Rolling Stoner

Hustle your bustle to the First Annual Electric Rodeo: Desert Smokeout & Rock 'n' Roll Throwdown.

Springing up from the underground, the musical movement dubbed "stoner rock" is almost designed to tease and tempt metaphors--or, more appropriately, clichés--from the keyboards of rock scribes everywhere.

And what's so wrong with using terms such as pile-driver rhythms, grinding guitars, hoarse roars, ear-bleeding noise to describe music that takes its cues almost exclusively from the past?

If you're ready for a taste of stoner rock, hustle your bustle down to 7 Black Cats next Thursday night for what has been christened the First Annual Electric Rodeo: Desert Smokeout & Rock 'n' Roll Throwdown, a seven-band extravaganza.

Organized by Julia Groves, the singer and guitarist in Tucson stoner rock band Solid Donkey, this Electric Rodeo will feature that group as well as Dixie Witch and Sourvein, two up-and-coming Dallas bands; San Francisco's psychedelic Greenhouse Effect; Brothers of Conquest, which features former members of Nashville Pussy and the Hookers; The Deed, from Santa Cruz, Calif.; and from the swamps of Louisiana, Nesta.

All are proud purveyors of music that is slow, hard and heavy. All of the above bands also will play during the fourth annual Stoner Hands of Doom festival Nov. 8-10 at Hollywood Alley in Mesa.

When Solid Donkey--which also includes Tim Gallagher on 12-string bass and Noel Desilets on drums--was invited to play Stoner Hands of Doom, aka SHoD fest, Groves decided to bring a few colleague bands down to the Old Pueblo.

"I knew all these bands were playing up in Mesa, and it seemed crazy not to have a show with them in Tucson the night before," Groves says.

The Electric Rodeo marathon will not only showcase the talents of seven on-the-rise stoner rock bands but will include food and merchandise sales and door prizes, Groves says. "That stuff is still in the works."

This musical movement comes complete with its own manifesto. The following is an excerpt from that very edict on the web site

"This is about sex, drugs and heavy-ass rock and fuckin' roll that will blow your mind with its honest passion, creativity and soul. This is a heavy rock re-evolution that starts where rock was before the glam-metal, post-grunge wannabes and rap-metal fucked everything up. Punk, grunge, doom and sludge kept the fire burning in the dark years and now combine with a fuzzed-out '70s psychedelic groove to create a new and intense rock 'n' roll vibe."

Disciples of this new rock religion--in which everything old is new again--bow down to and recycle the sounds of three heavy-rock deities of decades past: Black Sabbath in the 1970s, Saint Vitus in the '80s and Kyuss in the '90s.

Cruise the Internet homepages of some of the contemporary stoner rock bands, and most will at one point or another cite the influence of Saint Vitus, a slow-and-heavy hard-rock band during the 1980s in Los Angeles. Saint Vitus spent time recording for the pioneering punk label SST Records and even played Tucson back in the day with labelmates Black Flag.

In addition to spinning off the couldn't-be-hotter Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss has begotten other stoner rock bands such as Unida (a headliner at next weekend's SHoD fest) and Fu Manchu.

Sabbath, though, is probably the epitome of the musical canon for stoner rock bands. "That's something they all can agree on. Everyone can get behind that," says Solid Donkey's Groves.

Most stoner-rock bands dig being compared to Black Sabbath, says Rob Levey, the Gilbert resident who is organizing SHoD with his wife, Cheryl.

"They don't get mad if you say they sound like Black Sabbath. But they'll say, 'We're influenced by them, but the music and our sound has come a little farther along since back then.'"

Levey should know. He spent most of the '80s as lead singer of Iron Man, a Black Sabbath tribute band in Washington, D.C. And it was in D.C. that he pulled together the first SHoD fest in 1999. Two more editions of the festival occurred in Youngstown, Ohio, and Dallas, Texas, before the Leveys settled down in the Phoenix area.

Levey says stoner rock bands share many aesthetic similarities with such groups as Monster Magnet, Raging Slab, Corrosion of Conformity and early White Zombie.

The bands of this genre have been unfavorably compared with groups in the black- and death-metal camps. Levey says stoner rock is different. "The music is not as fast, not as gruff, the vocals are definitely not screaming or yelling. It's more about trying to sing a melody and carry some kind of tune. And instead of being as fast as you can, the bands are a lot more groovy, if you know what I mean."

Groves does. The music is "definitely riff-based, as opposed to the singer-songwriter thing. It's loud, distorted and heavy. There is a psychedelic element in it, a continuation of what people used to call acid rock."

Although Groves loves playing and singing stoner rock, she's not really down with the name of the music.

"It's not a term that I really like," she says. "It's just sort of something that we got lumped into by default because we're not really punk and we're not really metal. I mean, it's not like I'm one to sit around with the bong and the Nintendo all day."

Other fans apparently think the term "stoner rock" leaves something to be desired, too. even offers visitors to its Web site the option of voting on a new genre name. The four alternate choices: riff rock, fuzz rock, cosmic doom and, uh, stoner rock.

Anyway, differences with the genre name aside, Groves says she was pleasantly surprised at the strong grassroots network that exists among stoner rock bands and their fans.

"I can't believe how much support I get from other bands in other towns, and how helpful people into this sort of music can be."

She's urging stoner rock fans to show their support at the Electric Rodeo, which starts early (at 7 p.m.) and will run for six hours.

"So tell your readers: none of this showing-up-at-10:30 p.m. crap. I just don't want the first bands to be playing for nobody."

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