This Friday, we gather in the name of local music to ring in the 26th year of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, inaugurated in 1993 by the now-defunct Spectrum Weekly and handed over to the Arkansas Times in 1997. Past winners have included Ho-Hum, Ashtray Babyhead, Big Cats, Runaway Planet, The Salty Dogs, Hannah Blaylock and Eden’s Edge, 607, Velvet Kente, Brother Andy & His Big Damn Mouth, Tyrannosaurus Chicken, Holy Shakes, Ghost Bones, The Uh Huhs, Dazz & Brie and something called Grandpa’s Goodtime Fandango that, without evidence to the contrary, we’ll all just have to trust was an actual band and not a fledgling brand of instant lemonade mix.
We hope the 2018 showcase turned some local listeners on to music they might not have heard otherwise; DeFrance fans marveling at Mortalus’ shredding, the Sabine Valley crowd marveling at the ominous onslaught of Crankbait’s demon guitars, all of us marveling at the sheer amount of loud that All the Way Korean makes with drum, bass and vocals. Our judges — Robert Locke, vocalist for the Los Angeles-based band Farmikos, and also co-owner and founder of Shindig Music, an online guide to music entertainment for Arkansas and the Mid-South; Sarah Woolf, dedicated local music fan and creator of Follow the Woolf; Dazzmin (Dazz) Murry, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter in Dazz & Brie and The Emotionalz and master of the hard crouch; and Brie Boyce, the “Brie” vocal powerhouse half of Dazz & Brie, last year’s showcase champions — have narrowed the contenders down to five bands: four that won their respective rounds and one runner-up “wild card,” the top scorer in the pool of remaining semifinalists. Joined by guest judge Bob Tarren, chief marketing officer for Murphy Arts District and El Dorado Festivals & Events and shepherded by emcee Traci Berry, the finalists will battle it out starting at 8 p.m. Friday, March 9, at Rev Room.
The winner’s prizes: cold hard cash, an in-studio showcase at Capitol View Studio, a live spot at Patio on Park Hill 2018, a live spot at the Arkansas State Fair Bud Light Pavilion, a live spot at Musicfest El Dorado, a live spot at a reinvented Riverfest, a live spot at Low Key Arts’ Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival in Hot Springs, a Thursday Night Live performance at Griffin Restaurant in El Dorado, eight hours of artist development at The Hive Studio, a PRS SE 245 Standard 22 Electric Guitar from Sunrise Guitars and more.
Here’s a snapshot of the five bands and their answers to these questions: Help us understand where you come from, musically, by answering this, what three songs would you put on a playlist alongside one of your own? Name something nonmusical that would pair well with your band’s sound — a book, a movie, a city, a piece of art, cocktail, a garment, an animal, a pizza topping, etc.
COUCH JACKETS (Brennan Leeds, Ben Eslick, Hunter Law, Harry Glaeser): Songs in multiple movements; theremin, ballpark organ and tinkly celeste sounds from the synth over funky stoner licks.
Check out: The video for “Rocket Quaffle” on YouTube.
On a playlist with: “Unknown Mortal Orchestra” by Jello and Juggernauts, “STRFKR” by Kahlil Gibran, “Chamber of Reflection” by Mac Demarco.
Pairs well with: Neon green water guns and “Spy Kids 3-D.”
JAMIE LOU & THE HULLABALOO (Jamie Connolly, Garrett Brolund, Matt White, Tim Pelton, Anthony Oswalt): Crescendoing, expansive rock with a frontwoman who summons “a lilting Judy Garland to full-on Joplin-esque wild child within the same song.”
Check out: The unplugged version of the band with the fireside “High Road” on YouTube.
On a playlist with: “Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; “High and Dry” by Radiohead; “Muzzle of Bees” by Wilco.
Pairs well with: Pineapple.
RECOGNIZER (Mike Mullins, Michael Mullens, J. Flatte, Steven Cook): Crunchy Foo Fighters-y rock for guitar pedal nerds.
Check out: The video for “License to Kill” on YouTube.
On a playlist with: “Temporarily Blind” by Built To Spill, “Room A Thousand Years Wide” by Soundgarden, “Toska” by Minus The Bear.
Pairs well with: A Mandelbrot set.
THE RIOS (Hayden Harrington, Brandon “Bear” Alanis, Brian Batterton, William Glover): The soundtrack to a “Dance Dance Revolution” tournament thrown by Gorillaz and James Jamerson and the Funk Brothers.
Check out: The video for “What I Need” on YouTube.
On a playlist with: The majority of our sound is influenced by the Motown records. I believe some of the best recordings to exist rooted from that place. But besides that, “I Like It” by DeBarge, “1999” by Prince and “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” by Nina Simone.
Pairs well with: Somebody called it “furniture music.” So we will go with that.
SABINE VALLEY (Mayra Valezquez, Oliver Powell, Favi Alba, Will Caig): Liz Phair aggro from a surprisingly young quartet with a live wire of a frontwoman whose energy occupies every square foot of the stage.
Check out: “The Temple” on YouTube (audio only).
On a playlist with: “Crockpot” by Slothrust, “The View from the Afternoon” by Artic Monkeys and “Breed” by Nirvana.
Pairs well with: Colors. Each song has a different color.