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Make room for the BADASS music issue!

Featuring hardcore legends, guitar heroes, scene-builders, wild jazzmen, useful info, one intimidating dude and a ukelele

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The new face of Beauty Bar. If you’ve got a themed-night concept, Garcia is willing to listen.
Photo: Bill Hughes
Edited by Spencer Patterson

Badass Downtown Entrepreneur: Joe Garcia

The man operating the Las Vegas Beauty Bar says he never once dreamt about running a club. Even when Bree Blumstein, longtime GM for the Downtown hot spot, left for LA last fall, sound man Joe Garcia didn’t figure on a promotion … until Blumstein’s East Coast replacement came and went in a matter of days, prompting Beauty Bar owner Paul Devitt to look in-house for a long-term solution. “It just kind of fell into place,” Garcia, 29, says, some four months into his unplanned managerial gig. “I’m a good problem-solver, so for the most part it’s actually been sort of fun.”

Of course, taking the reins of an entertainment venue at the height of the nation’s great recession can’t have been easy, but Garcia insists Beauty Bar is doing just fine. “Winter was surprisingly okay,” he says, “and I’m expecting things to pick up even more now that it’s spring. You just have to be creative.”

Garcia certainly is that. Already, he’s established a happy hour—complete with live music and retro board games like Connect Four and Battleship—at the typically later-night hangout, brought in high-end craft beers to go with the traditional cans of PBR and started up a host of themed nights featuring everything from roller skating to swing dancing. “I’m open to everything,” Garcia says. And though he doesn’t run sound most nights anymore, Garcia hasn’t neglected his first love. The Beauty Bar recently installed a new sound system (“a 20,000-watt turbo rig,” he calls it) for its backyard patio stage, with noticeably improved results.

Still, don’t look for Garcia to get behind the board on a permanent basis anytime soon; his new gig has him reevaluating his future. “My original goal was to walk into Madison Square Garden and produce a multimedia show there,” he says. “Now, I want to make Beauty Bar the greatest place I can, to keep doing this as long as I’m allowed to. And then someday, I’d like to open my own place, my own, new thing.” –Spencer Patterson

Badass Hardcore Legends: Faded Grey

Who they were: five ebullient guys in their mid-20s, screaming about change, emotion and the problems of the world; backed by a small but unified scene, their throwback hardcore punk woke up a sleepy Vegas underground. Singer Lance Wells, guitarist Shay Mehrdad, bassist Mike Rosati and drummer Ryan Butler—bandmates in Tomorrow’s Gone—rerecorded a well-received demo of old songs, and Faded Grey was officially born.

Choke on it: Faded Grey's Lance Wells shows a lucky fan the real meaning of hardcore.

Choke on it: Faded Grey's Lance Wells shows a lucky fan the real meaning of hardcore.

When and where they played: From 1998 to 2002, Faded Grey gigged everywhere from houses to record stores, touring nationally and, eventually, establishing a de facto residency at then-Maryland Parkway venue Tremorz. “Our drummer was booking shows there at the time, so he’d throw us on,” says second guitarist Joe Schoser, who joined the original foursome in 2000. “It was like we were playing there every week.”

Why they mattered: “Vegas’ music scene goes in cycles,” Wells explains. “And in the mid-’90s the scene had just gone through a really violent time.” Brutal fights and skinhead attacks were commonplace in the 1990s. And then Faded Grey arrived, establishing and energizing a loyal fan base. “We connected with certain people,” Schoser says, and that connection—be it through Wells’ lyrics or Mehrdad’s shredding—struck a chord that still resonates, particularly in Vegas’ growing progressive-hardcore scene. “The scene was hungry for something more,” Rosati says. “And we were there to give it to them.”

Why they stopped: In 2001, the band released its only full-length album, the 11-song A Quiet Time of Desperation, on influential hardcore label Indecision Records, then embarked on a 60-day tour across America.

