Looking back on all the shows I've plugged in 2004, I'm not sure I ever mentioned how rad the performance by Akimbo and the Assailant at 2nd Avenue Pizza was this summer. That night, the two bands, running out of time, played head to head, with drum sets facing one another and each band taking a turn for a song. The guitarists were thrashing all over the place and within the first minute, the cramped quarters resulted in injury as Assailant frontman Dick Rhee took a guitar to the eye. He played on like the badass he is, though, with blood dripping down his face and everything.

Usual Underage suspects Kane Hodder, Schoolyard Heroes, Mon Frere, Idiot Pilot, and the Fall of Troy have all been amazing to watch this year as well, as each band has evolved from what they were when I first saw them (a little frazzled, a little new) into what they are now--releasing much-anticipated and well-received records, and playing bigger shows with hundreds of kids dancing their asses off and singing along (as at the Mon Frere CD release show at Vera a few weeks back). But I'll stop there at the risk of getting into a ridiculous "proud mother" moment.

2005 already promises to have some great moments as well, as old favorites continue to polish new material. Schoolyard, for example, will start recording songs in January and plan to release a record soon after, and Hodder are hard at work on a covers album (part of a Suburban Homes Records series) due out this spring. We'll probably see something from the Fall of Troy as well, and Idiot Pilot's full-length rerelease (and major-label debut) may also finally happen... who knows?

If you're yearning for new blood, though, EMP's annual Sound Off! showcase should supply us with yet another crop of great young bands, as nine new artists (to be announced soon) battle it out in February. And already there are a few other local bands starting to catch some quiet but steady buzz. The Look wowed the audience at Graceland last week, along with up and coming singer/songwriter Matthew Shaw, and I hear the Lonely H had an impressive show when they opened for Schoolyard and Alien Crime Syndicate recently as well. The Lonely H beats poppy melodies into a garage-rock base, and while it might take a few listens for singer Mark Fredson's voice to grow on you, I must admit their music is catchy and charming as hell. People are also starting to gush about Slender Means, a new project featuring members of the defunct Problem with Heroes and Bugs in Amber.

And (sadly) 2005 is already seeing its first band fatality. Blue Sky Mile announced last week that their January 7 show at the Paradox will be their last. Who knows what will come from the ashes, however, as all the five guys in the band are extremely passionate and talented (not to mention absolutely hilarious) musicians. So maybe this end will lead to another beginning.

All ages action listings page 53.

megan@thestranger.com