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Big AZ Music Fest

Various Locations, Saturday, Sept. 24

Since festivals of the "many bars, one wristband" nature book bands all over creation, you can find yourself inside bars you might not normally patronize. The first unfamiliar place I found myself in during the second annual BAM (Big Arizona Music) festival was the Hut on Fourth Avenue at 9 p.m. to see Portland's Stars of Track and Field, a three-piece in thrift-store suits who played Coldplay-styled dramatic rock. With two guitars, a drummer, a drum machine and a keyboard, the band played songs almost wary of being too drawn out: As soon as the songs seemed like they were actually going to go somewhere, the band would stop.

The 10 o'clock hour found locals Fourkiller Flats playing to a packed Che's crowd. Although it was hard to hear all three guitars above the drunken din, the recently re-grouped band sounded even smoother and more together than they did a few years back when they were grinning from the pages of No Depression. New bassist Chris Morrison, also of locals the Ten Percenters, provided a steady and rolling backbone to Jim Cox, Neal Bonser and Jim Peeken's cool alt.country.

And then, at 11:45, Bob Log III began thumping his drum and guitar to a rowdy O'Malley's crowd. While it at first seemed strange to see Tucson's most unique musical character blaring his songs through his helmet phone at a bar usually frequented by a less avant-garde crowd, the crowd was mostly made up of Log fans anyway, and those new to his fast one-man-in-a-tracksuit band with a slide guitar were raising their plastic cups in admiration.

I wasn't able to catch some of the touring bands that I wanted to see, like California's Built Like Alaska on the Congress Street Stage at 9 p.m., or Donita Sparks of L7 at Club Congress at midnight; and interestingly, no bands were scheduled past the witching hour.

This year's BAM festival felt a lot like the Club Crawls used to: like a family reunion with both your creepy cousin and your favorite aunt. The festival placed performances at every place they could plug in a PA along Congress, Fourth Avenue and University Avenue, making our downtown feel for one night like a big-city downtown does every night. The festival was markedly more organized and bigger than last year's; let's hope next year's festival moves even further toward realizing its goals and living up to its name.

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