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Toxic Ranch Records 20th Anniversary

Vaudeville Cabaret, Sunday, Aug. 3

Look no further than the merger of XM and Sirius satellite radio for an example of the corporate monopolization of every aspect of the music industry. And the popularity of online downloads--legal or otherwise--has all but killed the record-store chain concept, not to mention local dealers.

Yet even in these dire times for independent music, Tucson can boast a few local progressive stalwarts, including community radio station KXCI FM 91.3, and indie/punk record store Toxic Ranch Records, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this past weekend.

Toxic celebrated the occasion with two live shows: an all-ages affair at Dry River on Monday, Aug. 4, and a 21-and-older show the night before at Vaudeville Cabaret, headlined by '80s Italian hard-core legends Raw Power, an act originally signed to Toxic's in-house label.

Openers Limbless Torso would be a typical D.R.I.-inspired thrashy punk band if not for their drummer, who's just a kid in his tweens! Grindcore Gabriel (his preferred stage name) will be one to watch in the years to come.

The Swing Ding Amigos, whose norteño parody poster for Kings of Culo has graced the window of Toxic Ranch for some time, warmed up the crowd for a rare performance from local hard-core act Feast Upon Cactus Thorns. FUCT formed in the late '80s and was enormously popular in the heyday of the Downtown Performance Center in the early '90s. FUCT may have added some girth and lost some hair, but haven't lost their drive, as they proved during a mosh-inducing set that included a cover of "American Girl."

By the time Raw Power hit the stage, I felt like I was in a weird sequel to Repo Man, revisiting the Otto character 20 years on and finding out he's got kids and runs a Web-design company. A lot of former punks came out of the woodworks for this show, looking a little lost and keeping to themselves. Still, they screamed right along to Raw Power, who sampled heavily from the band's U.S. debut, Screams From the Gutter, which Toxic put out in 1985.

Despite the stellar performances, the highlight was watching Toxic Ranch owner Bill Sassenberger taking in the event, beaming like a proud father over what he's created. Here's to 20 more, Bill!

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