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TOUR DE FORCE: What do you do when PJ Harvey asks you to provide support on her European tour, and your bandmates have a previous touring engagement that coincides with the dates? Giant Sand's Howe Gelb found himself in that position a couple months back. His rhythm section, drummer John Convertino and bassist Joey Burns, a.k.a. Calexico, had a tour scheduled at the same time as the proposed Harvey/Sand dates. Obviously, when one is asked by Polly Harvey herself to open her tour, one does not say no. So Howe rounded up a couple of his friends, who just happen to play in the fantabulous California outfit Grandaddy, to fill in for the Calexicans on the tour. Problem solved; everybody goes home happy--or, at least, goes out on tour happy. (Incidentally, Gelb has just released a new solo disc under the single moniker Howe--who does he think he is? Madonna?--on Thrill Jockey. Confluence, a typically more ramshackle affair than last year's crafted Chore of Enchantment by Giant Sand, is a wonderful, homespun effort full of songs we've been hearing live for a while now.)

I mention this because it's a nifty little tidbit of trivia, but also because Calexico is back from tour and will be setting up shop this week for another of its blow-out affairs at Solar Culture. Renaissance woman Neko Case, who in addition to a solid career as a country chanteuse on Bloodshot Records, has just released a collaboration with a pack of Vancouverites under the name The New Pornographers (at the band's showcase last week at South By Southwest in Austin, it was joined onstage by legendary Kinks frontman Ray Davies on a cover of his "Starstruck"), and will contribute vocals to the next Calexico release. She was just in town a couple months back to record with the band and perform a gig, and this week she returns for more of the same.

January's Neko Case/Kelly Hogan/Calexico show was a four-hour affair--nobody, least of all the artists, wanted the night to end--with all manner of combinations of the performers teaming up, depending on the song, and this week's tour de force should promise a similar feel-good, loose vibe. If you missed the last one, you'll get your chance to redeem yourself at 9 p.m. on Friday, March 23, at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. Cover is $8. Call 884-0874 for more information.


TO THE WILD WEST: From the ashes of Kansas City's Molly McGuire (plus the drummer from Season to Risk) comes Gunfighter, who has recently relocated to San Diego. Actually that's not quite true; Gunfighter started as a side project for the Molly boys, but the band eventually decided to carry on full-time under the new name. They've got a new album, High Noon, due out this month on Idol Records, and their debut full-length, Pro-Electric, was originally slated to appear on Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard's Loosegroove imprint before the label folded; it was eventually released on High Noon Records. Echoes of midwestern (hard) rock mingle with a Dischord Records vibe and a pinch of Nirvana's soft/hard dynamics. Bandleader Jason Blackmore's voice skips from the a Cobain growl to Shudder to Think-style falsetto quicker than you can blink an eye, and the arrangements are both complex and catchy. I'd venture to say that fans of the brainy hard stuff à la Queens of the Stone Age and The Deftones will find much to applaud here.

Gunfighter and Tucson's own The Quadratics appear at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 27, at Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St. For details call 670-9332.


LAST NOTES: Hippies take acid and listen to jam bands. Ravers take X and listen to trance music. Finally, a band has emerged to merge the two. Disco Biscuits plays self-described "trancefusion," which seeks to combine the improvisational qualities of the former with the electronica-soaked grooves of the latter. The unique blend has earned it a rabid cult fanbase that gains new converts with each of its reportedly killer live shows. Curious? Check 'em out at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 27, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $13 at Zia Records and through Ticketmaster. For more information call 798-3333.

Fans of guitar artistes Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke would do themselves well in checking out relative new kid on the block Keller Williams. The name of the game here is textured and inventive guitar-picking. As evidenced by his self-released CD, Loop, Keller is as adept at anyone in manufacturing organic one-man grooves as anyone around today. Keller Williams hits the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 22. Tickets are $10 at the door. Call 798-3333 for details.

Fresh off an appearance at South By Southwest, Ohio punk freaks Geraldine arrive in our burg for a pogo party that also features locals The Blacks and Los Federales. Bring your earplugs to 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St., on Friday, March 23, at 9 p.m. Call 670-9202 to have those itching, burning questions answered.

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