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Stoned Ranger and Defensive Listening made it through another mostly great We Shot JR showcase with their anonymity intact. But the notoriously picky DFW music bloggers revealed themselves to be suckers for a gimmick.

War Wizards—something of an underground supergroup with Wanz Dover, Lars Larsen and Shawn Mauck—were compelling yet frustrating. Even with improvised toilet-paper earplugs, Dover and Mauck's snarling, distorted guitars and industrial laptop beats were painfully loud. Too bad, because when I jammed my fingers into my ears I could pick up on the nuances of Dover's complex beats and Mauck's guitar work. The telltale smell of ozone and smoke from a speaker midway through was no surprise. Larsen screamed politically charged lyrics with all the subtlety of a Jay Leno monologue, pacing the stage in a combat helmet and rolling on the floor screaming "We don't need no fucking war!" incessantly.

It was the polar opposite of Chris Garver's opening set. Aided by an unobtrusive rhythm section, his acoustic country folk songs were almost drowned out by chattering assholes. A follow-up visit to his MySpace site revealed him to be an intriguing, evocative and literate songwriter.

Lars Larsen's combat rock was just the beginning at We Shot JR.
Lars Larsen's combat rock was just the beginning at We Shot JR.

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We Shot JR showcase, featuring Treewave, War Wizards, Night Game Cult and Chris Garver, Friday, January 26, at Secret Headquarters, Denton

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After Night Game Cult's set, no fewer than three intelligent musicians tried to convince me that singer Kyle Cheatham is some sort of mad-genius songwriter. One even compared him to Daniel Johnston. But all I saw was bullshit performance art. He and a girl, both body-painted silvery gray, danced on scattered newspapers and flung dye on each other as he sang poorly over a CD of '80s-mocking, synth-heavy soft rock. Judging by the enthusiastic audience, my opinion was shared by few.

Headliner Tree Wave killed as usual, despite singer Lauren Gray's absence. Hopefully Paul Slocum converted a few new fans to his brilliant, circuit-bending 8-bit rock.

Unlike the identities of the We Shot JR crew, Slocum's music—along with War Wizards' and Garver's—shouldn't be kept secret.

 
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