Edge of Emo

Crooked Edge transcends the emo label — and makes fun of it, too.

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Somewhere near these words, you'll notice a little box. Within that box is the pertinent information regarding this year's installment of The Next Big Thing, the largest of modern-rock station 97X's annual quasi-festival shows. If you're impressed by the list of featured performers, you should be. Even the non-fan must admit that WSUN has put together an extremely hot lineup of immediately recognizable household names — assuming said household houses at least one person in his or her teens or early 20s.

It's a veritable cavalcade of emophilia. What's more, it's a hands-down perfect opportunity for a local band with chops, hooks and a similar youth appeal to expose itself to a tailor-made audience far larger than the usual throng of homegrown-music supporters.

Assuming said band hasn't gone and done anything provocative or boat-rocking, of course. Something like, oh, I don't know, calling its latest record Deliver Us from Emo.

Pinellas County punk act Crooked Edge did just that.

"We're not haters, or anything," begins bassist Brady on the subject of their daringly titled EP. "It's a common misconception, people who don't know us probably think we hate on everyone from people who don't do drugs" — their name has been perceived as making fun of the substance-free straightedge movement — "to people who like emo. We definitely debated on whether or not to use [the title]."

"Plenty of badass bands have been called emo," chimes in guitarist Jeremy.

Suddenly, everyone in the practice space is trying to explain it at once, in his own words, from his own perspective. But the gist is this: an idea for a T-shirt slogan became the name of the record because the members of Crooked Edge thought that (a) everyone, including fans of music that might fit under the hopelessly ambiguous emo tag, could relate to their exasperation at its rampant overuse, and (b) it was amusing.

"We're just little turds, and we sit in this garage and make music. We don't think about the wider repercussions of the jokes that are funny to us," sums drummer Chris.

The great irony here is that plenty of folks would probably see fit to apply the emo label to Crooked Edge's harmony-laden, slightly metallic tunes. To do so wouldn't be correct — the quintet's sound owes more to the taut, galloping style that blasted out of Southern California during the early '90s than anything that's happened in punk since — but then again, the term has been used to describe everyone from The Cure to Hatebreed, so why the hell not?

"That's another reason why it's funny," Chris says. "It comes back around, to this catch-22."

It probably doesn't matter, anyway, because nearly everyone who hears Crooked Edge, or sees the band live, seems to come away with a favorable impression. In addition to landing the enviable opening position for the 97X gig, Crooked Edge is one of 10 finalists in indie label Takeover Records and online music community Purevolume.com's "Sign My Band" competition — no mean feat, when you consider that over 7,000 groups from all over the States entered. They're also a consistently strong draw (particularly at their "home club," Seminole's Boomerz Boiler Room) in an environment where lots of original acts are struggling to build a fanbase.

Most of their appeal lies, admirably, in the music itself. Crooked Edge's well-wrought, meaty and occasionally technical oeuvre, while standing out from the currently emo- and screamo-obsessed fringe-rock pack, balances heft and catchiness ably enough to attract fans of just about any guitar-driven subgenre. But the band's attitude is also definitely a factor. They're focused and driven but still approachable, and refreshingly modest. Few unsigned groups survive six years together, and of the ones who do, few get that far without coming to believe, arrogantly or bitterly, that somebody owes them something.

The guys in Crooked Edge, on the other hand, are effusively thankful for the opportunities — The Next Big Thing, airplay on 97X's Sunday-night Local Motion program, the Takeover Records contest, road-shows with friends' bands, a slot at this year's Warped Tour stop in Jacksonville — finally coming their way.

"I just like to think they liked our sound, and hopefully we have a good reputation in the area," says Jeremy. "You see so many bands out there that are just idiots, assholes. I don't ever want to end up like that. Hopefully, there's mutual trust. We've kind of grown up in the area together, us and Boomerz and 97X starting to support local music. We've had the greatest support, I can't believe the support we've gotten."

"I just want to thank everybody who comes to the shows," says Brady.

"And sticks around, because sometimes we go on late as fuck," adds guitarist Scott.

They won't be going on late this Sunday at Coachman Park; in fact, they'll probably be going on before some of their drinking-age fans finally haul their asses out of bed. But where some veteran unsigned bands might grouse about having to play first, this fivesome is justifiably excited — about The Next Big Thing as a symbol of the returns on their efforts, and about the show itself.

"I can't even think about that show," says Chris, shaking his head. "It makes me shit every time I think about it."

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