Phoenix Hill, Rough Diamond Music Network Create Opportunity for Local Bands

By Forest Ramsey

On February 3, Phoenix Hill Tavern, in cooperation with Mom's Music, hosted the first show of original local music in the establishment's history. Thanks to the support of the Phoenix Hill staff and the unceasing efforts of the Rough Diamond Music Network, the night was a success that had only been hoped for.

As a member of the first band that night, lfelt very nervous at the prospect of such a show. I was excited to play on that huge stage (which was enlarged for that night), but was unsure what kind of reception such a varied mix of - GASP! - original music might receive at an establishment known for its variety of cover acts. The response was overwhelming! The audience was receptive to all the bands that night and greeted each performance enthusiastically. Whether it was the "Bluegrunge" sound of the Karmadogs, Goodnight Maxine's U2-in1luenced rock, alternative pop by my band, Dr. Smith, or the harder-edged sounds of Dodge City, the crowd was universally appreciative and friendly. The attendance that evening was also impressively large for a Wednesday night. RDMN co-founder Cam Flener, of Velcro Pygmies fame, later remarked that Phoenix Hill hadn't drawn a crowd of that size (250-300 people) on a weekday in recent history.

The entire show was smoothly and professionally organized. The other driving force behind the RDMN, local music critic Bob Bahr, had printed not only exceptional promotional posters for advertising the concert, but some of the best show flyers seen in these parts in quite some time. Bahr and other members of the RDMN who weren't performing that night donated their time to man a booth where local original recordings were for sale, helping to raise the awareness of the music that is available here in Louisville. On-air upport from Duke from WQMF also helped raise awareness of the event and boosted the evening's tumout.

What is more amazing is that the entire show ran almost seamlessly from one band to the next. Each band played for the hour allotted to them and quickly made way for the next act. There were no delays longer than the average set break and each baud came in powerfully, but comfortably, on the Saloon stage. Anyone who has ever tried to run multi-band show knows what a difficult feat that can be, especially when taking into account the diversity of sounds and needs of the various bands.

I feel that it would be unfair to talk about only the organizational aspects of the show, considering that four bands put a lot into the evening. Please pardon me if my review of my band's performance is rather shallow; I don't think that I would be the right person to fairly review it. With that said, let me give you some brief reviews.

As the first act on, we were in a rather tricky position of not knowing what to expect. Our music covers a range from pop rock to country rock to Celtic folk and reggae to post-modern rock and we weren't sure how easy it would be for the audience to relate to what we were doing. The crowd quickly encouraged us and we played one of our most enjoyable (from our perspective) shows to date. We were truly thrilled with how easily everything went on stage and were sorry we had to surrender our place. We weren't sorry for long.

Dodge City was a pleasure to listen to. Their energetic (loud!) rock and roll showed innumerable subtle influences, and came off powerfully. Ranging from crushing guitar to almost haunting alternative/post-modem hard-edged sounds, they varied their set, giving an effective picture of their direction as a band. I hesitate to call them "grunge" because I think it would give too narrow a picture of what this talented band can do. They were an excellent contrast with both our sound and that of Goodnight Maxine who followed them, and kept the audience interested in what they were playing, as well as with what the rest of the night would hold.

Goodnight Maxine came on and immediately impressed everyone with the lushness of their sound. The guitar work was intricate, the vocals commanding, and the rhythm section was tight, adding a great deal of solidity to the ethereal texture established by the guitar. Although they enjoy a good reputation as one of the area's better cover bands, they seemed equally comfortable and confident as they presented their well-crafted originals to an ardent audience. Apparently their experience as a regularly playing cover band had done them well, as theirs was definitely the slickest, most defined sound of the evening. They helped keep a late-night audience, ensuring that the Saloon would still be comfortably full when the last band took the stage.

The last performers to play that evening were the Karmadogs. The white-face makeup they wore puzzled some of the audience at first, but their honest, gritty rock was potent and they quickly added to their already large following. Their set was filled with strong originals and one of the strongest back-beats in recorded history. Strident guitars and the occasional odd time signature defined their sound, a sound that has much more character than a lot of the current hard-edged bands can claim. Forceful and melodic, they were an excellent cap to a full night of good local music.

Overall it was a night of great fun and well worth the $3 admission that the Wednesday-night partiers had to pay at the door.

Phoenix Hill has made a commitment to keep supporting original shows, so please do what you can to make that support well-founded. On the first Wednesday of each month, Rough Diamond, Mom's Music and WQMF will continue to give you the opportunity to hear quality local music in one of the best venues in the area; you owe it to yourself and the bands to take advantage of it.

The original music Wednesdays continue at the Phoenix Hill Tavern on April 7, with Godhead, Shattered Reality, Erchint and Human Remains scheduled to perform.