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Faster Than Light, The Runaway Five, One Big Happy Sound, Solar Culture Gallery, Saturday, Feb. 19

In recent months, many Tucson bands have taken on the daunting yet rewarding task of producing an album. Faster Than Light is one of those bands, and its CD-release show provided an opportunity for new fans to become hooked.

One Big Happy Sound opened with well crafted, toe-tap-worthy pop songs that sounded like a happy marriage between the musicianship of Arcade Fire and the vocal sensibilities of Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum. Their songs are drenched in guitar and piano, and each melody melded the comfort of familiarity with an undeniable uniqueness. The five-piece band won over many hearts.

The Runaway Five will be touring with Faster Than Light in a couple of weeks, and this bill provided a glimpse at what life on tour might look like. The Runaway Five boasted their usual frenzied, fun energy, and I trust that an absurd amount of fun will be had as they make their way up and down the West Coast.

I'm not convinced that Nate Jasensky, Chris Pierce and Jim Borquez of Faster Than Light are mere mortals—and if you were at this show, you catch my drift. While their new CD, Moment of Chaos, provides tangible evidence of their talent, it's their live show that will set them apart from other bands in Tucson.

This killer trio manages to mesh at least two distinct styles of music within each song, and they make it not only work, but flourish. Funk, soul, folk, prog, punk, pop ... it was all there, cozied up together under the umbrella of all-out rock. The careful construction of their sound is evident in Jasensky's meticulous guitar-playing, and Pierce is one of the most outstanding bassists you will ever have the chance to witness. Despite the complexities in their music (flirting with multiple time-signature changes; impossible-sounding, stunning bass lines; Jasensky's vibrato, not unlike a gritty Jeff Buckley), it came across as accessible and authentic while completely lacking in ostentation. Nothing drags on longer than it should, which is why it's an oversimplification to slap a jam-band label on these guys.

When they get back from tearing it up on tour, do yourself a favor, and see them perform.

More by Mel Mason

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