Having taken much of its inspiration from the desert, the new Lightning Records collective is throwing simultaneous desert parties this weekend.
On the Arizona side, Lightning Strike: Keeylocko brings a host of Tucson bands to Cowtown Keeylocko, the Old West town and saloon near Three Points. On the California side, a music and art celebration takes place in Joshua Tree.
Conceived as a music and art collective, Lightning Records will release its first quarterly wave of five tapes this month, celebrating with the May 3 Lightning Strikes.
Keeylocko performer/hosts Ohioan and Algae & Tentacles are the Tucson bands that will be among the 20 artists to release new music on Lightning Records this year, along with Cy Dune, Wooden Wand, William Tyler and Delicate Steve.
Ohioan’s Ryne Warner and Algae & Tentacles’ John Melillo say they wanted to harness the spirit of the label and present music in an atypical way, drawing people together in one place, outside the city, to draw a better focus on the performers.
“The thing that really interests me that doesn’t get considered much is the context in which we experience music,” Warner says. “I get pretty worn out always going to bars to experience music in that context. It presents a monotonous mentality. I wish there was a different sort of communal experience happening.”
Joining Ohioan and Algae & Tentacles at Keeylocko will be Vox Urbana, Burning Palms, Katterwaul and Halcyonaire, from Oakland, Calif.
“There’s some stuff I know I can’t get away with in a bar, where people aren’t going to be attentive enough. Specifically with Keeylocko, I like the idea of trapping people outside of town so everybody can settle in,” Warner says. “Once people are out there, they’re going to be stoked.”
That communal spirit and sense of artistic freedom is at the core of Lightning Records, which proclaims “We believe in the transcendent power of rock ‘n’ roll.” Seth Olinsky (from the experimental folk-rock band Akron/Family) and conceptual artist Ali Beletic started Lightning Records to focus on sharing music and other art with a like-minded group of musicians, adventurers, surfers, dirtbike enthusiasts and builders, racecar enthusiasts, premier coffee roasters, fashion and product designers.
Though Olinsky and Beletic live in Los Angeles, they say the spirit of the project comes straight out of the time they spent living in Tucson, where Olinsky began performing his Cy Dune side project and Beletic created large-scale sculptural works with a strong connection to the desert.
“Both the land and the community there were so inspiring, the perfect place to dream and make music and art, and the most amazing community to get inspired by and share inspirations,” Olinsky told the Tucson Weekly in January.
Warner says that inspiration extends to Ed Keeylocko and his desert town. Not only is the Cowtown, 40 miles southwest of Tucson near the Coyote Mountain WIlderness, a working ranch with a wooden saloon, but it’s run by a man admired for his personal philosophy of freedom and tolerance, Warner says.
“I’d been wanting to do a show there for years,” he says. “With Seth’s aesthetic and what he’s doing with Lightning Records, it brought it back to my mind.”
The event runs from 4 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, with camping included in the $8 entry. Ride-sharing is being arranged through the Facebook event page.
“The way space and surroundings work with music can be radically different,” Melillo says. “There’s the ability to explore a space through music and it’s an experiment no matter what.
“The adventure begins in the desert, as every new thing should,” Melillo says.
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