|AZPUNK.COM'S THRASH OF THE TITANS
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Arizona's underground punk rock collective seems to have a serious reoccurring habit of kicking a whole lot of ass. It's almost pandemic. It's like the entire punk music community is infected with a plague of awesomeness. There isn't a night of the week where you won't find some sort of disrespectful and often offensive music exploding through the walls of any given punk rock venue in the greater Metro Phoenix area. One event in particular stood out above the desert's smog and unified an entire army of punk rock fans and musicians. A social experiment eloquently titled the Thrash of the Titans was organized by the state's punk rock community Mecca, AZPunk.com, to feature a legion of local musicians from the punk music scene. Six all-star bands performed against each other in the battle-to-end-all-music-battles. The real bloodshed, however, didn't begin on the stage, it began in the practice studios.
*DISCLAIMER* This music review is about underground punk rock. The band names involved are constructed of colorful and exciting language, so to assist anyone who might be offended by these phrases, we will substitute a cute little heart in place of the word that you totally already know is there, but society still thinks will destroy your soul by reading. Enjoy the comfort. ♥
In mid-September 2008, Tom Reardon of the local punk band Pinky Tuscadero White Knuckle Ass♥, who is also an active member of the AZPunk.com community, approached the operators of the site with a great event idea: grab a handful of local musicians, mix their names up in a hat, and throw them together with the conditions that they have two months to write a half hour set of all new music. At the time, AZPunk.com was having some financial troubles with high server costs, and was looking for new event ideas to help raise money and awareness for the website. After a couple weeks of organization, the team developed a unique musical event that has never been seen before in the state. Musicians pulling from almost 20 different local punk rock bands signed up for one of the four categories: vocals, guitar, bass and drums. Members of the website offered up the most vivacious band names that their brain-damaged heads could muster up, such as, Porn on the Cob, Houndfartin', Geetardo and the Vavosos and Pavarotti Zombie - and those are just a fraction of the names that we can tell you. The ones that actually got picked are far worse. After all of the participants were organized, names placed, and event coordinated, six local all-star punk bands were created to compete against each other for one night only, and only one chosen to be donned the prestigious title of being the first AZPunk Titan.
- The ♥in Rabbits
Featuring members of:
The Meat Department, Heatstroke, 80*D
Featuring members of:
Casket Life, The Earps, Mystery Pissers, Pop Gestapo
- Give Me Back My Sunday
Featuring members of:
80*D, Walt Flanagan's Dog
- The Naughty Little Squirrel ♥ers
Featuring members of:
The Declaimed, My Doll, Pinky Tuscadero White Knuckle Ass♥, Dephinger
- Arizona Joe and the Methadone 3
Featuring members of:
BYOW, Last Resistance, Pinky Tuscadero White Knuckle Ass♥
Featuring members of:
Nunzilla, Greenhaven, XIII Black, Family Secret
The winner crowned AZPunk Titan receives a spot on the upcoming AZPunk.comp Volume 6 - an annually produced compilation album featuring almost 40 local punk rock bands. But the guaranteed slot on the album is merely a materialistic award for a job well done. The true reward for the bands is the feeling of accomplishment, the recognition they receive from their peers and the community, and the self-satisfaction of knowing that they were able to work together as a team to create something new and fun when the chips were against them. This, in essence, captures the true meaning of what punk rock is; D.I.Y. - Do It Yourself.
As you can see from the flyer's artwork, which happens to be illustrated by McFarlane's own J. Gonzo, the Harry Hamlin-esque character is holding the severed heads of six freakishly looking... things, each one representing a competing band. From top to bottom, the characters are held in the order each band was picked, and the order in which the bands performed. Fate played a big role in this competition. None of the participants or anyone else involved had a say in who was placed in which band. That way, everyone knew exactly what they were getting into and couldn't complain about anything being unfair.
From the beginning of October to the beginning of December, these six groups were instructed to start a local band from the ground up. Two full months to meet each other, construct a full set, and be ready to perform at the Hollywood Alley in Mesa, Arizona. Each band was expected to manage themselves and organize their own schedules to meet the following criteria:
- Write 20 to 30 minutes of original music. No more, no less
- One cover song
- Find a practice spot and schedule practice times
- Promote your band and the show
- Communicate issues and work them out
- No quitting allowed
In an assignment like this, when people are thrown together with pressure of a two-month deadline, as well as more than likely having never met each other, things can tend to get a little stuffy at times. Egos clash, some work harder when others slack off, the possibilities for a great rock & roll soap opera are endless. It's punk rock afterall. Anything can happen ... and it does.
