Agata of Melt-Banana
It all came in a flash. The singer was six inches tall and shrieked inhuman demon yowls with bloody, quivering eels for vocal chords. The drummer was lost in a flurry of blurred arms and sticks—speed-pattering through blast beats and jazz rolls and mind-numbing noise. But it was the guitarist, a kid named Agata, who made the band. Calm and casual behind a white SARS mask, his hands worked like hummingbirds across the fretboard, turning guitar notes into tiny shards of glass and chords into galloping horse hooves. I don't remember who opened for them, and I don't remember what songs they played, but Melt-Banana's guitarist was one of the most unnaturally brilliant creatures I'd ever seen. Guitar god? Definitely. Though I think he'd be surprised to hear it. ADAM GNADE
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick
"A kid who rats on another kid is a dead kid." Over the Edge is the most gnarly teen rebellion movie ever. The first time I caught the film, I was 16, stoned, and totally suburban. I was infatuated with a shaggy-haired dude who drove around in a conversion van—we got high and would retreat to his folks' living room to watch the "based-on-a-true-story" teenage riots. The kids in Over the Edge were bored, wasted, and spring-loaded for anarchy. And the soundtrack: Jimi Hendrix, the Ramones, and hooks like I had never heard before from Illinois' finest, Cheap Trick. Shaggy dude let me borrow a worn copy of Dream Police, and I began to worship these gods as only a proto-emo teenybopper could.
Twenty years had passed since Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson, and Bun E. Carlos began driving Japanese girls wild with power chords and quadruple-necked guitars. It made no difference to me because I knew that guitar gods are timeless and transcend language barriers. They historically speak the universals of teenage lust and familiar heartbreak. Sexy as your first super-hot makeout session, Cheap Trick's first five albums and thrill of their live shows create a euphoric "Can you get this awesome?" Listen to a live version of "High Roller" and you'll hear Nielsen coerce his strings to growl and pout in response to Zander cooing, "I'll take real good care of you." Or the classic, "I Want You to Want Me"—Carlos is keeping pace on the drum kit while Nielsen pierces Zander's pretty boy balladeering with precocious finger work on the fret board. Cheap Trick are power-pop gods who sonically split the seas and open the heavens to get you amped for the original Illinoise. SALINA NUÑEZ