Ballard Boosts SXSW

More often than I'd like to hear, when people get sick and tired of everyone on Capitol Hill knowing everyone else's business, including who has a crush on whom, who slept with whose ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, who's got crabs, who's on a power trip, who gets drunk and dippy dials, who fell off the wagon, who's addicted to Robitussin, who doesn't have any goddamn valium, who got their car towed away, who's doing the walk of shame or having an uncomfortable morning-after breakfast at Linda's, who's emptying a tube sock full of change into the Coinstar machine at QFC, who's eating at Taco Bell--whenever people get sick and tired of everyone on Capitol Hill watching each other's lives like it's an episode of The Young and the Restless, they often throw up their arms and say, "I'm sick of this shit and I'm MOVING TO BALLARD." A destination where, except for maybe at the Sunset, the coke-packed beaks of hipsters don't become imbedded in the beeswax of others. Or do they?

The reason I've brought this up is because of the many fine and diverse rock bands who were nominated for a chance to be one of four acts to win $2,000 in traveling expenses from this paper so they could go down to Austin and play a renegade showcase put on by The Stranger at next month's South by Southwest music conference, as well as a show here at the Showbox March 8. On the candidate list, the punk rock was represented by A-Frames and the Spits, Broadcast Oblivion, the Charming Snakes, and Rotten Apples; Once for Kicks stumped for power pop; harder rock was served by the grungy Alta May, the boogie-laden Shuggie, and the angular post-punk of New Mexicans; the mopey, more sensitive angst came from the Terror Sheets and the Turn-Ons; and the No Depression sound had the popish Sanford Arms, the rootsy Memphis Radio Kings, and tear-in-your-beer rustic rockers Radio Nationals at its service.

Some bands traded singles for votes, others had ballots next to cash registers where the trendy buy discarded clothes, a couple set up campaigns in rock clubs, and a few turned the whole contest into a neighborhood party. Who won? Two country rockers (Memphis Radio Kings, Radio Nationals), a grunge band featuring a former member of the Fluid (Alta May), and a reverb-drenched former glam band (the Turn-Ons). Fans of Stevie Ray Vaughan wannabes the Jude Bowerman Band nearly hijacked the whole contest by stuffing collection boxes with their write-in candidate ballots, but we weren't accepting any write-ins from anyone. Congratulations to Ye Olde Towne for making its votes count, congratulations to grunge flame-holders Alta May, and good on ya to the Turn-Ons.

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Congratulations of a different sort are in order for Black Nite Crash, whose demo caught the eye of Neil Finn as he played to a packed Showbox on Sunday, February 16. Finn picked up the demo that had been placed near his feet, instructed the sound tech to play it, and when he found the tune "Skin" to his liking, he and his band began to play along. Afterward, he announced the band's name and even did a country-twanged version of "Skin." See Black Nite Crash for yourself when they join other fans of the late, great shoegazer band Ride on Thursday, February 20, at the Crocodile.