ARIZONA BASED REGGAE ROCKERS BLACK BOTTOM LIGHTERS LIKELY TO PUT PHOENIX BACK ON THE TALENT MAP
by MARK SIMPSON
In the urban dictionary black bottom lighters are referred to as a “soot”-tipped Bic, but not to one reggae Arizona band and their avid, cult-like followers. Arizona “grown” Black Bottom Lighters, also known as BBL, recently released their self-titled EP in hopes of putting the desert local scene back on the map. Phoenix, once known to produce bands such as Authority Zero, Jimmy Eat World, and the Gin Blossoms; has been looking for the next success story and it seems that it may have revealed itself in BBL.
Black Bottom Lighters emerged from the Phoenix local scene in 2010 originally as an acoustic trio performing at house parties and open mics throughout the Valley of the Sun. After years of developing their several line-up changes they landed on a dynamic sound that carried them into now. Ryan Stilwell, aka Stilly, heads up the vocal duties with slick rhymes and a stellar beatbox. Backing him up is Taide Pineda, aka T. T takes the BBL sound and defines it with his smooth voice and sweet sounding guitar rhythms. Jose Aquino assumes all things bass. His unique style as a slap, pluck and all-around groove-filled bassist strongly backs the beats set forth by hard-hitting drumming machine, Ryan McPhatter, aka McPhatty. They knew he was the perfect fit for their vision. In that vision along came Kelyn Weaver, a classically trained jazz pianist turned dubstep/electronic keyboardist who felt what the rest of the guys were dishing out musically. Rush DJ came along for the ride, spinning his records and scratching the layers of BBL sound. The last, but not near the least, piece of the puzzle was atomic guitarist Phil K. who brought their sound full circle with the amazing depths of his talent on his 6 string Gibson.
2012 was a huge year for the BBL, up to and including their self-titled EP release. They received steady radio play on KWSS 106.7FM, Phoenix’s only alternative music radio station, and were featured several times on their morning show, TMI (The Morning Infidelity). The host, Beef Vegan, was even featured in the band’s first official music video, Nuclear, which also premiered late 2012. They played headlining shows at prestigious Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale clubs and events as well as sharing the stage with today’s hottest reggae bands The Dirty Heads, Iration, Ballyhoo!, Tribal Seeds, and Flogging Molly’s annual Tempe Beach Park’s St. Patrick’s Day Bash. They also opened for some of the most famous reggae bands ever, such as, The Original Wailers and Steel Pulse.
Black Bottom Lighters EP release on December 21st at Scottsdale’s Martini Ranch was referred by the Phoenix New Times as the #1 event to be the weekend before Christmas. Their fans showed up to take over the popular venue in herds. People were lined up around the block to get in the door. The BBL hand-picked their openers, setting the stage for a feel good, one-of-a-kind show. Once prepped, the crowd was loud and feverish – the band was able to feed off the crowd’s enthusiasm, causing a centrifugal force in downtown Scottsdale. Smiles abound, and fun surely had, the night came to a close as the BBL trumped the Martini Ranch.
Back to the matter at hand… the self-titled EP. Thanks to their sponsors at Arizona Cannabis Society, they were able to record something themselves and their fan base could sink their teeth into; 7 songs of a pure musical spectacle. The first track “Be Kind, Rewind” was a great pace setter, giving you grooves from each member and highlighting the skillful abilities of the band. “Hard Way” and “Nuclear” give you a dynamic taste of the chemistry and charisma experienced in the BBL, highlighting breakdowns and verses hooking you in, wanting more. “Right Time” was the eye of the storm the listeners ears were craving. Flowing vocals and a steady stream of guitar leaves you swaying from left to right like an inebriated Stevie Wonder. Then BAM! They unload climaxing “Stuck in Arizona”! Those from the Arizona desert don’t sound that bad off in this reggae-rock ballad. But the band doesn’t want to end the music samples too abruptly so they let you down gently with “Words to Say” and “Home Grown.” Both songs that give you a real sense of what the band is all about – their feel good music and their feel good culture.
They don’t plan to stop progressing in 2013. In fact, they have their sights set on touring and getting their message wide-spread. Whoever stops to listen will not regret it. BBL has an amazing group of talent and their EPs are a small sample of what they have to offer, an escape from the toll of modern day life. The rest of us will be waiting for the next chapter in the story of the Black Bottom Lighters so we too can forget what we feel at the end of every day.