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Monday, January 1, 2007

Dead Hot Workshop

When I was twenty-one, I used to go see a local band, Dead Hot Workshop, anywhere they played (This is Tempe, AZ, 1990). I was new to the city, the music scene, bars in general. I used to buy a pitcher of beer at nine o'clock, grab a stool with a good view at Long Wong's or the Sun Club, and wait for Dead Hot to start playing. I watched them all night, some nights I barely moved. Afterward, I stumbled home, picked up a guitar and tried to write songs as captivating as the ones I'd just heard.

Dead Hot seemed the perfect combination of the Replacements, the Gin Blossoms (another local favorite) and, because of the lead singer's, Brent Babb’s, unique skill with lyric and melody, Bob Dylan. (Okay, maybe that's taking it too far--but dammit, he was our Bob Dylan.) I used to think, having been hardly anywhere else in my life, "If a band this good exists right here in Tempe, just think how many other good bands there must be out there."

After sixteen years, many tours around the country, relocating from Phoenix to San Francisco to Ashland, Oregon, I still haven't found another Dead Hot Workshop. I was just fortunate to have wound up Tempe, to have seen them open for the Gins at the Asylum on my twenty-first birthday, to have given them another chance after not quite getting them that first night. They're the only one, and after all this time that seems a point worth celebrating.

A quick word about Brent Babb, the lead singer and chief songwriter--and it'll have to be quick because he's the rare talent who absolutely hates hearing himself talked about. No one else can so un-self-consciously combine in his lyrics humor, pathos, and pop culture--often in the same line--and all of those images and associations piled on top of each other create a richness and resonance I find unmatched, on Mill Avenue or anywhere else. Coupled with his simple, haunting melodies, Brent Babb is the finest songwriter most people will never hear, and that, as they say, is a shame.

Sixteen years have passed since I used to go see Dead Hot on Friday nights, but Dead Hot is still there, playing every month or so around Phoenix and releasing Heavy Meadow last November. A new Dead Hot CD is always an event around my house, and I’m happy to report Babb’s connection with that place where all good pop comes from is as strong as ever. And now he’s teamed with his brother, Kylie, who carries on the family tradition on lead guitar, and a rhythm section, drummer Curtis Grippe and bassist G. Brian Scott, that has solidified into bedrock after a decade or two of gigs together. There’s only one Dead Hot Workshop. Those of us who know about them are just lucky.

So, check out their MySpace page, their Web site, and for pete’s sake buy a copy of Heavy Meadow.

Art

29 comments:

Denise said...

Arthur, I couldn't agree more. But, I feel this way about so many Tempe bands. That I am so fortunate to have found them, at all. "Heavy Meadow" is definitely my all-time favorite album to date. I think I have, literally, listened to it, all the way through 15 times per day, since it came out. It pumps me up when I need to wake up and get my day started, at the same time, it soothes and calms me so that I can bring my day to a close. Many people view this album, politically, but for me it's way more philosophical and has deeper meaning to me than just war and politics. I guess that's what has always made music so special. One's person's perception can be absolutely opposite an another person's. A song can mean one thing to a listener and quite the opposite to another. I, too, feel so fortunate to be exposed to the genius that is Brent Babb. I don't think any other songwriter could touch him. This album is timeless and will always remain at the top of my favorite albums of all-time. I can't even describe in words what this album has done for me.

Randall said...

DHW is definitely the best band Tempe had, and/or has to offer. The Gin Blossoms and Dead Hot Workshop pairings at the Sun Club and Long Wongs were some of the best times before graduating from ASU. Sadly, Tempe is simply not the same town I use to love. Regardless, thanks for the blog on Dead Hot. That offering brought back memories of many great times at Wongs and the Sun Club. I am positive we were at all the same shows, circa 1988-91. Regarding the new album, I'm looking forward to my first spin of "Heavy Meadow" and gladly accept the challenge in trying to decipher Brent's oh-so-great cryptic love songs. Take care.

