Thursday, Aug. 20

The new Fourth Avenue underpass, acting as an architectural defibrillator of sorts, provided a much-needed jolt to downtown nightlife last Thursday. The structure reconnected Congress Street and Fourth Avenue, pleasing many who have been growing impatient for the downtown area to transform into a more-accessible, art-centric hub.

Appropriately, Congress lined up a couple of bands to maintain the warm-and-fuzzy vibe. Girls, an indie-rock quartet from San Francisco, got things started with a mellow, awkward space-rock jam. Not even one week into their tour, they took inebriation to new heights. Once they found their California pop groove, it would stick for a moment, only to digress into psychedelic sloppiness that those in the crowd either loved or loathed.

Some songs, such as the lovely "Hellhole Ratrace," were worthy of lighter-waving. "Morning Light" was a far heavier song containing post-punk guitar riffs with reverb-soaked vocals. Their overall sound was like Elvis Costello fronting Dinosaur Jr. mixed with a handful of prescription pills washed down with Jim Beam. The rhythm guitarist, Chet White, was constantly picking up dropped items or untwisting tangled cords. At one point, he misplaced part of the microphone stand, and had to do his backup singing while lying on the floor with the microphone placed atop his monitor, all while playing guitar. Lead vocalist and songwriter Christopher Owens knows how to craft great songs, but the slovenly delivery may alienate their audience if they don't take themselves and their sobriety a smidge more seriously.

Headliners Los Campesinos! were greeted with Tucson's version of overwhelming enthusiasm. The seven-piece band from Cardiff, Wales, looked ready for a nap, as the stifling air was impossible to ignore. Despite the heat and their less-than-enthused appearances, the frenzied, hyper-literate, boy-girl punk-pop band sounded spot-on. Lead vocalist and glockenspiel player Gareth was affable and clever, and lead guitarist Tom took the solos to levels not necessarily achieved in their recorded material. Their music forced even the most stoic onlookers to tap their toes and bounce around to their fun and intelligently crafted pop songs, including their dance-o-matic tune "Death to Los Campesinos!"

Convincing myself that the songs would remain consistent, I reached a point where I begrudgingly had to escape the heat.


More by Mel Mason


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