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ROCK TALK : Baker’s Dozen for Sweet Concert Deals : Area groups provide a lot of band for the buck. Each has its own sound and style, and most of them play several times a month.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Concerts are expensive. If you take a date, buy a T-shirt, eat and drink--there goes a hundred bucks. Easy. That’s why local bands are good for that memorable cheap date. Usually, it only costs a few bucks to get in, most of them play several times a month, and a lot of them are as good or better than those high-priced MTV posers.

Now I promise this will be the last year-end list--the Worst Band, the Ugliest Band, Best Band T-Shirt and Cutest Girlfriend categories all are on permanent hold. In the Most Affordable category, here’s a baker’s dozen of memorable local live concert bands, plus that one song worth showing up for:

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: Snappy duds, economical guitar leads by Scotty Morris and a blazing horn section make for a packed dance floor as ‘40s swing music with ‘90s attitude makes these self-described “kings of swing” peerless purveyors of truth in advertising. (“King of Swing”)

Blackworm: It’s hard but melodic rock by this band that rarely performs live. David Walker sings, his wife, Darby, plays drums, and two L.A. guys that don’t mind the drive fill out the band. “Loud” is the operative word here. Richter scale power punctuates neurotic songs. (“I Slit Myself”)

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Finnhead: With nearly 50 original songs, Finnhead can perform a number of styles from surf to rock to blues to reggae and even country. The players are uniformly talented with guitarist Thom Mason adding a mind-bending solo to nearly every song. And hey guys, the night I went, it was Jan & Dean territory--two girls for every boy. (“Pipeline”)

J.D.'s Last Ride: When Marjorie Extract sings/pleads/moans, “I need a man to love me,” every guy in the place hopes she’s looking at him. One of the great local female singers, Extract is sort of Patsy Cline who’s alive doing rock ‘n’ roll with a twang. The band plays mostly originals, but does covers by the likes of Chris Isaak and the Stones. (“Broken Dreams”)

Lion I’s: Although the Temptations are in no danger, the three-man horn section in this band is learning to dance--well, sorta. Frontman Bobby Galyan, one of the last of the longhairs, gets positively frantic, and by the time he takes his shirt off, the dance floor is packed, and if the light is just right, the dollar signs are visible in the club owner’s eyes. The music is reggae-powered rock, World Beat and fun. They have a CD that’s a few months old. (“I’m So Poor”)

Majority Dog: Laurel and April Hoffman stand statue-like, flanking guitarist/songwriter Brian Wurschum on stage. Laurel and Brian share leads and April chips in for some positively heavenly three-part harmonies where folk rock rules. (“Big Black Car”)

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Pinching Judy: This aggressive local quartet rarely does local dates much anymore--they’re too damn loud and you can almost count their dancers on Captain Hook’s bad hand. It’s harsh but somehow melodic alternative rock. Guitarist Mario Falso and bassist Jason Bays play off each other as well as any, and frontman John Lombardo has power to spare. (“Land of Me”)

Raging Arb & the Redheads: It wasn’t just the searchlight out front that drew nearly 1,000 fans to this local band’s CD release party last summer. It’s also the two-guitar attack, the wild harmonica playing by Glen Ansberry, and charismatic frontman John Drury, who orchestrates the whole drunken mess like the Predator with his own Burger King franchise. (“Casting Shadows”)

Randy Rich & the Ravens: Rich has two new Ravens after the last two guys decided they wanted to play Top 40 rock music. None of that brain-death junk for Rich--he blazes away on his 1951 Telecaster, plus he has that blues voice working too. Rich heads the Why Ain’t He Signed? list. Most of those blues guys on Alligator Records play like alligators compared to Rich, who does rockin’ blues to the max. (“Suspicions & Doubts”)

Shellfish: Peter Harb writes and sings his songs of urban angst while Colleen Coffey (Bill’s sister) plucks that bass and drummer Sid Hadju does his thing. The band just released a four-song tape. (“Enough To Say”)

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Ska Daddyz: These guys play more in a month than all the other bands put together. Hey, this is their job. Sort of a circus with a cool beat, the band of at least eight members (sometimes more or less depending on who quit the band on a particular evening) starts off slow with a reggae set, then kicks it hard with some raging covers such as “Ranking Full Stop” and “Anything, Anything.” A hangover generally follows a Ska Daddyz gig. (“She Likes To Party”)

Tao Jonz: The best-ever band in the 805 area code, this tight quartet split for the Bay Area, so if you missed their last show, oh well. A totally original band with about 80 tunes, Tao released a tape, a pair of CDs, then bailed out before the third one was finished. Reggae, rock, blues and ska combine in strange and danceable ways as they sound just like, well, Tao Jonz. They may come back for the occasional gig. Stay tuned. (“In My Mind”)

The Upbeat: Besides having “The World’s Safest Beach,” Carpinteria also has “The Area’s Best Ska Band.” This eight-man band has been together for about eight years, with its first CD threatened imminently. (“Justice?”)

Also worth checking out: Acadiana; April’s Motel Room; Ariel; Baby Huey; Tom Ball & Kenny Sultan; Bloody Mary Morning; J. Peter Boles; Brilliant Daydream; The Buds; Contradiction; The Crawdads; Creature Feature; Dishwalla; Evil Farmer; Fin, Greg & Dave; Gasoline; House of Games; Ill Repute; In Between Jobs; JuJu Eyeball; Led Zepagain; Little Jonny & the Giants; Munkafust; The Ordinaires; Polychrome; The Pontiax; Popsicko; Roadhouse Rockers; Soil; Spencer the Gardener; Sweet Onion; The Tearaways; Ten Foot Pole; This Ascension; The Tijuana Hound Dogs; Toad the Wet Sprocket; Tree of Love; Trouser Trouts; Woodburning Project, and Zoo Story.

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