Caroline said...

Reading your blog was a walk down memory lane. A survival tactic on hot summer days, we would arrive at Wongs in late afternoon seeking air conditioning and a cold pitcher of MGD. Knowing that Dead Hot Workshop or the Blossoms would be on later sweetened the pot even further. I worked for a short period at the co-op with Brent and was amazed that within this shy, quiet man was the composer of blazing, poetic rock songs. Like my friend Randall said, that Tempe only exists in our hearts now. It's a place I like to visit every now and then when I put DHW on my headphones. Like you, I moved to Oregon in 1991 and I never latched on to a band here like I did in Tempe. I think we are fortunate to have been there at the right time. Thanks for the memories.

ironheart said...

That's such a blast from the past. Even though I've only visited Tempe, the music scene there is legendary. It's cool to hear about your experiences with it, before you became part of it. Thanks also for letting me know about the new Dead Hot album. Must buy now. There's something special about them and it is a shame so many people haven't a clue as to who they are. So, was it you placed the reference to them in "Down Together?" ;-)

Art Edwards said...

I wish I could claim credit. I believe Roger used to switch that line every time we played it, and when he came up with the Dead Hot reference it stuck. I know I was always proud we referenced my favorite band in one of our songs. And then it was a single!

Glad you enjoyed the trip, Ironheart.

Art

ironheart said...

That was pretty cool that Dead Hot actually got mentioned in a song that had a video on MTV. How many people discovered Dead Hot because they wondered what the hell Roger was singing about?

I got my copy of "Heavy Meadow" (and I keeping wanting to say "Heavy Weather") and I'm digging it; it's been in constant rotation in my car's CD player. It's more laid back than "Karma Covered Apple" but still has that great Dead Hot combo of twang, pop and Brent's awesome lyrics. I am glad that Brent's vocals are more audibly distinct on this album. I think "It's a Shame" is my favorite song of the moment. "Elly Bussa (Touch the Sky)" is...puzzling. Do you have any idea what that's about?

Art Edwards said...

I think Elly and Bussa are Curtis's twin daughters. I don't know for sure, though. How cool to be on a record so young!

"Karma" comes with me to heaven.

Art

Mekong77 said...

I agree, I was glad to stumble on to Dead Hot. I wasn't fortunate enough to get to see them at Long Wongs, or the Sun Club but I have played the hell out of their records. I have always admired the Tempe scene from the NW. Now I live here in AZ and I see Mill from a "Day Late" perspective. It's cool to see Dead Hot is still at it and guys like Scotty J still do small little shows at the Yucca Tap Room...the spirit still lives on. This part of the world put out some wonderful bands and I would take outfits like The Refreshments and Dead Hot over any multi platinum Seattle band. Not to mention they never lost the art of guitar solos. With that rambling being said, I do feel blessed to have loads of Dead Hot in my iTunes library and am proud to have them in my "Top Friends" on Myspace...you're there too Art. Thanks for being a part of such a Magical time in the Tempe scene and beyond.

Art Edwards said...

I always think of Dead Hot as the Mudhoney of the Tempe music scene. They held that revered spot as every local band's favorite band.

Thanks, Mekong.

Art

Chris said...

Have to say, that all sounds so familiar. I lived in Mesa from May of 89 to October of 90 and spent a lot of time at Wongs and the Sun Club watching Dead Hot and the Gin Blossoms. I also spent a lot of time watching another excellent Tempe band that Curtis played with, Strange Love. Lots of memories.

Brent said...

I realize the comments on this blog are over a year old, but I found it after listening to Heavy Meadow on my iPod this morning. I have a iPod playlist entitled "Tempe mix" that has DHW, Gin Blossoms, Refreshments, RC&P, Gas Giants, etc. It must have over 150 songs in the playlist. Goes to show you what a great scene Tempe had back in the day.

