[Sidebar] The Worcester Phoenix
Sept. 15 - 22, 2000

[Features]

Loco like a fox

Thanks to large crowds and a few success stories, some bands are beginning to see Locobazooka as a viable stepping stone

by Chris Kanaracus

Crowd Shot The first year, it was just a party," says former hair-rocker Dan Hartwell, the promoter behind this Sunday's Locobazooka 2000 concert. We'd have to agree. The show, now in its ninth year, will feature more than 30 local and national rock acts and is expected to attract more than 15,000 to Green Hill Park. Year one, the crowd numbered more like 500. Back then, the event was called Localpalooza (Hartwell changed the name after he was issued a cease-and-desist order by the promoters of the now-defunct Lollapalooza alterna-tour), and was held at the Northboro Fish and Game Club, a quaint venue, to say the least. The "souvenir stands" were a row of rickety card tables, and the headliner was the now-disbanded Worcester rap-core band Bonehead. The "second stage" was in the club lodge.

Over the following six years, the show skipped from home to home, landing at Shore Park, Chooch's in North Brookfield, and finally at Green Hill Park five years ago. Along the way, the crowds got bigger, the sponsors better-heeled, and, perhaps, a few bands got that crucial career bump-up from the gig.

Hartwell, himself no stranger to the rigors of the music business -- in the '80s, under the nickname "Danimal," he fronted several local hard-rock groups, including Cracked Actor and the Noizy Boyz -- is quick to hype his show as a "springboard" for rock acts on the way up. He points to 1998's concert, which featured current super-groups Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, and where local-now-national favorites Godsmack turned in an immortal, fist-pump-worthy set. And Harvard's almost-there Reveille nailed their first contract shortly after the 1998 show.

No doubt the lesser-known acts on this year's bill bought into Locobazooka in the hopes they'll be next. Bought in is the operative phrase; bands buy blocks of Locobazooka tickets to resell in exchange for 15 minutes on stage. The arrangement, although common at other festivals, has garnered Hartwell a fair amount of criticism over the years from local bands, who complain that the system amounts to "pay to play."

Hartwell counters that he sells tickets to bands at a reduced price, which allows the groups to turn a profit. With slightly less bravado, he adds his show allows local bands exposure that they can't get anywhere else. You get the sense, though, he's sick of the subject. "It's old news," he says.

Old news or not, a member of the New Hampshire band

Paging Reality complained about the set-up to Boston's WBCN (104.1 FM), which has run house ads bashing Locobazooka's sponsor, rival WAAF (107.3 FM). In recent days, the flap has dominated between-song chatter on both stations. Not every act objects. Jay Lawn, frontman for Boston rap-metal combo 7th Rail Crew, who played the festival in 1998, says a return to the Locobazooka stage this year was a no-brainer for his band. "Look at Kid Rock. I watched from the side of the stage by the dj, and said `Hey, these guys are pretty cool.' [Kid Rock] had just one song out at that point. Then from there, just look. He blew up. Hopefully, I can tell that kind of story someday. We're looking for this show to catapult us to another level."

Last week, we armed ourselves with a bottle of aspirin and sat down with a small mountain of CDs and promotional materials supplied by some of the bands on this year's bill. Some were okay, others great, and a few? Ehhh. One thing is for sure: if you're over the age of 25, bring earplugs and get some rest the night before. Here's some of what you can expect.




Choreographed chaos

Chaotic Wrestling is a fledgling Boston-based wrestling promotion, that, like so many of Locobazooka's out-of-the-woodwork music acts, is scrambling for attention.

The oft-maligned but undeniably fun art-form of professional wrestling is currently at a popular peak. WWF stars such as the Rock and Triple H earn millions of dollars a year and have moved beyond the ring into TV commercials, network talk shows, and even feature films.

But these guys didn't get there overnight. Most of the pseudo-sport's superstars had to start at the bottom, in the seedy world of independent wrestling promotions. There are no sold-out arenas on wrestling's so-called "indy circuit." Instead, grapplers pay their dues before modest crowds in armory buildings, high-school gyms, and even campgrounds for as little as $20 a night. Sometimes, they don't get anything.