When Faded Grey returned, things were different. “We were all just going in separate directions,” Rosati says. Family and school pressures began to mount as the members approached their 30s, and a search to replace Butler behind the drums proved difficult. Plus, Rosati adds, “We got lazy. We had more than accomplished everything we wanted to do, so by mid-2002, we knew [it was over].” The band played its final show at the Hammer House in December 2002. “It was a great way to go out,” Wells says. “We started our group in a house show, and we ended it in a junkyard. I can think of nothing more perfect for our band.” (Footage from Faded Grey’s second-to-last show is available at Youtube.com.)

Where they are now: Wells and Rosati still live in Las Vegas; Rosati sells fine jewelry to celebrities at Wynn, while Wells is an active-duty firefighter paramedic in North Las Vegas. Mehrdad left Vegas with his wife in 2004; they reside in LA, where he is a web developer by day and a budding video-game-music composer by night. Schoser studies law in Portland; he plans to enter the field of human-rights law. Faded Grey has not performed together since a sold-out 2005 reunion show at the Roadhouse. “We had been done more than two years; it was amazing to see so many people still cared,” Mehrdad says. “Kids and fans went apeshit over us. That was cool.” –Aaron Thompson

Badass Music TV: Abita Springs Opry

Cox Channel 4, the Clark County public-access station, is good for things like government meetings, profiles of public-works departments and information about road construction. Oh, and a little something called the Abita Springs Opry, a bizarre dispatch from a small town in Louisiana, where the eponymous organization dedicates itself to preserving Southern roots music with periodic concerts held in the town hall of tiny Abita Springs.

Exactly why these performances are broadcast in Las Vegas is a mystery; they’re peppered with announcements about local Abita Springs businesses, shot with the finesse of a high-school A/V club and booked with acts ranging from the charmingly offbeat to the entertainingly amateurish. Still, these musicians, who look mostly like geometry teachers, occasionally pull off some pretty impressive renditions of bluegrass and old-time country and blues standards (along with a few originals). And the novelty of seeing what is essentially a community production from the rural South on TV in Vegas is worth at least a few minutes of your time before you change the channel in mild disbelief. –Josh Bell

Badass Instrument: Ukulele

Last week I bought a ukulele book and gift set off the Barnes & Noble discount rack.

With the economy receding and my anxiety booming, could I really afford not to learn to play the mellow mini-guitar for just $29.95?

J. W. Oswald, the musician who wrote the 80-page accompanying instructional book, calls the ukulele “the fun-size Snickers of the fretted-string community,” and his metaphor doesn’t end there: “Much like the hunger that remains after the miniscule serving of chocolate, peanuts and caramel, you’ll be starving for more than just a pluck of the instrument responsible for some of the most distinguishable tones in the music world.”

Problem was, I didn’t get a single pluck in; two of the metal strings snapped as I was tuning them. It wasn’t my fault; the ukulele was a piece of made-in-China garbage—and I say that with all due respect to the People’s Republic’s honorable sanitation department and all that they handle.

“I’ve never even seen metal strings on a cheap soprano ukulele like that before,” the Town Square Guitar Center salesman told me. “And there’s no tuning gears on the head, so the strings are pretty much begging to be snapped. Look at this uke here”—he pulled a Hilo brand ukulele out of the glass case in the Acoustic Room—“it’s the cheapest one we’ve got, but it’s still got a 16-to-one-ratio tuning gear. That means if you turn the gear 16 millimeters, the string tightens just one. Give it a try.”

The salesman set the Hilo in my hands, and five minutes later I was standing at the cash register buying it. I also purchased an extra set of clear fluorocarbon strings for a total of $50. I drove the instrument home, logged onto UkuleleSongs.com and found the chords for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I set my laptop on the couch next to me, positioned the ukulele between my chest and right forearm, and taught myself to play C, F, A minor, E minor and G7.

