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Wednesday, Mar 07, 2012

The 2012 Great Demo Review

Our annual critique of local music submissions

Amateur Pool Party
Live from Reno

OK, they got me. I fell for the live crowd noise they laid over the tracks. But after listening to nine ear-puncturing songs, I’m convinced this band has never played to a crowd larger than however many people you can fit in a garage / practice space / meth lab.

—Jim Ruland

Apoc & Brendan B
The Planet EP

Bringing back the playful edge of early hip-hop, The Planet EP is a hoot from beginning to end. While “The Life” expounds upon the days and nights of the MC lifestyle, the true gem here is the completely silly “100 Bars,” which name drops 100 different bars nationwide—quite a few of which happen to be local haunts. Lyrics like “Then I head to Open Bar, beware of the open sore” are proof that actual on-site research was conducted in the making of this song.

—Dryw Keltz

April Ventura & The Magnolias

This alt-country group walks down that well-traveled road in between heartbroken southern twang and sing-along rock ’n’ roll. The guitar work is well executed, but not terribly original. The real star here is lead singer April Ventura—at her best, her earnest, passionate vocals sound like Lucinda Williams. But the overtly pop-oriented sensibilities and clichéd lyrics (“Let your love shine all around / You’ll be just fine”) at times come off more like Faith Hill.

—Aaron Carnes


Day-Go Produce
Bottom Feeders the Mixtape

Photo by Star in the Sky Productions

You’d be hard-pressed to find a local rap group more down-to-earth than Day-Go Produce. As they make clear on Bottom Feeders, J Treel, Tramlife and Rolando are just humble up-and-comers who enjoy the simple things in life—rocking Chuck Taylors with fat laces (“Smokin’ evergreen / Chucks hit the scene / complement the whole team”), going to the beach (“You can catch me in the swells”) and smoking tons of weed (“Don’t trust the marijuana if it came from Tijuana”). They acknowledge that they’re low on the hip-hop totem pole—indeed, they’re the “bottom feeders” of the mixtape’s title. But they’ve got solid beats, refreshing flows and a disarming honesty, all of which should serve them well as they climb their way up.

—Peter Holslin

Ass Clowns
Human Reprogramming

Over-medicated, under-produced guitar wankery. Jesus Christ does this ever blow dead monkeys.

—Jim Ruland


This earnest, five-song rock offering reminds me a lot of early Three Mile Pilot. Plus, the drummer’s moustache is full-on Magnum P.I. I can see this evolving in a lot of different ways—almost all of them good.

—Scott McDonald


Barbarian’s double shot of echo-y, perfectly under-produced, harmony-driven rock ’n’ roll makes me want to keep listening. Let’s hope it isn’t just beginner’s luck.

—Scott McDonald

Beat Panther

Sharp production and fat-ass beats keep the party rockin’ on nine of the 10 songs here. And it’s hard to fault Justin Palicki and JFeather for closing with a minimalist cover of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” even if they don’t sock it to us after that infamous drum roll. More than 60 percent of the time, it works every time.

—Scott McDonald

Beta Lion
I Believe in Beta Lion

I believe in Beta Lion because the last track on this three-song sampler is the best song that Phoenix never wrote. “Love Aside” is that perfect blend of pop, dance and alternative that makes the pretty girls swoon and gives everyone a good excuse to hit the dance floor. The other two songs on here are decent indie-rock fare, but “Love Aside” is the hit.

—Dryw Keltz

Big Shot Reub and the Reloaders
Roundhouse Blues

In the dullest wankfest I’ve ever heard, guitarist Reuben Vigil and his two bandmates try their hands at swinging jazz, moody blues and good ol’-fashioned rock and end up sucking at all of it. After multiple dreary listens, the only thing that sticks with me is Vigil’s goofy Muppet voice.

—Peter Holslin

Black Widow Prophecy

This isn’t the first metal / punk band to imitate Danzig and sing about zombies, and it won’t be the last. But these guys could likely get some dudes head-banging if they played at The Ruby Room or Eleven, and that’s what matters.

—Peter Holslin

Blood Dancer


I’m not sure if any members of Queensryche or Metal Church died right around the time the dudes in this trio were born, but if they did, any questions about the existence of reincarnation have been answered. Metal from the heyday of metal, if you’re into that kind of thing.

—Scott McDonald

Box Shift
Certified Color

I’m a sucker for electro-pop, and Box Shift’s solid, infectious bed of synths and light, danceable beats comes just the way I like it. Yet, the songwriting and the melodies just don’t do it for me. A good electro-pop song should beg you to sing along, but these songs are all basically forgettable. I do have to give them props for the super-reverb-y mix on the keys and guitars, though.

—Aaron Carnes

Broken Dreams x
Parker & The Numberman


Sometimes a hip-hop collaboration never succeeds beyond being a two-crews-for-the-price-of-one mash of styles, say Rappers 1-2-3 vs. Rappers X-Y-Z. This three-track project between Broken Dreams and Parker & The Numberman (shortened to “BDP&T”) eschews one-upsmanship for a solid, jazzy demo that conforms to the gestalt theory: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

—Dave Maass

A Canvas (Part 5)

Not sure how I feel about this video-as-demo thing. Kind of arty? Kind of douchey? A little of both? But if a band can put a CD in a record sleeve and call it a demo, why can’t Bruisecaster shoot a rehearsal and call it a movie? But it’s more than that: Directed by Shoko Hachiya, it’s a live show and a whole bunch of other stuff, too. Twelve minutes in, there’s a closeup of someone’s ear hole, and I kept looking at it until it didn’t look like an ear hole anymore. That’s Bruisecaster.

—Jim Ruland

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