Random acts

Of note

The Doctor Is Way In. MerleFest 2004, the 17th-annual festival honoring the music of Doc Watson and his late son, Merle, broke attendance records two weeks ago: An estimated 82,500 festival-goers converged on the Wilkes Community College campus in Wilkesboro on April 29-May 2. See www.merlefest.org for details.

Doorstep Delivery. According to the group’s Web site, Paperboy‘s debut album, Pop Rocks and Soda, should be available sometime this month. Asheville’s self-described “power pop/new wave punk” four-piece released their four-song debut Only on the Outside late last year. See www.paperboytheband.com.

Front-row reviews

Who: The Goodies (w/Stephanie’s Id)
Where: Stella Blue
When: Saturday, May 1

Experiencing The Goodies at Stella Blue, I repeatedly entertained the same question: Why weren’t they the group to break the Asheville music scene wide open?

A band this diabolically talented should have busted straight outta Asheville in 1995, gotten immediately signed and then quickly etched their super-charged theatrics into the country’s consciousness.

But they didn’t. Despite a handful of good recordings (particularly their excellent 1997 full-length debut, Greatest Hits), loyal pockets of fans in the Southeast (especially in Atlanta, where two-thirds of the trio are currently based), and their reputation for putting on thrilling live shows, The Goodies never took off.

By rights, they should be selling out The Orange Peel. Instead they half-fill Stella Blue.

There are some legitimate reasons that Goodies front man Holiday Childress has never become the rock star he so obviously could be — for instance, the birth of his child, which contributed to a short-lived Goodies hiatus in 1999.

On stage, Childress continues to suggest, in all the best ways, a mad scientist’s fusion of David Lee Roth, Freddie Mercury and every demented circus ringleader you’ve ever had nightmares about. Childress’ voice jumps from a cold demon’s growl to an angel’s falsetto, while his guitar work arcs like lightning to the rest of the band — bassist Patrick Kelly and drummer Michael W. Allen. The sparks created rain down and threaten to ignite everything they touch.

Don’t get me wrong: The Goodies aren’t reinventing rock. In songs “Freaks” and “Plastic,” for instance, they’re simply smelting the sonic ore they’ve mined from Van Halen, Queen, Prince, Dire Straits and Devo, and offering up a new alloy.

More Rocky Horror Picture Show than rock-‘n’-roll, Childress gets carried away with his operatic showmanship on songs like the vampire-themed “Cranberry Lips.” Even the band’s covers — such as, believe it or not, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” — are epochal.

With Chuck Lichtenberger (of Stephanie’s Id) sitting in on keys, The Goodies put on a nearly flawless show May 1, the kind that makes you think they could easily mop the floor with almost any other rock group — national or local.

So why didn’t they break the local scene wide open in their heyday?

Who knows?

Virtual Battle of the Bands

Vote for your favorite band in each set of two below by sending an e-mail to unknowncity@hotmail.com, with “Battle of the Bands” in the subject line. To check out each of these local acts’ music, visit the suggested online sites. Winners will be announced in the June 2 edition of Random Acts.

Round 1 — Best Alt-Retro Rock: Fantastic Life vs. Senatobia. Visit www.senatobiamusic.net and www.fantasticlifemusic.com.

Round 2 — Best Odd Rock: Reductio Ad Absurdum vs. Dig Shovel Dig. Visit www.digshoveldig.com and www.artists.iuma.com/IUMA/Bands/Reductio_Ad_Absurdum.

Round 3 — Roots Rock Grudge Match: Black Eyed Dog vs. Wayne Robbins & The Hellsayers. Visit www.blackeyeddog.com and www.goodluckcricket.com.

Round 4 — Best Schlock-Rock Shtick: Crank County Daredevils vs. Monsters of Japan. Visit www.monstersofjapan.com and www.crankcountydaredevils.com.

Round 5 — Titan of Tranquility: Benjammin’ vs. Michael Farr. Visit www.bjbmusic.com and www.iamthankful.com.

The Main EventThe Blue Rags vs. Scrappy Hamilton. (Search amazon.com or any other major online record store for music).

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