by Leah Sottile and Mike Corrigan

So it's all come down to this, the last stand for the four finalists (and one wildcard band) in the 2005 RAWK Final Four local teen band competition. The dust from the four qualifying rounds has settled, and four winners have emerged to engage each other in a winner-take-all final bout. The final duel looks something like this: Catalyst vs. Big Wang Theory vs. Foreign DNA vs. Beaf vs. Mylestone. Everything goes down this Saturday night at Fat Tuesday's Concert Hall. It's gonna be messy, folks -- real messy.

Just who are these competition-crazed desperadoes? Glad you asked, 'cause we just happen to have a little meet-and-greet set up for ya.

With all the bands out there these days adopting monikers so long they seem more like bad poetry than something that would look good on a flier, thank goodness Beaf keeps it mercifully short and direct. This five-piece hails from University High School and consists of Calvin Grenkavich (lead guitar), Chris Bonney (drums), Kevin Darrow (vocals and keyboards), Kris Mayhew (rhythm guitar) and Steven Cutter (bass and vocals). Beaf formed just eight months ago as a way for Bonney, Darrow and Cutter to branch out musically from U-High's drum line (they're all on it). The band is sustained on a diet rich in the Who, the Beatles, the Doors and AC/DC.

Foreign DNA is a Post Falls-based quartet whose members -- Mark Watson (vocals and guitar), Matt Routh (vocals and guitar), Seth Hyde (vocals and bass) and Paul Hyde (drums) -- have been playing together since September 2002. Paul Hyde is a freshman at the University of Idaho, while the other guys are juniors at Post Falls High. The band has recorded a pair of CDs: 2002's Overlooked six-song EP and 2003's A Place in the Crowd, a full-length album (both were recorded at College Road in Spokane). Foreign DNA has been out there on the live stage too, consistently playing in Spokane, Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls and Moscow.

Yeah, it's a cheeky name, but Big Wang Theory delivers the goods, kicking out the jams classic rock-style a la Zeppelin, Van Halen, Rush and AC/DC. And few bands on the local scene seem to be having as much fun with all that high-voltage stuff as these guys: Adam Brock (lead vocals and guitar), Max Shellabarger (vocals and guitar), Alan Crow (bass) and Vinnie Nickoloff (drums and the "occasional" vocal). They've been together a little over a year and will play "anywhere you'll let us," says Shellabarger. "Seriously."

Catalyst is made up of Henry Nordstrom (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Andy Martin (lead guitar), Dan Castillo (bass) and Austin Drake (drums). Nordstrom, Martin and Drake have been playing together for about four years (as worship team members at their church) but the band came to full fruition two years later with the addition of Castillo. Catalyst is refreshingly up front about its faith-based inspiration and direction. "We are a Christian band," says Nordstrom. "All the songs we write are Christian songs."

Final Four wildcard band Mylestone will open the show. The group members -- Pat O'Neill (vocals), Curran Long (lead guitar), Riley Long (drums), Cole Tanner (bass) and Aaron McConkey -- all attend Lewis & amp; Clark High School and have come a long way in the last couple of years, gigging at clubs all over town, including fancy joints like the Big Easy.

As in the preliminary rounds, audience members will vote, People's Choice-style, to determine the winner of the competition's grand prize: an all-expenses-paid weekend of recording in Seattle at Delve Music Studios. The second-place band will receive a cash award of $150 while $100 will go to the third-place finishers.

I advise you to get there early (it all starts at 6 pm) because it's gonna be a blowout.

Something Corporate -- It could have been the curly mop-tops. Or maybe it was the thick black glasses the lead singer wears. The bronzed skin? The beach clothes? The freckles? They are the picture of mid-20s freedom, of nostalgic open-road tales and those few hangovers that are worth the pain. And it made me bitter just to look at their happy, bright press photos.

Then I realized what a judgmental ass I was. And if realizing it on my own wasn't enough, I couldn't help but feel even worse about halfway through my phone call with Something Corporate's lead singer, Andrew McMahon. He wasn't the pre-pubescent wannabe punk I thought he'd be; instead, he was articulate, friendly and considerate - he even laughed at my wisecracks and joked that he couldn't stop pacing. Thanks, buddy.