Rumors of some bands not working well together started to surface early on into the show's preparation. Other stories of some members not pulling their own weight started to draw doubt from the crowds and the other bands who caught word as it made its way to the website's messageboard. While some bands were busy organizing their sets and having fun, others couldn't even get the basic act of communication down. One band in particular spent a month and a half playing phone and email tag with each other before they eventually managed to schedule two band practices a week before the show. Another band lost a drummer due to a freak skateboarding accident, and in turn, had to quickly find a replacement to teach their set.
But along with the bad, the show's participants also incorporated the good. One band, and probably the one that showed the most dedication, had one member who spent a chunk of the allotted time on tour with his real band, as well as having to spend time in California helping his family evacuate the recent wild fires, while their drummer had to manage traveling more than 300 miles two to three times a week from Tucson to Tempe and back for practice.
As the weeks seemed to fly off the calendar, the battle date drew closer and the insults grew wreckless and AZPunk's messageboard exploded with arguments and trash talking. In the spirit of irreverent punk rock fun, contestants spouted off confident and most often offensive jabs at each other to build up the entertainment factor of the event. Although trying to keep in good spirits, many feathers were ruffled, and in the end, I think someone actually cried.
At last, the fateful evening was here. On a cold, rainy night in the Mesa desert, AZPunk.com unleashed the first Thrash of the Titans show on Dec. 8 2008 at the Hollywood Alley. After two months of planning, song writing and preparation, these six teams were ready to kick some serious ass. Well, at least some of them were ready. You could tell from the moment they set foot on stage how sturdy their confidence level stood. Some bands focused directly on musical composition and their ability to write good songs, while others relied heavily on quirky gimmicks and comedy to win over the event's judges. In the tradition of the nation's favorite past time - American Idol - the bands had to compete to win the votes of three judges who were advertised to be a few of the Arizona punk rock scene's harshest critics. One, a burley hardcore punk and metal show promoter transplanted from the East Coast who goes by the self proclaimed title 'HNIC' on the site, the second, a lovely Amazonian tattoo artist named 'Medusa' who wrestles in the scene's pudding (yes, pudding) wrestling troupe, Dirty Darlins of Debauchery, and third, the leader of a local fire-breathing, body modifying freak show named 'CutThroat'. Although the only female in the trio was obviously there to fill the Paula Abdul role, all three seemed to have the Simon Cowell persona down pretty well.
As the evening progressed, and the patrons and musicians alike grew more intoxicated with each ingested beer bong and whiskey shot, each band was given a solid 30 minute set. They were all judged on the same categories based on a point system ranging from 0.5 to 5.0.
- Presentation: The performance and stage show. How well prepared they were.
- Timing: No more than 30 minutes, no less than 20
- Composition: How well they organized and wrote their musical set
- Overall: The judges overall opinion of the band, music and entire performance
By the end of the evening, the fans had their favorites, but as in all competitions like this, the three judges had the final word on who was to be crowned Titan. The votes between both the judges and the crowd were almost unanimous. Bro-Loaf wins! And although, Gun♥ and Arizona Joe and the Methadone 3 followed closely behind, Bro-Loaf exemplified what this competition was all about. They embodied the pure, true, honest, most D.I.Y. ultra-core punk rock essence of this entire event. They were given a simple seven-letter band name, thrown in a room together after having never met each other, given two months to create a set, and instead developed the most unique spontaneous punk rock idea I have ever witnessed. Everything this exceedingly clever quartet presented was derived from a simple band name. Their performance and music reflected a single creative idea and transformed a simple band name into a movement. They took a crowd who had never heard a single song, a crowd who hadn't even the slightest idea what the band was about, chanting their name by the end of the night in unison. Simply put, Bro-Loaf is the most entertaining 26 minutes I have ever witnessed in my 15 years of attending local punk rock shows.
The only thing this event lacked was a full documentary crew and a VH1-style wrap-up show. So much behind-the-scenes involvement went into creating this event that the crowd wasn't even aware of. The drama, the hilarity and entertainment which comes with writing music and lyrics, and the sheer awesomeness of bringing together a hoard of like-minded people together for the sake of having a kick-ass time. AZPunk.com's Thrash of the Titans grabbed a dwindling music community by the balls, set them in front of a mirror, and made them see what they were really made of. In the end, this event wasn't about competition. It wasn't about who was better than who. These elements were merely there for the sheer entertainment factor. This show was created to showcase the amazing talent and fun that often gets hidden within ourselves and the community as it grows old and grumpy. I spoke with many attendees of the evening to find out their reaction to a show like this, and almost everyone said the same thing, the one thing that you almost never hear anymore; "It felt like the good ol days of punk rock again." That statement, in it's most purest form, is a reward in itself.
- Micah E.
BONUS! Check out Bro-Loaf's myspace page to listen to the winning songs!