Random acts

Of note

Granola Punk Express? In a very unusual musical development, Adam Strange and Cricket of local hip-hop powerhouse Granola Funk Express have recently announced a new side project: a punk band called Medicine, with former Blue Rags members Mike Rhodes and Bill Reynolds. The group expects to be performing gigs as early as next month, and is currently recording its debut album at Collapseable Studios in West Asheville. For more information on the project, e-mail Adam Strange at gfestrange@hotmail.com.

Third’s the charm Local alt-rockers Senatobia have recently announced plans to record a new CD. The currently-untitled album will be the group’s third full-length recording, and though there’s no word yet on a release date for the effort, it’s probably safe to expect the album by summer 2003. For more information on the group, visit Senatobia’s Web site at www.dogflower.com/senatobia.

Front-row reviews

What: AIDS fund-raiser/Battle of The Bands featuring Unscathed, F.N.P. and The Band Geek Mafia

Where: Cool World

When: Friday, Dec. 6

It was Teen Night at Cool World, and the big event was a Battle of the Bands — a fund-raiser and awareness-raising event for World AIDS Day. But given that half the night’s mission was to educate teens about AIDS and STDS, the audience was unfortunately being addressed as though each member had substantial brain damage.

“Listen up! Listen up, please! If everyone will be quiet, we can start.” That was MTV employee and former Asheville resident Brian Turner, talking to a room full of paying, well-behaved, nondrinking patrons like they were complete idiots. No wonder teens across America loathe adults.

It was a great relief when Unscathed, the evening’s first band, finally took the stage. Until a few months ago, Unscathed was composed of three talented young rock and metal musicians backing charismatic lead vocalist Matt Robinson, who left the group a few months back to restart his old band, F.N.P. And as Unscathed members set up on the makeshift stage behind the green-yellow black-light glow of the raised second-tier handrails, it was already apparent that some of the band’s musical magic had slipped away.

Their current sound, as fronted by new lead singer Daniel Martin, is a slightly unstable mix of head-snapping nu-metal and moody emo. In other words, they sound like any other post-high-school band trying to sound like a harder, mosh-pit-ready version of Creed. Still, the crowd was largely with them; moshing occurred even during the slower songs.

Next up was F.N.P., the group that former Unscathed members Robinson, Chris Gorglione and Troy “Fat Tony” Russell went on to form with players from other local bands. I wish I could say Robinson’s vocals and stage presence carried the show, but they didn’t. F.N.P.’s set was a high-energy musical mess that was only moderately fun to watch, highlights such as Russell’s considerable guitar skills notwithstanding. Stylistically, the music never strayed from mid-career Metallica — which is far preferable to most nu-metal, but still not what these guys are capable of if they really set their minds to it.

No one knew much about the last competitors, though everyone, by now, knew their name: The Band Geek Mafia. By ten seconds into their set, the group’s layered sound — a metal-style bassist and guitarist, a trumpet, a trombone and ska-flavored vocals, all over the top of kicking rock ‘n’ roll drums — more than made up for the rest of the lackluster evening.

The Band Geek Mafia actually seemed to have some idea how to keep a song interesting, changing tempos and arranging intricate horn and drum solos, which is quite novel for a group still in high school. Granted, there wasn’t much moshing, the traditional gauge for high-school-crowd reactions; but the floor was packed — with both boys and girls both white and black, all dancing — throughout the band’s entire set.

But, alas, the crowd didn’t really get it after all. “Voting” was decided via money deposited in a bucket during each set. Considering that popularity is one of the few things that still rules high school, and that Unscathed was, for a short time this summer, the hottest high-school band in Asheville, their win really came as no surprise. Strangely, the only band to totally fill the floor — The Band Geek Mafia — came in last.

First prize was a guaranteed slot at an upcoming event, Summer Jam 2003, which gives Unscathed several months to work the kinks out of their new setup. F.N.P. won a future gig at Cool World, and The Band Geek Mafia’s third-place prize was two-for-one recording time at Big Creek Music in Barnardsville. All the groups won a variety of gift certificates, mostly for pizza, which — if I correctly recall my time as a teenager — will be well used in future days.

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