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Balboa

Genre: punk, rock

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Balboa is the Big Kahuna of local indie rock, the founding fathers who blazed the trail for all Knoxville rock bands of any importance to follow. The group is universally revered by all longtime Knoxville scenesters, and rightly so. The brainchild of local mad scientist guitar guru Terry Hill, Balboa also featured the guitar artistry of Hector Qirko, bassist Richard Battaglia and drummer Steve Housewright. The combination of Qirko's blues and country swing techniques with Hill's more avant garde guitar mangling created a unique mix, and the rhythm section hammered it all down into a precise and even logical sound. It made perfect sense, and still does.

Back in the day, Balboa was considered to fall somewhere under the nebulous umbrella of punk rock, a genre that wasn't nearly as stilted and regimented in the late '70s as it is now. The band's independence, idealism and freeform artistry definitely fit into the punk aesthetic, which was—at the time—about creative and political freedom.

The first wave of punk was inextricably linked with the art world (see the Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, Television, et. al.) and Balboa was an art-rock band that purposely steered clear of pretension. What makes the tunes on Live Like This (plus) sound so classic is that they are not bound within a time-specific context. To this day, the songs sound urgent and modern.

I could go on and on about how great this is and all the accompanying memories it conjures—about how the band sounds like King Crimson meets Richard Hell & the Voidoids, about how cool it was to sneak into the legendary Cumberland Avenue cesspool Bundulee's Lounge and hang out with all the other underage skinny tie new-wavers, about the legion of Knoxville rockers who took their inspiration from the band...

Hearing these great old songs brings back the innocence of a time when it seemed like things really were gonna change. That sense of optimism and "we can do whatever we want" is what transforms garage rock into high art. Balboa had all the right ingredients at the right time and it was sheer magic. (John Sewell)

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