This is where things get fuzzy. I remember being awakened by a phone call from my girl, but not what happened right before. I actually put myself to sleep attempting the classic Judy Garland ballad. I suspect I had some sort of narcoleptic Pavlovian response to the word “lullaby.” But considering I bought the ukulele to relieve stress, I can’t complain. –Rick Lax

Badass Hip-Hop Radio Show: Word Up

A hip-hop show doesn’t stay on the radio for 21 years by getting too high or too low when things change. So when station management at KUNV 91.5-FM approached longtime Word Up hip-hop show host Roy “Five Eight” Leon about moving off his longtime, prime Saturday-night slot (8 p.m. to midnight) to make way for a ’50s/’60s ragtime program, he didn’t flip out. “They just wanted to switch things around,” Leon says. “They thought [the old-time show] could bring in a bigger audience.”

Apparently not. Sixteen months after switching to Fridays, Word Up is back on Saturdays, carrying forth what could well be Las Vegas’ longest-lasting independent radio show.

Launched in 1988 by local hip-hop kingpin Warren Peace, Word Up has provided an outlet for the long-under-repped local scene. Leon, whose stints as host have spanned from 1992 through ’97 and 2000 to the present, sees the show’s mission as getting the word out about little-known groups within and beyond Vegas’ borders. “There’s a lot of young and great underground artists coming out,” Leon says. “That’s what this show has always been about.” –Aaron Thompson

Badass Composer: Frank Klepacki

Can we come over? Klepacki, in his home studio.

Can we come over? Klepacki, in his home studio.

Frank Klepacki toiled for years as the drummer in local bands Area 51, Shatterbone, I AM and Home Cookin’, trying to achieve music-industry success, and now millions of people hear his music on a regular basis. But none of his bands ever signed a record deal or toured arenas or had their music sold in stores worldwide. In fact, his current project, The Bitters, still just gigs around town occasionally. The music that’s been heard by millions is on the soundtracks to popular video games, including the Command & Conquer series, Blade Runner and a number of Star Wars games.

Klepacki, 34, has been composing music for games since just after graduating high school, when he joined now-defunct local game-development company Westwood Studios. Starting with his first game, DragonStrike, for the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, Klepacki has gone from writing music for four monophonic tracks to having his work recorded by a 50-piece orchestra.

His music lives outside of the games on soundtracks, and he has amassed a large fan base. In addition to his work with The Bitters, Klepacki records instrumental solo albums in the style of his video-game work, fills in on drums for local cover bands and acts as a producer for various local groups (he was behind the boards for The Day After’s upcoming release).

Klepacki no longer sees rock stardom as a future goal. “I just sort of took a step back and said, ‘I’ve already got a career with music and video games, so why do I keep chasing this pipe dream?’” he says. And composing for video games has brought him fans, respect and artistic satisfaction, all on his own terms. “I’m totally happy doing this, even if it’s just this,” he says, but can’t help adding one more ambition to the pile: “I wouldn’t mind doing a blockbuster movie one day if I get the opportunity.” –Josh Bell

Badass Karaoke Host: Kori Weihing

The karaoke rules are simple at Ellis Island Casino & Brewery (4178 Koval Lane): 1. Don’t cuss. 2. Stay on the stage. 3. No drinking while singing. Somehow, my friend managed to break every rule before his song started. Spunky karaoke host Kori Weihing deftly turned the discipline issue into a joke, solving the problem and entertaining the audience simultaneously. And when my friend sat down on the stage in an act of rebellion, Weihing simply grabbed him by the arms and jokingly dragged him into EI karaoke regulation. She’d won the crowd over yet again. For Weihing, who has been a karaoke host for nearly two years and an on-and-off EI employee for 13, karaoke is a labor of love. “I have been around music my whole life; my dad was in a band,” says Weihing, who often saves floundering performers by singing along. What makes EI so special? Weihing tries to explain its je ne sais quoi. “We have consistent customers that come back and see us all the time. The drinks are cheap, the people are really cool. The bartenders and cocktail waitresses are awesome. It’s just a fun place to be.” Also awesome, EI karaoke runs seven days a week, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Weihing hosts Tuesday through Friday. For those who’d like to discover EI’s rustic charm, follow Weihing’s advice: “Just have fun with it. Don’t worry about what you sound like; don’t worry about what people are going to think. Just get up and have a good time. Everybody there is friendly.” –C. Moon Reed

Badass Holiday: Record Store Day

Think back to Empire Records and feel the love for your local record store on April 18.

