At a show dubbed "Women at Work" last Friday at Club Congress, five acts reminded us of the oft-overlooked female aspect of the Tucson music scene--though the temptations of a testosterone-charged downtown night were brewing nearby.
The Silver Thread Trio opened with a set of a cappella gospel, Appalachian and jazz numbers. The trio--locals Caroline Isaacs, Gabrielle Pietrangelo and Laura Kepner-Adney--charm you with loose banter, then cut to your soul with precise and angelic harmonies, breathing new life into standards like "Moon River."
Globe-trotting Tucsonan Namoli Brennet followed with an acoustic set of heartfelt songs, accompanied by local music fixture Rebecca Horton. Brennet touched on her latest release, Singer Shine Your Light, with the tunes "Rebel Sun" and "The Lottery Song."
Former Tucsonan and headliner Pieta Brown took the dead-middle slot, confusing many unfamiliar with the singer-songwriter--and the giant trucker hat hiding Brown's piercing eyes didn't help. Brown's introverted demeanor warmed as more musicians filled the stage, climaxing with a blues jam featuring Naim Amor on guitar and Giant Sand's Howe Gelb (her trucker-hat twin!) on vocals, riffing about his "pulverized heart."
Between sets, I checked on a rumored show nearby where the notorious Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout were starting a near-riot in an art space. Suddenly, I was Uncle Buck weaving through a crowd, looking for an imaginary runaway niece. I'd just been mocking those sitting cross-legged at the Congress show, and now I was stuck in some kind of hipster Caligula musical, where the band was in the middle of the audience, and for an entire song, I couldn't locate the barely-clothed lead singer.
I navigated past the sweaty and makeup-smeared Mr. Free back to Club Congress to catch singer-songwriter Leila Lopez, who is often taken for granted as Tucson's Ani DiFranco, which in itself is quite a feat.
Equally impressive was closing femme fatale Marianne Dissard, who has grown vastly from her previous half-sung, half-spoken smoky-lounge routine. Since teaming up with guitar virtuoso Matt Mitchell, Dissard has found her voice, fronting a Gypsy jazz juggernaut that could easily have been pulled right out of the Oscar-winning Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Women at Work night, but I can't stop thinking about what I missed at that Mr. Free party. C'est la vie.