Music

Destination Vegas: Hardcore band gambles on leaving LA

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A Smile From the Trenches frontman Stoney Anderson works the crowd.
Photo: Richard Brian
Pj Perez

If you’ve never been to The Farm before, it might be hard to find the first time. It’s located in a nondescript shopping center in southwest Las Vegas, with little signage and almost no indicators that an all-ages music venue might be nestled in the corner. But when I drive past slowly on a Thursday night and find a parking lot filled with hundreds of kids in skinny jeans and hoodies, there is no doubt: This is the place.

Outside the double glass entry doors to the makeshift venue—it’s really just three or four commercial suites with a stage set up in the corner—Stoney Anderson, lead singer of A Smile From the Trenches, talks to teenage music fans. Tall and lanky with stringy, black hair protruding from the front of his pulled-up hood, Anderson obviously knows these kids. They warmly hug, jokingly mock each other and discuss things such as backpack fashions. Though he’s 23 years old, the skinny musician appears to blend in with the young crowd.

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But once Anderson hits the stage with the rest of the band—guitarists Derek Jones and Ahmad Alkurabi, drummer Brent Javier and bassist Stephen Johnson—he transforms from quiet, unassuming punk into reckless, lewd rock ’n’ roll frontman, greeting the audience with “What’s up, motherfuckers?” while violently swinging his microphone cord around, eventually catching the mic so hard he starts bleeding everywhere.

“Before shows I just kind of keep it cool, try to stick to myself, just gather everything so I can release it onstage,” Anderson says. “I put on a little bit of a show, exaggerate certain points of my personality.”

A Smile From the Trenches is celebrating the re-release of its CD, Leave the Gambling for Vegas, on DC Hardcore, a Washington, D.C.-based label that’s also home to Paul “H.R.” Hudson of legendary punk outfit Bad Brains. The band landed on DC Hardcore through a maze of music-industry connections made by its manager, Clay Busch. Anderson met Busch, who then worked with Interscope Records, outside of the Roxy in Los Angeles one night. After checking out the MySpace link Anderson sent him, Busch called him the very next day and put the wheels in motion.

Though Anderson and Johnson started the band—whose sound is akin to a rawer mix of early My Chemical Romance and The Used, with some ’80s glam-rock thrown in—a few years ago in Colorado, they recently relocated to Las Vegas after a yearlong stint in LA. “We always had really good pull here,” Anderson says of Vegas. “This would be our home.”

Catching a fair amount of Internet buzz—including more than 300,000 MySpace plays—for its take on Katy Perry’s “Hot & Cold” (“We’re a little band,” Anderson confesses. “We need to steal fans”), A Smile From the Trenches should be poised to capitalize on its momentum. But a scheduled U.S. tour has been canceled, and though he sounds excited about the future even through the sleepy haze of a long day and late night, Anderson admits immediate plans for the band are “all hearsay right now.

“You just have to cross your fingers and hope everything goes right,” he says.

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