Current mood: jubilant

Day 2 of THE GREAT TRACTOR RACE opened with the repeat sunny, almost cloudless blue sky of the day before but with cool temps. The stacked hay bales filled with Grandparents and grandkids sitting on them, all waiting to see these 'junkyard wars' tractor types plow through a mud pit as they race around the circular course. Back again also and circulating in the crowd to sell raffle tickets (this event is for charity) are raven haired Jackie Jetson and B.T.Tanya, both dressed in black and highly visible in a sodbuster sea of pastels, floral patterns, and floppy hats. Back on the technical end are Chris from VOS running sound and Jazzy Jeff on event calling. Having been around when the previous announcer called the race, Jeff should be signed on the spot by the Lions Club for filling the color commentary slot with such ease for a walk-on, just slicker than snot. Aside from those standouts, the rest of the FVE crew were filling in the cracks to keep the show flowing. Also props and respect to Grand Marshall for 2004, Sis Herron, who began her involvement with the Tractor Race in 1979, back when all that was here was sodbusters. So without any further delay, here is DAY 2 of THE GREAT TRACTOR RACE OF 2004.

SATURDAY'S CHILD - The three guys from Oceanside, CA, sporting a Surfside 6 look, with the two guitar players in button front sports shirts and the drummer in a clean white T, fall into the 24-28 age range. The bass player, James, bears a strong, almost uncanny resemblance to Carbon Fiber Joe, the Boss From Hell and a hobby band member Bill and I both sweated for. Indeed, the first song or two has a COLLECTIVE SOUL tinge to them, but then the old memories fade and I can hear the melodic alternative rock that James (also on vocals) with his brother Jason Schlarmann, guitar and vocals, along with Nick Sprankles on drums are putting down. The sound and the look of the group is far removed from the garage days, with the current lineup being the same for the last three years. The brotherly connection definitely shows in the duel rhythm parts of songs played like one man with four arms (Doc Ock?) with perfect cutaways done for the lead solo. The drum kit is the more traditional six cymbal setup at standard height, but the drummer, playing in So Cali Black Fly style shades too cool for remove his shirt, only adds to the 'ocean side' look of the group. Or it could be that the tent hadn't warmed up yet since the night before was somewhat of a 'nipper' for anyone caught out after dark in T-shirt and bike shorts. Once again though, the musical part of the Tractor Race is off to a good start, like the sputtering tractors racing outside. You can catch these emmocore rockers at 'The Jumping Turtle' (probably San Diego or vicinity) on, what else, the Saturday of October 16th, and be sure to pick up some merch from 'sweet' Candy, the 4th member of this 3 piece. SATURDAY'S CHILD, a band you will remember on Sunday.

ALLISON GARCIA - Sunday was the day of double duty for the young ALLISON GARCIA as she did a traditional rendition of the National Anthem and then took the stage with her dad Bob and the Quintessential Sam on percussion (see past reviews for his last name). Slowly the sweet smooth vocals of country flavored songs drew the sodbusters in to take a seat and Sam's broad grin surrounded by dangling grey locks and an array of things that bing, clunk, and chime, kept the little ones fascinated.Though it's only been a few months since she debuted at Madlins as a youngster with a grown-up voice, Allison's stage presence and demeanor have caught up with her vocal maturity. As you watch Bob finger the acoustic and listen to original songs he writes, sung by his daughter, you realize that the seed doesn't fall far from the tree.

STONE PHARO - You can tell at a glance that this band is from Southern California because of the 'waders' (pants that are made so you can walk in the surf without getting your pants legs wet and totally Californian), and the Skin, T-Pozer, and Independent black T's the three piece group is wearing. As the tent temp started to rise only to be cooled off by the daily ocean breeze, the boys lulled the sodbusters into a false sense of musical security by doing a nice power ballad before announcing that 'the color was going to change'. STONE PHARO then blasted into a blistering conceptual set using punk metal songs featuring long instrumental bridges, intros, and segues, giving many in the audience that same 'deer in the headlights' facial expression as witnessed the day before with FLUID. The applauding patrons however, one of whom looked like the proverbial 'little old lady from Pasadena' all decked out in her straw hat with the white hatband, showed that they could appreciate music beyond BROOKS 'N' DUNN. The local power trio from the Temecula/Wildermar area is made up of Eric Walker on drums who writes his own drum parts, and songwriters Kelly Sewell, bass/vocals, and Bob Batterton, guitar/vocals, and have been around for seven years. Bob works at Whittaker Music behind Starbucks/AM-PM on Jefferson and plays in two other bands. STONE PHARO is appearing at The Wooden Nickel on December 3rd. Band info can be found at

KILLER SHEEP - The flock increased by one this time as drummer Steve Duncan returned to the music pack with old school licks lifted from Motown and the EAGLES. Unfortunately the sound balance for KILLER SHEEP is complex and the proper balance never fully happened. The result was that the uniqueness of the group's blend of voices, Matt (also guitar), Jim (also bass, er Rickenbacker bass), and Bobbie (also percussion, like Sam, kinda), was lost, along with the clarity to hear the activist lyrics found on many of the songs. It seems to me that at Madlin's intimate venue (or any other coffee house) you pick up more of the homespuness of this band, like seeing a classic car up close. The level of appreciation grows up close and personal, and you certainly have to appreciate the aqua green hollow body Epiphone that Matt played on a song or two. It made a big difference in the sound as it cut notes clean and clear. Some of you purists might recall that this is the guitar made famous by THE BEATLES. That's why I like to see these guys, 'cause there's more to them than just the music. Bobbie looked dapper in her pressed black slacks, floppy hat and flowered top, but it was the non-dentured road manager, also in floppy hat and printed 'Simpsons' top that stole the KILLER SHEEP fashion show.

SHAWN MAFIA and THE TEN CENT THRILLS - (affordable but never cheap), returned to Temecula with his unique brand of story ballads. Thinning the crowd of the looky-loos in the way a barker does at a 'medicine show' using a legendary intro of himself, brought hearty applause from the real music fans. As I watched Jerry (bass), Alan (lead guitar), Steve (drums), aka THE TEN CENT THRILLS line-up from their last Madlins show, and again joined by Sam on percussion, known here as The Silk Siren, all performing behind SHAWN MAFIA and his Gospel preacher man delivery, framed by the American Flag backdrop, the wars going on around the globe seemed to be in a distant galaxy far, far away before the Second Coming. Certainly Shawn's musical craftiness, aided by the affordable thrills, and made comfortable by the added dimensions of the stage, brought forth such delightful music in the song 'Yearbook' that the head Lioness, wearing an 'Alice In Wonderland' Checkerboard hat, suffered a case of musical palsy while heading for the Miller tapper trailer. SHAWN MAFIA, you young dog, you. No wonder the sodbusters gave up plenty of 'palm slapping benediction'. Then we put the cat out and this race to bed. - MR. PETE