Echoing bands like 7th Rail Crew, seven-year wrestling veteran Draven, 24 (born Vincent Ratte -- Draven took his ring moniker from the title character of 1994's The Crow) sees his match at Locobazooka as a chance to reach a wider audience. Draven performs for Chaotic Wrestling and about a dozen other promotions as one half of a goth-themed tag team called the Damned. On average, the Rhode Islander works about 120 times each year in venues from Maine to Pennsylvania.

"I've wrestled for five people and for 2000. It's just part of the work ethic. No matter how many people are there, I always give them my best possible match." Of course, when he and his partner Mad Dog face high-flying Kid Krazy and suave Derek Destiny at Locobazooka, it'll be before 15,000 fans, a point not lost on Draven. "This is a huge opportunity. We're going to go all out."

--C.K.

Apartment 26

These four grinders are enjoying a radio push (perhaps aided by singer/moaner Biff's dad, Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath fame) but may have trouble distinguishing themselves from the pack with their electronica-charged, galloping batch of neo-metal tunes. Nothing too risky here. The riffs are nothing new and the hooks are few. Liner-note watchers will find this band's lyrics more intelligent than most, however.

Closer Than Kin

Ferocious punk attitude and riffs, but with a growling, Pantera-like bottom end. Recalls hardcore favorites Bane, except with more melody. This is straight-ahead, tight, frenetic stuff.

Days of the New

Days of the New This dark, acoustic-guitar-driven band, led by Morrison-esque wunderkind Travis Meeks, made quite a splash in 1996 with their self-titled debut album (Outpost). The track "Touch, Peel, and Stand" was the longest-charting number-one rock track ever, and the record went double platinum. Not bad? Well, Meeks promptly fired his band after that and reappeared in 1999 with another self-titled record -- this time dabbling with techno, metal, and even classical forms. Meeks's profile has been low in recent months, but count on him and his newest crew to provide a (comparatively) soothing capper to the day's loudness.

Disturbed

This Chicago foursome may have won the hearts of MTV and hard-rock radio, but they also score the prize for most unoriginal metal-band name. Regardless, Their winning sonic combination shows a definite touch of anthem-metal -- think Iron Maiden or Queensryche's Geoff Tate -- and plenty of chugg, but with a neat electronica vibe that scampers deliciously around the edges of their songs' bombastic arrangements. Crazed vocalist David Draiman moves strikingly -- and, at times, quite annoyingly -- between alarmed babble-rapping and a skewed sense of melody. And should Disturbed fall prematurely out of favor with the WAAF crowd (as, truth be told, is definitely possible) guitarist David Donegan will likely hang his nose rings somewhere safe. He's a monstrous talent.

Dope

These LA horror-ish grinders have slowly, surely, and inexplicably built a solid following, which they'll no doubt keep as long as Marilyn Manson remains in seclusion. We never thought we'd say this, but: come on back, Marilyn, we miss you.

Downtrodden

Metallic hardcore from Nashua, New Hampshire, with emphatic, bell-clear baritone vocals, backed up with low, churning guitars that suggest a sack full of muzzled rattlesnakes. Downtrodden are a group with their eyes cast on the role of dynamic-range in metal. On every cut on the band's self-released Delusions of Grandeur, there's a distinct ceiling-floor differential at play. Smart. One to watch.




Locobazooka schedule

This year, 34 bands will perform on three separate stages.

FYI: Many sets will overlap.

Loco Stage (main stage #1)

10 a.m. Capitol Seven

10:30 a.m. Change of System

11:00 a.m. Twisted

11:30 a.m. T-House of the Almighty

Noon 7th Rail Crew

12:30 p.m. Loose Monkey

2:10 p.m. Ultraspank

3:10 p.m. P.O.D.

