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W ith his fingers flying across the strings of his bass guitar and his hair soaked to his face, Ryan Kosel has taken a huge step closer to his dream.

Kosel, a University of Arizona undeclared sophomore, and his punk band, Bueno, have embarked on a whirlwind trek across the Southwest as a part of this year’s Vans Warped Tour.

Bueno celebrated the July 2 release of their debut album, “Finding Humor in the Tragedy,” on Volcom Entertainment, with seven shows on the Warped Tour. They started in San Antonio on June 25, then played Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix. Bueno finished with a show in Los Angeles on July 2.

“This is way gnarly compared to anything we’ve done,” Kosel said. “We’re basically where we’ve wanted to be for a while. We really couldn’t ask for anything better in terms of exposure.”

Having emerged as punk rock kings from the sleepy tourist town of Prescott, Bueno is composed of Kosel on bass, Brian Gianelli on vocals and guitar, Mike Rhodes on guitar and backup vocals, all 19, and 21-year-old Mike Thompson on drums.

“I do enjoy being from Prescott, because no one expects it for a punk band,” Kosel said. “When we started playing seriously, there had been no band at all in Prescott that was playing anything kids would be interested in.”

Kosel started playing bass when he was 10, and teamed with Rhodes on many early bands, influenced largely by the intelligent punk music of bands like Bad Religion and Pennywise. The two then met Thompson and played with various bands for a while until meeting up with Gianelli and forming Bueno.

In the three years since, Bueno has played mostly around Northern Arizona, in cities like Prescott and Flagstaff, and a bit in Phoenix and Tucson. They have even made it out to California to play a couple of times.

Bueno has played shows with the likes of co-Warped bands Blink 182 and the Vandals, but this is the first time they have taken part in anything of this scale.

“We’re coming out of nowhere, we’re young and we’re from Prescott,” Kosel said. “But we all have enough faith in the quality of the music.”

That musical quality has grown tremendously in the three years the band has been together, Kosel said.

“We’ve gotten more unique, bridging into more styles, adding another guitar,” he said. “The writing is a lot more complex, structure-wise.”

Gianelli is responsible for the lyrics, which often lean heavily to social and political issues, including American consumerism and corporate control.

“The main thing we’re against is the ideology of consumerism and globalization,” Gianelli said. “The lyrics function around those ideas.”

In terms of bringing their message to the platform of the Warped Tour stage, Kosel said the goal is to reach a lot of people.

“Overall, we’re pretty socially conscious people,” he said. “We are against apathy and complacence and the only way we can combat that is by adding perspective.”

Gianelli said the tour is an important step in gaining exposure for the band.

“It means a lot in a sense that we’re getting a lot of promotion,” he said. “This is a time when we can really show people the music.”

Bueno played on the Volcom side-stage, with fellow Volcom band The Line. Gianelli said the band had an opportunity to play two sets a day because of the smaller stage.

“The aspiration is still the music,” Gianelli said. “It’s all that we want to do, we feel it in our bones.”

Kosel said the stage isn’t just a platform for the band’s ideas, but a place for their collective musical and theatrical talents to shine.

“We’re into putting on a show,” he said. “We’ve always been fond of absurdity and we all really love playing.”

From the small-scale punk shows at the Yavapai County Fairgrounds in Prescott three years ago to the Warped stage, which is the pinnacle of punk tours, Kosel said Bueno has made a name for themselves and now have the opportunity to develop a much broader fan base.

“Overall, punk rock has been pretty important in my life,” he said.

Originally published July 14, 1999 in the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

(Note: Long before I started freelance music writing, I would occasionally dabble in the same type of stuff. I’ll periodically dig some of the good stuff out of the past and re-post them here.)

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Eric Swedlund is a writer, photographer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. His music writing has appeared regularly in the Tucson Weekly, Phoenix New Times, East Bay Express, The Rumpus and Souciant Magazine.

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