DHW will go down as one of the elite Tempe bands of all time. I saw them play at Long Wong's and Chuy's back when I was a student at ASU.

Later on in life, my wife ended up working together with Curtis's wife, so we see Curtis' family every so often. The Elly Bussa song is actually Curtis's twin daughters singing, but those are not their names...

Enjoyed reading all the comments. For those who have been entrenched in this Tempe music scene, it has provided many awesome memories over the years.

Still live in Phoenix, still keep going back to these local bands when I want to hear some real music.

Cactus Bob 4 said...

What a trip down memory lane. I was at those same long wongs shows and they remain the seminal live music experiences of my life. Just for the record I went to see Brent and the boys play just last night at some bar in Mesa named after a goat and they were as terrific as ever. Steve Larson and G. Brian Scott are gone (along with Brent's hair), but the band can still bring it!

edward said...

Hey Brent, Curtis and Brian....I miss you guys

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Art Edwards said...

Hey, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Nice article, thanks. Those were the days. Don't forget Edcel's attic or the Sail Inn! :)
Some GREAT videos of DHW from the 90's were recently added on youtube along with the one I posted a while back of the 2008 version.

Unknown said...

It's funny, I used to do the same thing. I'd buy a pitcher of Anchor Steam at the Sun Club and find a place to kick back to listen to whatever band was playing - Gin Blossoms, Dead Hot, Strangelove. Spent many a great evening listening to those guys and even got to know some of them. Also came away with a terrible case of tinnitus!

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Distilled1 said...

wow an old post .. you said it all Brother, DHW I didn't get at firt but I am so glad I got pushed to go back and feel that I was given a glimpse at something more special than any thing happening at the time. even after my now wife was 86ed from Long wongs we would go sit out side the front window listen run over to 6 east have drinks with them and the Gins go back end the night and hit what ever house apt party was going on..
i have to say this was the time of Tempe, I lived in LA and Chicago did the this is the big thing in both cities but Tempe was something special.... forgive yourself do you forgive me ? ...

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Rich Andrews said...

Art " Buddy" it is until now in 2016 that I respond to this blog about Dead Hot Workshop the greatest band that never was. This is a testament to you but even more so to the timeless genius of Dead Hot. I always knew Rog idiolzed DHW but I did not realize you did too if not more?
Dead Hot grew on me as the first time I saw them ( heard I should say) was at the Sun Club when they opened for the Blossoms. I shot pool on that shitty pool table with one cue stick that night as Dead Hot cruised thru their set unnoticed by me while I waited for the headliners. As Dead Hot finalized I went over near the stage and was briefly captivated by G Brian Scott angrily passing band equipment thru that small stage hole behind the stage. So my first interest was actually visual as I thought " these guys look pissed " but they seemed to have fit the part. Looking back they were only a band 4 years at this point but they were already Grizzlied and bittered veterans it seemed.
I eventually became a huge fan as each time I saw them I liked them more. They grew on me like fine wine. I often heard other people say they sucked , but I wrote those comments off as shallow people who never gave them a chance. I bought every album as it came out in order starting with White House of course. I was not that impressed with it and thought they left out some gems I thought I had heard live ? Each album got better though and by the time I got to Old Favorites And New Ones Too, I was in love. This album by the way is my favorite Dead Hot Album by far. Though Karma Covered Apple is splendid as well. I always thought Karma was a masterpiece inspired by the departure of Steve leaving the band. Like Brent thought " I will show you" and it probably is the finest material but the variance and order of the songs of Old Faves is genius, beginning with Red Sovine which is Truly emotionally gripping from the start.
My favorite songs are Red Sovine, Round Record, Rise of Decline, Bob Hill Climbin, Cadillac Hills, Burger Christ, Judas, Push Luck Shove, Red Wagon, and the perfect pop perfection of the absolutely brilliant 2:20 Rock classic " Feel " count me out when the kill'n starts , I'll be heading for the hills with a bleed'n heart.

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