Downloads are quick and easy, sure, but clicking away at a mouse can’t compare to the joy of digging through crates for that rarest of gems. Even if you never buy CDs or vinyl anymore, we encourage you to visit an independent record store on Saturday, April 18, to show some support for a fast-fading alternative to Wal-Mart and iTunes.

Local holdout Zia Record Exchange has some cool stuff planned for the occasion, like Record Store Day-exclusive CDs and records from the likes of Radiohead, Sonic Youth, the Grateful Dead and My Morning Jacket. The Eastern location also has Vegas bands Boss City Sounds and Back Alley Echo scheduled to play in-store at 3 and 7 p.m., respectively, while the Sahara store hosts Dangerboner at 7. –Spencer Patterson

Badass Badass: Steve the Liar, Double Down Host

Don't even think about it. Whatever it is you were thinking of doing.

Don't even think about it. Whatever it is you were thinking of doing.

A human mountain, Steve the Liar (he prefers not to divulge his “real” name) is the authoritative face outside Vegas’ most famous dive bar—his old-school biker look suggests he’s ready to go Altamont on your ass if you step the least bit out of line. But while intimidation is a hobby, lying is a sport. From shady sports trivia to everyday happenings, nothing from Steve’s mouth can be trusted. His all-time best truth-twisting moment: a claim he would attend a wedding in California (made to avoid someone), only to have that person show up at the wedding to learn Steve stayed home to watch football. “I felt a little bad,” he chuckles. “But he shouldn’t have trusted me.” –Aaron Thompson

Badass Makeshift venue: The Room of Doom

Long way from the Pearl. The Room of Doom, off--way, way off--the Strip.

Long way from the Pearl. The Room of Doom, off--way, way off--the Strip.

Nestled between a high-school gymnasium and a Girl Scouts outpost, the nondescript, one-room building at 1204 Sixth St. in downtown Boulder City hardly appears capable of housing piercing guitars and fist-pumping fans. “It looks like a rec room,” says Jason Levi, frontman for Old Iron Sights, which played the hilariously dubbed space on March 7. “I could see old men playing checkers in there.”

Available for nightly rental for under $150 from that most odd city to the south, the rectangular Room of Doom comes complete with low ceilings, uncarpeted floors, a carve-out for a could-be snack bar and metal folding chairs—you know, the perfect elements for a pristine-sounding musical event. Even so, its extreme DIY charm, remote location and sporadic, see-it-if-you-happen-to-hear-about-it schedule could scarcely feel more righteous. –Spencer Patterson

Badass Jazz Outfit: Freedom Jazz Trio

Three men, a clarinet and a really cool hat: The Freedom Jazz Trio

The lure of free jazz—a high-flying style where rules and constraints die in the thin air—is its promise of total creative freedom. To the credit of the young Freedom Jazz Trio, its members are also well aware of the traps: It’s a style of jazz that can not only alienate audiences with its subversion of melody but also can mask musical incompetence.

The band is determined to clear those hurdles. “We’re going for consonance and beauty and dissonance and something that sounds good,” says bassist Justin Peterson.

“I’m happy to be in a group that has rehearsal discipline,” says clarinetist Julian Tanaka. “We don’t fuck around. We actually get things done.”

What they’re getting done is bringing a sense of delight to their music, even as they push the creative envelope. “If we laugh at the end, it worked,” says drummer Eric Schauer.

While trios often miss the harmonic adhesion of a good piano player, at their best they can create nearly telekinetic interaction. The Freedom Jazz Trio hasn’t been playing together long, but the musicians, especially Peterson and Schauer, are impressively in sync. And Tanaka’s playful style take the edge off the group’s avant-garde intensity.

