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October 18-24, 2006

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The Rivals

Photograph by Dave Lepori
Unrivaled Energy: The Rivals take no prisoners at every show.

Blowing Up

The Rivals explode on the scene with sheer power

By Ryan Osterbeck

IF THERE weren't bands like the Rivals throughout musical history, we'd still be banging two rocks together with mindless animal chanting as vocal accompaniment. That's the power of these hardcore Gilroy rockers who travel through the brutally honest waters of indie/punk: the power to break musical conventions.

Drummer Jim Azevedo, bassist Tom Jordan, guitarist Zack Alves and powerful vocalist Matt Reed are a wave waiting to wash over a tired scene that sorely needs a baptismal. Azevedo sees a way to break through the current stagnation with a renewed live-music attack: "What you have to do is break conventions," he says. "Any artist, any band has to break conventions to create."

To see them onstage is to see that philosophy in action. The Rivals live are a spectacle, one of the biggest sounds to blast out of the valley. Drummer Azevedo is driving the frenzy; Tom Jordan's bass gives it meaning. When Zack begins his furious guitar licks, the fuse is lit for vocalist Reed, a musical dervish of pent-up positive aggression and compassionate rage. Reed hits the stage full bore, an unlikely scion of intense hardcore, and the room breaks into a benevolent riot commanded by the band's undying energy.

The Rivals firmly believe that live music is coming back to downtown San Jose.

"When the Cactus closed, it was devastating. Playing the Cactus was like a rite of passage," says Azevedo. "But now there's a buzz again and both bands and venues have to promote; it's a partnership. When everything is clicking, when the amps are up and the crowd is into it, it's a bomb ready to explode."

Categorizing the Rivals in one particular musical genre does them a disservice. I call them punk, but they're not just that exactly. You could call them hardcore, but that term has always referred more to a degree of play than to a specified genre. The Rivals play with that fast, loose energy and roiling angst that screams, "Screw the powers that be. We are the power, we're here and we demand to be heard."

"It doesn't matter if we're playing a large venue or in a living room, it's the same energy, it doesn't matter where we are," says Azevedo. It's true—every blazing guitar lick screams with a fury, every lyric has that duality of being completely uplifting yet wholly subversive.

The Rivals play music for its own sake; it's the only way they think it should be done. "If you get into it for the wrong reasons, for the girls or the fame, to be 'a rock star,' then don't do it," Azevedo declares.

He's got his own definition of a music hero: "You know what a rock star is? A rock star is the guy that gets up at 6am, is at work all day, goes to practice, gets home and promotes his band until midnight, then wakes up the next day with a smile on his face to do it all again. That's a rock star."

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