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The best kept secret in music


"Good vibrations: Local pop-punkers the Utmost perfect the three-minute pop song"

The Utmost rocked the now-defunct Live.
By Ted Sablay

Music doesn't have to worry itself with the rain forest or the cure for racism to be good. Instead, music can concern itself with cares that can't be dealt with rationally. It doesn't need to change people's behavior. At the end of the day, music is about its ability to please the audience -- and the people who do that well are excused from going out and working a regular job. It's no more complicated than that.

Expressing this sentiment in less pretentious terms is the music of Las Vegas pop-punk group the Utmost. Borrowing from the tradition of Green Day and MxPx, the Utmost write short, melody-driven anthems, satisfying listeners in the way only fun, positive pop-punk can. Understandably, the tag, sullied by bands less talented and disciplined, is one that Utmost front man Don Flamenco quickly parses when asked to describe his band's relationship to the genre.

"We write three-chord melodic songs, which is partly what pop punk is," says the 23-year-old musician, whose singing voice registers somewhere between Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and Cake's John McCrea. "At the same time, I'm not snotty. I don't have a high-pitched voice. I don't whine about losing a girl or about my life sucking or how I'm alone.

"I sing like a man," he adds, laughing, "and about having a good time."

In other words, Flamenco, a substitute teacher by day, sings about girls, but with a slightly different take. Indeed, the words on the self-titled Utmost demo aren't those of a hypersensitive post-adolescent emoting about The Woman He Needs and Misses. Instead, the songs lean toward the don't-need-you-if-you're-going-to-act-like-you're-2-because-I'm-having-fun-either-way end of the spectrum.

"I suppose I could get deep," says Flamenco, also a UNLV communications major, when asked about his lyrics. "But right now, music is in such a bad way that we need to start over -- like the Beatles in 1963 or Nirvana in 1991. I do think a lot of people are tired of the fake 'American Idol' crap. Pretty soon, I think we're going to hit a period where the real stuff comes back in."

If the interest of fans and record-label representatives is any indication, the Utmost could very well ride the cusp of this new period of music. Anchored by bassist Chris Sprinkle, guitarist Adrian English and drummer Tom Paris, the band possesses a remarkably tight, catchy sound that can hold its own with any national pop-punk act.

While musicianship is a key ingredient to this success, what helps separate the Utmost from the majority is its clearly defined chain of command. They do not waste time with endless, disorganized jamming, hoping that the hits will come from democratic enthusiasm alone. Instead, Flamenco writes and records the songs on a multi-track recorder, piece by piece. Only when he gets the song right does he present it to his band members, all of whom are comfortable with the expectations and limits of their supporting roles.

According to Flamenco, he first found that quality in drummer Paris.

Says the singer: "When I met Tom, he said, 'Look, these are your songs. I'm going to do everything I can to make this vision work. Whatever you need me to do, I'll do.' Really, you can't ask for anymore than that."

Obviously, not everyone is as accommodating as Paris. Thankfully, after two years of countless personnel changes (including CityLife A&E Editor Jarret Keene's pathetic, short-lived stint as bassist), the Utmost is finally enjoying a solid lineup, one in which everyone knows their place and its relation to the singer's unusual talent for making pop-punk sound new.

- Las Vegas City Life

"The Utmost at the Cheyenne Saloon, Dec. 20"

Located at the ass-end of a desolate strip mall on North Rancho, the Cheyenne Saloon is about as far as you can get from the local music scene; it's lodged somewhere unhappy between the 'burbs and the city proper. Yet every weekend, with the regularity of a workman's whistle, the blue-collar dive hosts a handful of local bands for no cover. Add to that cheap beer, 50-cent pool and a weekend crowd of young, earthy types who might laugh at Vegas' creeping case of hip, and you might consider the Cheyenne an unpolished gem that offers a generous dose of local music without the hype, attitude or bluster.

Maybe the Cheyenne Saloon's distance from things is more than physical; judging by the Utmost's set Saturday night, the place also puts miles between itself and the music scene's dumbass seriousness. Hell, to even say that the Utmost played a "set" wouldn't be entirely accurate. Imagine instead nearly an hour of stand-up gooniness spliced with occasional songs and liberal rock outtakes; think Robin Williams guesting with Green Day, or a low-rent Blink 182. The set (following overearnest, underdeveloped alt-rockers Chase the Day) was a blundering odyssey of bad jokes, sloppy pop-punk and knee-jerk tribute riffing--now "Wild Thing," now "Back in Black"--that was, well, truly entertaining.

Somebody get these guys a manager; I smell punk-comedy lounge act! If you were drunk enough, one of the best schticks was the opening salvo about using the drummer's aunt's colostomy bag as second base in baseball games (followed by an inexplicable swatch of Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock 'n' Roll to Me" and some freeform metal screaming). And just when you'd think the jeans-and-Jack Daniels crowd was going to bubble over with impatience and subject the Utmost to some inventive new torture involving pool cues and belt buckles, the Utmost would soothe us savage beasts with one of its pleasant, if forgettable, pop rompers such as "Go Home," "She Was My Girlfriend" or "Ms. Know It All."

Leadman Donny--resplendent in spiked hair and striped sweater, making him look like some punk rock Carrot Top--summed it up best when he cracked at set's end, "The Utmost. Stay away. Stay very away." Or maybe, instead, when he said, "We've been great. Goodnight!"--Andrew Kiraly

- Las Vegas Mercury


First we recorded a 4 song demo CD. The songs were 1. Do It To Yourself 2. Red Corvette 3. Anymore 4. Annie. We have just finished recording a 16 song CD. I will not list all 16 songs, I have a dentist appointment, but some of the great songs on this new CD are "Go Home" "She Was My Girlfriend" and "Hidden Track." This CD is great and we did it all ourselves! We have had our song "Go Home" played in heavy rotation on 91 The Power KSUU in Utah, and "Things Are So Much Better" has been played on KOMP 92.3 here in Las Vegas.


Feeling a bit camera shy


We are influenced by a wide variety of music. Anything from Bach, Bacharach, or Bjork. Actually we aren't influenced by Bjork that much. We did enjoy her swan outfit at that awards show, but as history has shown, most people that wear swan outfits are compensating for other areas of their life.