In a short session at the Weekly’s studio last week, the group pulled off a medley of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova standard “How Insensitive.” Then they managed to turn “The Hokey Pokey” into a bluesy barn-burner, and finished up with a brisk, shuffling tune they call “Rapidoo.” Punctuated by Tanaka-as-train-conductor calling out, “All aboard!” the cut showed off the band’s dexterity, smarts and sense of humor.

Freedom Jazz Trio

Schauer, who’s 28, describes himself as a “jazz rebel. I didn’t want to play tame music. The music—the jazz—I listened to had a lot of angst and passion. I didn’t want to get into Dave Brubeck”—a symbol of impeccable Swiss-watch playing. John Coltrane’s earthy, strong Live in Seattle set was more like it. Schauer and Tanaka, 20, met each other while playing at a jazz camp at CSN a couple years ago. Peterson and Schauer knew each other as students at UNLV. The three would jam together, and eventually they realized that they clicked.

The FJT has been around for two years, but has only been gigging regularly for six months or so. Jazz venues are tough to come by. and many of the gigs the trio has played have been for schoolchildren. Far from feeling like that’s minor-league stuff, the band says that playing for kids is a blast.

One recent show, at a special-ed school, was, says Peterson, “probably the highlight of my life. Seeing a roomful of kids who are outsiders in society, generally speaking, who are clapping and laughing and enjoying the music. … Playing for them is a real honor, a real joy.” “We’ve been living off that one for a little while,” Schauer adds.

The group will have its work cut out trying to build a base in a town indifferent to jazz. But they feel they are on the right side of history. “The future is about dissolving boundaries,” says Peterson, 26. “That’s why we’re ahead of the curve. We’re trying to forget everything we know and play as far beyond boundaries as possible.”

Ironically, the group’s greatest constraint may be that the bond they have formed as friends and musicians is difficult to replicate. As Schauer notes, “Getting a sub is really tough.” –T.R. Witcher

Badass Neo-Psych Collective: Acid Cavalry

Chatting with Nick Caparso, frontman for Easysleeves and founder of the Acid Cavalry, a loose affiliation of like-minded Vegas-based acts that might or might not still include America Yeah, Butterflydreem, Mushroom Camelot, For the Klones, Grace Sims and Noise From the Underground.

What is Acid Cavalry, and what’s happened to it?

Nomads at work: Caparso (far left) and members of the Acid Cavalry jam out.

Nomads at work: Caparso (far left) and members of the Acid Cavalry jam out.

I shed all my pretensions for music and thought it should be my goal to convince everyone to start solidifying what they’re working on musically. We wanted to make as much music as we possibly could and be spontaneous and productive, and we wanted to get all the artists we could lined up in that thought pattern. We wanted to do things like make albums of psychedelic gospel music, but it’s hard to convince people to “jump off of the train” into this collective. I think people thought I sounded insane.

Your summer plans include leaving town, selling your possessions, buying a camper and hitting the road. Why?

Record companies are gone, and the idea of making money in music is coming to an end. So we’re going to tour as gypsies until I can move my band Easysleeves to San Francisco or wherever. And we’re picking up all the gypsies we can find on the way. I want it to be a big love/freak fest and say “fuck you” to consumer society. Our plan is to find people who are lost, tell them to come with us and make pure art with us. –Aaron Thompson

Badass Summer Concerts: Put ’em on your calendar

Allen Toussaint at Jazz in the Park, May 9: Your free opportunity to see a New Orleans R&B legend, for free, on the green grass of the County’s Government Center Amphitheater. Did we mention it’s free?

Scout Niblett at Beauty Bar, May 13: The British Cat Power brings her bedazzling voice to Downtown Las Vegas. We assume it’s because her latest album includes a song called “Nevada.”

