Words & Deeds

Deeds: Valley's music scene would benefit from lower metal volume

Five years ago, Dorsey Music guitar teacher John Mays couldn't give away a metal riff.

"I couldn't teach any of that stuff. Nobody wanted to learn it," says Mays, who also plays lead guitar for Boise metal band Paylface. "They wanted to learn Weezer tunes or something to that effect."

But nowadays?

"These kids are coming to me and wanting to learn songs that I learned when I was first learning. They want to learn the entire Randy Rhoads catalog. They want to learn 'The Trooper' by Iron Maiden."

Bang your head, Boise. Whether you realize it or not, you're in heavy metal heaven.

Every day, it seems, a local musician contacts me hoping for press. Nine times out of 10? Some form of heavy band.

Go to teen-friendly club The Venue on any given night: You'll find hardcore, screamo and metal acts tearing it up.

Seventy to 80 percent of the local groups contacting The Bouquet for original-music gigs are heavy rock or metal bands, says co-owner Erich Walton.

Besides driving aspirin sales, what impact does this sonic assault have on Boise? I'd argue that one-dimensionality prevents any music scene from reaching its potential.

But before we breach that subject, a more basic question needs to be asked about noisy Boise.

Why? Why is this town so saturated with aggro local bands?

Bottom line: Heavy music is thriving globally, from MySpace friends to Hot Topic fashions.

Check out the Record Exchange's metal and underground CD sections: "There's so many bands coming out right now, we can't even keep track of it," says sales clerk Justin Prescott.

Yet get this: Spokane's local scene is even more metal-massacred than Boise's, according to Bravo Entertainment talent buyer Greg Marchant, who used to run The Big Easy there.

"The younger generation likes to play hard music," Marchant says. "It's fun, it's energetic. And when you talk about the live music scene, a lot of the people that pack clubs are going to be high school and college-age kids ... ."

For years, young musicians have gravitated to metal for two reasons: a) It's aggressive; b) Playing basic power chords takes as much skill as tying shoelaces.

Many Treasure Valley metal musicians have evolved way past that. But it's becoming difficult to appreciate. The viral proliferation of heavy bands here is souring even lifetime headbangers.

"I love metal," Mays says. "But there's just a point. I love funk. There's no good funk bands. There's no good jazz bands. There's old guys that have been doing it forever, but there's nobody fresh out there. ... And I don't understand why. I would like to see a rockabilly band — anything like that would be great."

Esther Shepherd, assistant talent buyer for Bravo, has the challenging task of booking local bands to open for Big Easy headliners. Two weeks ago, she found it nearly impossible to locate a suitable group for Irish rockers The Young Dubliners. On Wednesday, Shepherd was struggling to book a local band to complement Bitter:Sweet, an electronic pop duo from Los Angeles.

"The only thing I have to pull from is hard rock or metal," Shepherd says. "And it makes it difficult."

Like, yo, local musician, want to make Shepherd's day? Do something unique: Emulate Built To Spill! (Is it me, or is Boise's miniscule pool of indie-rock bands bizarre considering that Doug Martsch lives here?)

Better yet, form a funky hip-hop act like Kamphire Collective.

There is no local band like Kamphire Collective, which also happens to be one of the only Boise groups to build a following in 2006. Coincidence?

Every person in this article wanted to make one thing clear: They all support local metal. That includes me. Believe it or not, I crank metal CDs all the time.

But maybe one or two local bands could try something else?

It's like Mays says: "I don't think a Starbucks on every corner is good, either."