The free show at Club Congress on Wednesday, July 20, felt almost clique-ish, due to the fact that three of the bands on the bill--The Fashionistas, Naim Amor and Tom Walbank--share two band members: Dmitri Manos, of Sugarbush, Galactic Federation of Love and Golden Boots, and Michael Bagesse, formerly of Liberty School. It was sort of like being at a club meeting, with the new inductees being Phoenix's Colorstore, who played the second slot and rightfully earned their right to play among the "cliques" of the Tucson music scene.
The Fashionistas, who played first, sound almost like Portishead would if they were a lounge band, and their slowed-down cover of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" showcased their eerie swankiness. The forces at work in The Fashionistas' music are embodied by lead singer Emilie Marchand's sultry jazz vocals and her fabulous punk-rock hair.
The four guys in Colorstore, who played second, had a lot of tricks up their short, sweaty sleeves. They were barely visible behind their equipment--keyboards, organs, guitars, drums and a giant suitcase full of gadgets. Singer/rhythm guitarist Mark Erickson wailed and contorted behind the suitcase, and by the end of the set, looked like he had run about 16 miles in the middle of the day. Each song was epic space-rock; one started with Erickson moaning melodically into his microphone, which he captured and looped under another harmonizing melody he created with a sort of breathing sound.
After Colorstore, Naim Amor and his band, which just got back from a West Coast tour, played their Ennio Morricone-esque French pop. Amor has played with a number of Tucson musicians over the years, and each incarnation is just as brilliant as the last; Amor's songs are both ultracool and undeniably Tucson, which is weirdly enhanced by the mostly French lyrics.
As if there weren't enough musical genres being toyed with over the course of the evening, Tom Walbank and the Ambassadors took the guts out of old-style blues and rocked 'em up. Walbank's reworkings and interpretations of the kind of blues that gave birth to rock are always impressive, especially when he's playing that harmonica. Amazingly enough, drummer Manos and guitarist Bagesse were still keeping a steady rhythm alongside Walbank pushing 2 a.m., even after playing with Amor and The Fashionistas. Clique-ish as the whole show was, there's good reason all of these musicians play together: It makes for damn fine music.