins, for example, tweaks Cab's '30s sound into a "contemporary jump-blues revival tone." C.B. not only keeps performing the great titles -- "Boo-Wah, Boo-Wah," "Papa's in Bed With His Britches On," "What's Buzzin' Cousin," "Who's Yehoodi?" -- but he also revels in all the wordplay lyrics. A feasting song: "Have some chili con carne, Barney." A seduction song: "What's tickin', chicken? ... Say, will you swap 'I won't' for 'I will'?" A hepness song: "Are you in the know or are you a solid bringer-downer? ... Do you lace your boots high? Are you fly or you fly?"
You can't just dismiss this stuff as hopelessly out of touch. In fact, at a 2001 hip-hop museum exhibit in New York City, the very first glass case that visitors encountered contained one of Cab Calloway's zoot suits.
Cab lives on among us. When his band gets the joint jumpin' and he shouts, "Are you all reet?" there's only one response: "Yas, yas." Because even if he does beep when he shoulda bopped, Cab makes sure that everybody eats when they come to his house. When Cab hugs you, you stay hugged. -- Michael Bowen