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VOL. 125 | NO. 109 | Monday, June 7, 2010

PEZZ Celebrates 20 Years of Rock

JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Memphis News

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The indie rock band PEZZ will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a special concert and celebration at the Hi-Tone on June 11. As band members and their generation grow older and more settled, the band’s lyrics continue to cry out against injustice.  Photos: Courtesy of PEZZ

The untold story of the decade since Y2K is how Generation X grew up, stopped wandering and settled down with a mortgage and a couple of kids.

But part of the original voice of that generation in Memphis that came into its own in the late 1980s and ’90s lives on in a band that refuses to retire the meaning in its message.

Indie rock band PEZZ will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Friday in a special concert and celebration at the Hi-Tone with the release of a new seven-inch vinyl record.

Marvin Stockwell, who helped start the band when he was 19, is now 40 years old and the father of two daughters. When the band played its first concert at the Singleton Community Center in Bartlett, the Internet was still a fairly recent innovation, so Stockwell had to search out the music scene in Memphis to find the music that spoke to him.

If You Go

The show is for ages 18 and up. More information is available by calling 278-TONE or by visiting www.hitonememphis.com. Tickets will be sold at the door.

“I was taken with the idea that there was an underground music subculture,” Stockwell said. “People didn’t start off as really popular. Long before I knew anything about punk rock, I knew what it meant to be an underground band.”

He found the sound he was looking for at the Antenna Club on Madison Avenue in Midtown – arguably once the capital of Memphis’ alternative music scene – and soon after, he and fellow band members Ceylon Mooney, Anthony Siracusa and Christian Walker cut their teeth on the Antenna’s stage.

“The thing that holds us together as a unit is our friendship,” Stockwell said. “It’s a brotherhood really, that enjoys creating music with meaning together. If we were just putting together rock songs, I think the allure would have worn off by now.”

Originally inspired by the Memphis band Sobering Consequences and the Little Rock band Trusty, PEZZ takes its influences from more well-known head-banging bands that survived the decline of the heavy metal era like Social Distortion, Articles of Faith, Leatherface, Fugazi and the Bad Brains.

The band has released four full-length albums, two split LPs and several seven-inch vinyl records including most recently “The Wicked Leading the Blind,” a copy of which is included with the $10 price of admission to Friday’s event.

PEZZ has toured with indie labels from California to Germany. In 2009 Shawn Apple joined the group to replace Siracusa, who went to Europe on a Watson Fellowship. This year Graham Burks joined as drummer.

The tone of PEZZ’s music is often aggressive with driving guitar riffs and lyrics that border on provocative, often speaking out against social issues like the death penalty, military conflicts in the Middle East and American political apathy.

Stockwell called the lyrics “urgent and passionate,” such as in the song “Free At Last,” which echoes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Don't wanna have to hide from you ... see?
I don't wanna have to do what I don't wanna
I don't wanna be what I don't want to be
Said We gotta find a way ... we gotta find a way to live in harmony
What, What?
What, What? Don't you here me?
Follow the words of Martin Luther King
follow his life
follow his dream
and sing "Free At Last!"

The Hi-Tone concert includes performances by special guests Tanks, the Westbound and Panther Piss. Limited edition records in translucent vinyl or marble vinyl will be available while they last.

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