4:20 p.m. Disturbed

5:30 p.m. Days of the New

Bazooka Stage (main stage #2)

10:15 a.m. Stillbourne

10:45 a.m. Downtrodden

11:15 a.m. Twisted

11:45 a.m. Mantra

12:15 p.m. Drop 360

12:50 p.m. Children of the Korn

1:40 p.m. Cold

2:40 p.m. Apartment 26

3:50 p.m. Dope

5 p.m. One Minute Silence

Future of Rock Stage

10 a.m. Nameless Fear

10:20 a.m. Violate

10:40 a.m. Paging Reality

11 a.m. Raymond

11:20 a.m. Malevolence

11:40 a.m. Labb

Noon Breeding Ground

12:20 p.m. Red Mercury

12:40 p.m. Head Rush

1 p.m. Gage

1:20 p.m. The Orange

1:40 p.m. Rebound

2 p.m. Closer Than Kin

2:20 p.m. Liquid Gang

Drop 360

This hard-working Brockton-based crew take the melodic rap-and-rock path carved out by acts like Shootyz Groove and run it through today's Korn/Godsmack/Deftones wringer. On their recent, self-titled EP, vocalists Rob McIntyre and Mike Reardon spar in good-cop/bad-cop fashion to invigorating effect, while the rest of the group manage to play a few riffs that this weathered genre has yet to beat to death. No word, though, whether or not the disc's barnstorming production values will transfer over to Locobazooka's stage.

Malevolence

This New Hampshire-via-Tulsa foursome call their music "funk-metal fusion." To us, it sounds more like gloomy speed metal performed by a cyborg-like drummer, a surprisingly slap-happy bassist (there's the funk!), and a guitarist who pays constant squealified homage to Pantera's Dimebag Darrell. The group's self-titled disc is a touch ponderous at times, but is tightly performed and genuinely ferocious.

One Minute Silence

One Minute Silence This British sensation's current hit single "Fish Out of Water" is catchy enough, but generic in comparison to the leonine, razor's-edge guitar grooves and masterful drumming that mark the remainder of One Minute Silence's second album Buy Now . . . Saved Later (V2). Overall, the band have a knack for finding the ebb-and-flow paradigm that's imperative to good, non-thrash metal and should induce roiling with ease during their afternoon set. And when the day's moshing is through, perhaps fans will take time to contemplate the many informed political and social themes explored in the band's lyrics.

Paging Reality

Call them Salem, New Hampshire metallurgists with a spacy bent. Their Web site boasts of an upcoming gig with faded '80s rockers Slaughter -- a dubious honor, indeed. Good thing their own CD, Issues, is slightly more modern and actually listenable.

P.O.D

We have to admit it. When we first saw P.O.D's video for "Southtown" enter heavy rotation on MTV, we scratched our heads. A more generic rap/metal song simply couldn't be written. Then we peered a little deeper into the many phat riffs, the ghetto-honed angst, and non-preachy Christian attitude on the group's Fundamental Elements of Southtown (Atlantic) and realized we had jumped to conclusions. Look for P.O.D.'s searing, amazingly dead-on cover of U2's "Bullet the Blue Sky" as a set highlight.

Stillbourne

They may be young (average age 17) but the seven-member Stillbourne are heavy beyond their years. Their self-released disc, Trials, mines turf favored by aggro-happy mooks such as Messhuggah, and there's even a dash of Isis-like noisecore in there. Such anger. The group also boast one of Locobazooka's few female performers in guitarist Nicole. No word if she plays de facto school-marm to this Slipknot for the junior-high set.

T-House of the Almighty

This Randolph-based band are a mishmash of every late-'80s early-'90s style. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though: their self-titled 1999 EP is Bud-fueled cock rock at its finest. To their credit, the boys make use of lighter material to go with the gruff stuff, especially on the Rage-meets-Chili Peppers "H.W.P." Mostly, though, expect mosh-tastic fodder like the rock-stupid "Jump in the Mud," which is currently enjoying limited radio airplay.

And so on

Other bands on the bill include Mantra, Labb, groove-rockers Loose Monkey, Capitol Seven, Rebound, the Orange, Change of System, Gage, Nameless Fear, Seventeen, Head Rush, Raymond, Violate, and Twisted. And between sets, the Big Nazo Puppet Troupe will wander through to entertain the crowd, and Boston-based Chaotic Wrestling will offer a few bodyslams to go with all those booming beats (see sidebar).

Seth Gitell can be reached at sgitell@phx.com.


| home page | what's new | search | about the phoenix | feedback |
Copyright © 2000 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group. All rights reserved.