No Doubt at Mandalay Bay Events Center, May 16: We always like stumping for Tiger Jam, since, you know, it’s for a good cause. But it certainly helps when the annual event taps an act like No Doubt, back together touring for the first time since 2004. Little bit more exciting than Glenn Frey and friends.

Jane’s Addiction, Nine Inch Nails at the Pearl, May 18: Who’s the headliner? Who cares. There’s going to be a ton of ’90s heavy alt-rock action a-happening, no matter who goes on first.

Flight of the Conchords at the Joint, May 23: Aussies Bret and Jemaine—New Zealanders are Aussies, aren’t they?—christen the Joint with comedic folk while fans word on a possible third HBO season.

The Allman Brothers Band at Red Rock Backyard, May 24: The Duane Allman/Berry Oakley/Dickey Betts years undeniably kicked ass, but the Allmans’ current lineup (guitarists: Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks) ain’t bad neither. Wear comfy shoes—these guys jam long.

Santana at the Joint, May 27: Don’t worry if you can’t score tickets; Vegas’ newest “residents” will be back in the Joint 71 more times before the end of next year. And by the way, does anyone else think the show should be titled “Carlos in Charge”? Guess not.

Aretha Franklin at Primm’s Star of the Desert Arena, June 19, and Loretta Lynn at Texas Station, June 20: The Queen of Soul turned 67 in March, the Coal Miner’s Daughter 74 in April. We hope both legends live forever, but there’s no time like the present to see ’em if you haven’t.

Also of note: Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood at MGM Grand Garden Arena, June 27; The Crystal Method at House of Blues, May 22; Depeche Mode at the Pearl, August 22; Fleetwood Mac at MGM Grand Garden Arena, May 30; Ben Folds at House of Blues, May 19; Jennifer Hudson, Robin Thicke at the Pearl, May 1; Joey + Rory at Santa Fe Station, May 15; Jonas Brothers at Mandalay Bay Events Center, August 1; Judas Priest at Thomas & Mack Center, August 8; B.B. King at House of Blues, May 16; Diana Krall at the Pearl, August 8; Leopold and His Fiction at Beauty Bar, May 15; Ky-Mani Marley, Yellowman, Gregory Isaacs, Third World at Reggae in the Desert, June 13; Dave Matthews Band at MGM Grand Garden Arena, May 8 & 9; Mötley Crüe at the Joint, August 1; Ozomatli at Hard Rock pool, May 22; Polar Bear Club at Box Office, May 7; Rise Against, Rancid at the Joint, July 13; Shiny Toy Guns at Wasted Space, May 14; Sugarland at Primm’s Star of the Desert Arena, July 24; Taylor Swift at Mandalay Bay Events Center, May 23; Testament, Unearth at House of Blues, June 9; Keith Urban at Mandalay Bay Events Center, July 18; The Virgins at Beauty Bar, May 23.

Badass Instrumental Trio: Canopy Glass

Nathan Gwatney, Tyler Holt and T.J. Thompson never set out to sound like Mogwai. Or Explosions in the Sky. Or whatever slow-building epic post-rock outfit you think they sound like. The three 20-somethings just started jamming together in one room of the house they shared, which evolved into the idea behind Canopy Glass.

Witness protection program Canopy Glass, hidden in plain sight.

“Our songs go through a lot of changes,” Thompson explains. “Someone will have an idea, and we’ll jam on it for a long time and come up with other ideas for it. We’re not in a hurry about everything.”

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Maybe not, but since debuting as a live entity last June, the threesome—Gwatney on bass, Holt on guitar and Thompson on drums—has established a fast reputation as a band that sounds unlike anything else on the Vegas scene, past or present. Check out “Teaspoon” on MySpace (or the 13-minute third track from a home-recorded November CD-R, if you can find a copy) to get a feel for Canopy’s sense of drama. Dynamics seesaw and tempos mutate, each shift heightening the creeping tension and strengthening the climactic intensity.