But more than his clever personality and sheer charm - McMahon stopped me when I noted that his band was a spinoff of punk. He corrected me, claiming that Something Corporate never has used the word 'punk' to describe themselves or their music.

"We never expected to be anywhere close to anything punk rock," he says. "So much so that I went to my first punk concert the same year that I got signed to Drive Thru [Records]. I didn't want to go. I had to bring a girl there."

Well, now I felt like a royal ass - and I had to apologize.

"I hope you don't take my questions as negative," I said.

"Oh no, it's cool. I'm used to it," he politely responded before I could finish.

I figured that Andrew McMahon was quite possibly the nicest person I'd ever met. Not only is he cool, he doesn't take himself, his band or the music business any more seriously than he should. And he's fully aware that people assume his band is just a dispensable band of pop-punks with nothing good to say.

But not me, of course. I'd never say that. Gulp.

"There is an immediate perception of a band coming off Drive Thru might sound like," he says. "That was kind of an early problem. I think just by touring constantly we were able to shape a more actual perception of the band. There are enough records out there now. It doesn't bother me."

It's not a surprise that Something Corporate was lumped in with other teenie bands - the band was quickly picked up after winning a high school Battle of the Bands competition. Their dreams of rock 'n' roll stardom came true before they could even smoke cigarettes. So McMahon says that people who've heard their first album, Audioboxer, shouldn't scoff at the naivet & eacute; of the music. After all, they were just kids.

"I was 18 when I recorded Audioboxer, and a large portion of those songs were written between the ages of 14 and 18," he says. "I don't apologize for the fact that the songs were sunnier."

But what about the piano? Was that just a shtick to make Something Corporate just a tiny bit different from the other sunny-faced bands of the hour?

Maybe that was a stupid question. McMahon chuckled.

"It wasn't, like, cool to play piano. It's the only instrument that I play," he says. "I didn't want to be this jackass singer without an instrument."

Before we hang up, McMahon even pokes fun at his band's name - and stops me when I say that it's a funny name.

"It's not funny, it's stupid," he laughs. "There's nothing interesting about it! I was 16. And we were, like, 'What's our band name?' And someone said, 'It should be something corporate.' And that was it. It's not like we ever thought we'd ever leave our garage. In the most serious light that you could take it, it's a reminder to ourselves not to write songs that we always made fun of."

Let this be a lesson to you music snobs out there: As dumb as you think a band might be, they already know all about it. And before you discount them solely on the name they came up with when they were 16, give them a listen. Or not. Because if you're like me, you'll feel like an even bigger ass when you realize that you actually like their music.

Hampton Time Again -- The annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho, is way more than just a celebration of jazz. The real deal at the late jazz giant's namesake four-day music fest is music education. Now in its 38th year, this baby brings elementary, middle and junior high school student groups from around the country to this small Idaho college town for a rare opportunity to express their skills and creativity in the presence of professional jazz musicians.

The students may benefit from the professionals' teaching and inspiration -- but for most of us folks, it's the festival performances that get us all hot and bothered. This year is no exception, as celebrated jazz artists from around the world will once again (through Feb. 26) make the University of Idaho campus bristle with the sound and the fury of live music. This year's fest features jazz artists -- and returning guests -- Freddy Cole, Monte Alexander, Lou Rawls, Jane Monheit, Randy Brecker, John and Bucky Pizzarelli, Roy Hargrove and the Lionel Hampton New York Big Band. Festival newcomers will include Terrell Stafford (trumpet) Ken Peplowski, (saxophone and clarinet) Jay Daversa (trumpet) Holly Hofmann (flute) and James Morrison (trumpet and trombone).

The schedule looks like this: Thursday night, catch the Pizzarelli brothers as they lead their band in the Special Guest Concert. Mr. Lou Rawls headlines Friday's All-Star Concert while Saturday night belongs to the Lionel Hampton New York Big Band and the Giants of Jazz.

See one. See all. Make a weekend out of it. Whatever you do, just do it.

Publication date: 2/24/05

Spokane Guitar Collective @ Lucky You Lounge

Thu., Oct. 6, 7 p.m.
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