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Immersed in the experience

Local bands put on roller coaster ride performances, transcend language barriers

When you get a craving for live music, nothing is more satisfying than immersing yourself in the loud, dreamy darkness of a good show. It is even more satisfying when you find that good show produced by local talent. The experience of connecting to your community seems to reinforce every tone soaring from the stage.

Friday night at the Launchpad, Felonious Groove Foundation and Feels Like Sunday played a show that came close to this ideal. The result was an enjoyable, if slightly clunky, atmosphere filled with a crowd who was all about having a good time.

Although energy levels started off quietly, with the help of opening rock-girl bands SOWN and Feels Like Sunday to move the crowd, by the time Felonious Groove Foundation came on everyone was excited and dancing - and maybe a little bit drunk.

The evening began with a tight performance by SOWN - a title that works on multiple levels, referencing nature as well as serving as a cryptic acronym, "some one word name." The thick, echoing rock of the band harmoniously draped around the haunting and sometimes jarringly melodic all-Japanese vocals of singer Yumi Mizuta. Guitarist Chris Walker and bassist Christian Thompson explain that, even though you may not understand Mizuta's lyrics, the music transcends language barriers, evoking a universal rock-and-roll essence.

"Love, death, and travel are what it's ultimately all about," Walker said.

Joni Rhodes-Orie, Feels Like Sunday's red-headed vocalist, said she honestly feels that "there is no other band like SOWN in Albuquerque." SOWN's unique style certainly played a large role in the overall enjoyablity of the evening.

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Feels Like Sunday was up next, supported by lots of audience applause. In a press release, the band describes its sound as "a roller coaster ride of rock, pop, grunge and emo." Since the band's first release, Tedious Bliss, last summer, its musical quality has solidified and evolved. The live performance of the band confirmed its musical growth, as well as its growing loyal base of fans.

Perhaps the most appealing thing about Feels Like Sunday is its enthusiasm and perseverance to make its mark in the local music scene. The band plans to release a second album soon, and was recently selected as one of the top 20 bands in New Mexico. Along with Felonious Groove Foundation, Feels Like Sunday recently participated in the New Mexico Showcase, which featured the state's best talent.

Feels Like Sunday has an energetic stage presence that is appealing and approachable. All members of the band seem to truly enjoy themselves onstage - bassist Matt Michaelson wore a perma-grin throughout the set. Rhodes-Orie interacted comfortably with the audience.

She donned no rock-star ego; she simply held herself like a 20-something college student who loves being onstage. Feels Like Sunday's set consisted of several songs from "Tedious Bliss" as well as some new material and even included a rendition of the Violent Femmes' "Kiss Off."

There is innocence to Feels Like Sunday's music. The band's name conjures images of childhood picnics and weekend relaxation. Its sound is catchy. The live performance seemed to surpass the energy of the CD. Rhodes-Orie's lyrics tackle social and personal issues common to the everyday experience of being a female college student.

Sometimes, however, the band's lyrics become a weakness. It seemed that their newer material rang a little more maturely - a quality that will most likely continue to improve as Feels Like Sunday further solidifies and evolves. Nonetheless, Feels Like Sunday put on a rocking show, and seeing a live performance helped me understand why they are quickly becoming top on the local scene.

Finally, Felonious Groove Foundation took the stage, propelling the show to its highest energy. Members of the band consisted not only of the typical guitarists and drummer, but two saxophone players and a set of turntables. The band mixes a highly instrumental style of hip-hop, funk, Latin and rock sounds. Its sounds sent the audience cheering on an imaginative ride of deep grooves balanced against blissful moments of sonic intensity. Similar to Feels Like Sunday, Felonious Groove Foundation has steadily carved its sound into the local scene, and is increasingly becoming renowned as one of New Mexico's premier bands.

Felonious Groove will perform on March 11 at Club Rhythm and Blues, and March 30 at the Launchpad. Both shows start at 9:30 p.m. To purchase Felonious Groove Foundation's CD visit www.fgfband.com and Feels Like Sunday's Tedious Bliss at www.feelslikesunday.net. Both albums can also usually be found at Natural Sound and Bow Wow Records.

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