Though all three musicians have played previously in bands featuring vocalists, there are no plans to add a singer. “Maybe someday, maybe not,” Thompson says. Still, the next time you see the Canopy Glass guys play out, don’t be surprised to spot a microphone in their midst. Their show features one group sing-along, at the very end of their set-closing number. The lyrics? “Say good night to all your friends/We had fun/Come back again.” –Spencer Patterson

Badass Metal Super Group: The Corpser

A recent addition to las vegas’ church of brutal music, this destructive quartet has launched a blitzkrieg on local metaldom. Just don’t confuse The Corpser with a bunch of musical newbies:

Rain down the noise: The Corpser has some experience blowing out eardrums.

Rain down the noise: The Corpser has some experience blowing out eardrums.

Jay Losey, drums Where you might know him from: Happy Campers, 7 Foot Midget. Why he’s badass: Once while on tour with the Campers and staying with friends after a show, Losey decided to pierce his manhood. End result: More than 20 people watched as Losey screamed bloody murder. And playing drums sucked for a couple of weeks.

Jess Stewart, vocals Where you might know him from: The Shitcore Noise Project, The Weirding Way. Why he’s badass: During a Shitcore show, Smith and his bandmates played a 30-plus-minute set of harsh noise—repetitive drum machines punctuated by flying computer discs and out-of-control fog machines. End result: The venue refunded everyone’s money.

Tyler “Cheese” Smith, guitar Where you might know him from: The Vulcans, The Weirding Way. Why he’s badass: At his recent birthday party, Smith managed to do a 30-second keg stand (one second for every year of his life) without puking. End result: “It fucking hurt a lot,” Smith says.

Matt Goldberg, bass Where you might know him from: Guttural Secrete, The Abominable Iron Sloth, Sutured Esophagus. Why he’s badass: During an Iron Sloth show in Europe, a dude who had broken his head open during their set wanted a hug. Goldberg agreed, embracing the bloodied fan even as he bled all over both men. End result: Goldberg gave the guy a new shirt. –Aaron Thompson

Badass Idea: Free Music

Ronald Corso is no socialist; he is, however, a realist. So the man behind Vegas-based label National Southwestern Electronic Recordings has devised a business plan that would surely scare the crap out of Lars Ulrich and Clive Davis. Corso wants to give National Southwestern’s music away—every last song.

“This is as much a social movement as anything, and we understand that it can be a contentious issue, so maybe some bands won’t want to work with us because of it,” Corso says. “But our artists have talked about it, as a democracy, and everybody’s in favor of doing it.”

So Corso and his label’s bands—A Crowd of Small Adventures, Hungry Cloud and Mother McKenzie, among others—plan to apply for a Creative Commons license, which will allow them to post music for free download while protecting their rights to turn future profits on the work (through use in TV commercials or movie soundtracks, for example), and also to amass a database of listeners’ e-mail addresses. “Fans can have it, share it, listen to it,” Corso says. “They just can’t make money off of it.”

Basically, Corso believes that any short-term loss in sales (and really, how many folks buy CDs anymore, anyway?) will be made up for in long-term gains, namely merchandise sales and door collections now and, potentially, tour revenue in the future.

“It really depends on what you’re after,” Corso explains. “If you’re after making money, well then, you have to charge money. But if you’re after getting people to hear the music, I figure it will generate more interest [in a band] because it’s free, and more people will hear it.

“The major labels don’t want to admit it, but the old physical-media rules no longer apply. We’re willing to adapt.” –Spencer Patterson

Badass Summer Album: Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown

It’s been five years since the guys in Green Day morphed from successful pop-punkers into Serious Artists with the political concept album American Idiot, and they are not dialing down the ambition for their official follow-up, 21st Century Breakdown, due out May 15 (they released a garage rock-influenced album last year under the name Foxboro Hot Tubs). It’s another rock opera commenting on the state of American society, this time divided into three separate acts. Conveniently, a stage production based on American Idiot (and incorporating some songs from 21st Century Breakdown) will premiere in California later this year.

