I wasn’t around for the beginning of the Musicians Showcase a decade ago, but I’ve got to think that the decision to call it the “Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase” as opposed to something like the “Arkansas Times Battle of the Bands,” spoke to a desire to host a contest that showed off local talent in all its diversity, local acts the community didn’t know about, but should.
Our line-up last year fit that criteria, I think, but if people didn’t know a lot of the participants, it was because they weren’t following local music at all. This year, I believe our talent pool is just as rich (or richer), but it’s filled with a lot of bands even the most ardent follower of local music might not have seen. So make plans to come out; there’s bound to be plenty of surprises.
Here’s the lowdown: Over the next five weeks — one Friday, three Thursdays and another Friday — 20 semi-finalists (four each week), selected from scores of entrants from across the state, compete at Sticky Fingerz to advance to the final round, to be held Friday, March 6, at Revolution.
Each week the four permanent judges below and one guest judge will grade the semi-finalists on song quality, originality and, to a lesser extent, musicianship and showmanship. Make sure you read Rock Candy online for results.
The first night kicks off at 9 p.m. Friday with …
Frown Pow’r. Mostly from Arkadelphia, but based now in Little Rock, the young foursome specializes in a raucous blend of backwoods folk and garage noise. All the musicians, who in addition to typical drums and guitars also play banjo, electric mandolin and Theremin, count “stomping” as one of their duties. Look for the group’s debut full-length, tentatively titled “Ricky Record 1,” in the near future on Thick Syrup Records.
Velvet Kente. One of the ever-shifting performance names for local composer joshua. (he keeps his last name for himself in music), who after creating a local buzz in ’06 and ’07, dropped off the local scene last year. He wasn’t in hibernation. He gigged in places like Kansas City, Memphis and Nashville and lent an infectious Afrobeat track to “Project Runway’s” Korto Momolu for Bryant Park. He’ll be backed on Friday by a full band, including Afrodesia’s Tim Anthony.
Magic Hassle. During down time, American Princes David Slade and Matt Quin started piddling with this side project almost a year ago, but only in the last couple of months, with the addition of Ryan “Straw” Britton on bass and Eric Morris on guitar, has the band really become a band. They’ve got a three-song tour EP, which they’ll probably sell you, and they hope to put something else out, maybe a split EP, in the not too distant future. File under smart, punchy indie rock.
Jordan Atwater. Still perhaps known more for her music video work (Epiphany, Elise Davis, Rockst*r), the local multi-talent launched her solo musical career — and her album, “Emotional Intelligence” — early last year with an elaborate song-and-dance-and-video-and-full-band blowout at Windsong. She’ll likely offer a condensed version, which still runs the gamut from rock to R&B, on Friday.
UPCOMING SHOWCASE SCHEDULE
Feb. 5: Whale Fire, Nik and Sam, Gina Gee, Loch Ness Monster.
Feb. 12: Four on the Floor, Style Guide (formerly Bad Balance), the See, Sean West.
Feb. 19: Midwest Caravan, Rockst*r, Good Time Ramblers, the Chicklettes.
Feb. 27: The Weisenheimers, Jonathan Wilkins, Riverboat Crime, Apples and Spades.
Who? Singer/songwriter, producer, jingle writer.
Claim to fame. Exploiting the dot.com boom, co-writing and producing everything Boondogs, composing that “Keep Arkansas Beautiful,” song.
Who? Local music critic.
Claim to fame. Contributing to Localist, Oxford American, American Songwriter.
Little known fact. A Britney Spears look-alike contest in high school won her an autographed photo and front row seats at Alltel.
Who? Last year’s winner.
Claim to fame. Surely he’s Little Rock’s finest rapper. If you doubt it, check out “Pressure, Part Two” on his latest album, “Mirrors of Time.” It’s his 31st.
Up next. International fame.
Claim to fame. Playing bass in Ashtray Babyhead, producing most everyone in town in his Wolfman Studios.
Up next. Producing the next big local album.
Joey Lucas guest judge
Who? Record store owner.
Claim to fame. The newly opened Circa ’76 record store at 1910 W. Third, a spot that aims to be the hub for local music.
Up next. Expanding his fledgling store.