One of the biggest bands in the world releasing back-to-back concept albums? What is this, 1972? It may just be the new golden age of the concept album; recent releases from Neil Young (Fork in the Road, an ode to the electric car), alt-metal band Mastodon (Crack the Skye, telling the story of Rasputin), indie rockers The Decemberists (The Hazards of Love, a 17-movement love story) and prog-metal stalwarts Queensrÿche (American Soldier, a treatise on war from the troops’ perspective) have all carried on the tradition of the thematically or narratively connected record. Young and Mastodon have released three concept albums each in the last five years or so. In this era of individual-track downloads and everyone’s shuffling of their music collections, perhaps the concept album is the only way to get audiences to listen to albums straight through from beginning to end. This seemingly outdated, pretentious form is suddenly revolutionary. –Josh Bell

Also this summer, clear hard-drive space for:

The Crystal Method, Divided by Night (May 12): Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland left town a long time ago, but we still like to think of them as locals by extension. Even if they weren’t, the dance duo’s first new album in more than five years would be worth tracking down.

Steve Earle, Townes (May 12): There’s no one better equipped to cover outlaw countryman Townes Van Zandt than the earthy Earle, a lifelong friend and admirer of the late Van Zandt. Tom Morello and Earle’s wife, Allison Moorer, guest.

Jarvis Cocker, Further Complications (May 19) and Manic Street Preachers, Journal for Plague Lovers (May 18, U.K. only): Did Steve Albini sand down his noisy edges when we weren’t paying attention? We’re interested to hear the results when former Pulp frontman Cocker and the alt-rocking Preachers (with a leftover lyrical assist from long-missing guitarist Richey Edwards) bring the famously clamor-inclined engineer across the Atlantic.

Eminem, Relapse (May 19): Love ’im or hate ’im, you know you’ll need to hear Eminem’s return from self-imposed hiatus—the first of two planned albums by the rapper this year. Hell, even if you don’t wanna hear it, you know you will.

Grizzly Bear, Veckatimist (May 26): No lesser luminary than Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood called this Brooklyn quartet his favorite band, and judging from an early leak of the psychedelic folksters’ latest, he’ll be just one of many singing their praises.

Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (May 26): Quick, name a French band that isn’t spelled A-I-R (no, electro knob-tweakers Daft Punk and Justice don’t count). These Parisian indie rockers’ highly touted fourth studio album could change that; it’s already landed them a gig on Saturday Night Live.

Lil Wayne, Rebirth (June 9): The self-proclaimed Best Rapper Alive isn’t content with dominating the world of living hip-hop … so he’s decided to start battling ghosts. No, not really. He is, however, releasing this rock album, which, according to various reports, is influenced by Coldplay, Fall Out Boy, the Beastie Boys and Kid Rock and features a guest appearance from Avril Lavigne. So that’s something.

Also of note: Akron/Family, Set ’em Wild, Set ’em Free (May 5); Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D. (June 9); Ciara, Fantasy Ride (May 5); Elvis Costello, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane (June 2); Deer Tick, Born on Flag Day (June 23); Dinosaur Jr., Farm (June 23); Eels, Hombre Lobo (June 2); The Field, Yesterday and Today (May 19); Fischerspooner, Entertainment (May 5); Ben Harper and Relentless7, White Lies for Dark Times (May 5); Jonas Brothers, Lines, Vines and Trying Times (June 15); Madness, The Liberty of Norton Folgate (May 18, U.K. only); Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King (June 2); Mos Def, The Ecstatic (June 9); Paulo Nutini, Sunny Side Up (June 2); Iggy Pop, Preliminaires (June 2); Rancid, Let the Dominoes Fall (June 2); Sonic Youth, The Eternal (June 9); Regina Spektor, Far (June 2); Sunset Rubdown, Dragonslayer (June 23); Tortoise, Beacons of Ancestorship (June 23); Neil Young, Archives Vol. 1 (June 2)

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