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BENEFIT PACKAGE: It's been over a year since hometown hero Al Perry split for the (literally) greener pastures of San Francisco; this week marks his first visit back to Tucson, and it should make for one hell of a homecoming party.

It's been several months since I spoke with Al from his new digs, but at that time he hadn't had a whole lot of time to play music, what with his job managing a youth hostel. Giant Sand had recently been through town, and he was thrilled to have gotten up and played with them, but he wasn't playing any of his own gigs at that point. He had also finally released a 7-inch for one of the best songs he's ever written, the jangle-pop nuglet, "Little Birds," backed with a new, rockin' version of "Pow!" that was recorded with Sweden's Sludge Nation, a choice little morsel of Mr. Perry, just so we wouldn't forget about him (as if!).

But this week he's back in the flesh, along with his buddies in Giant Sand and Calexico, to play a special benefit show for KXCI-FM. That's the good news. The bad news is that it'll cost you a cool fifteen bucks to gain admission to the event. Think of it this way though: hopefully each attendee's cash will knock a minute or two off those annoying pledge drives that seem to crop up way too frequently on the airwaves.

Check out the KXCI benefit show at 8 p.m. on Sunday, April 29, at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. (Thanks to Steven Eye for donating his building completely cost-free to the station for the night.) Even at $15 tickets are going fast, so act now. You can pick them up at KXCI or online at kxci.org. For more information call 622-5924.


GOING DIGITAL: It's been over a decade since Digital Underground brought an unusual irreverence to hip-hop with its 1990 debut album, Sex Packets (Tommy Boy), and like very few other groundbreaking albums of its era (De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising springs to mind first), it still sounds fresh today. Boasting classic tunes like "The Humpty Dance," "The Way We Swing," and the goodtime party anthem, "Doowutchyalike," not to mention help from then-unknown Tupac Shakur, Packets proved that rap need not be all posturing and boasting, that straight-up goofiness and funk were enough to produce a vital addition to the hip-hop canon. And while there's no telling how many original members are left in the touring unit that will make its way to town this week, as long as Shock-G, Money B, and of course, Humpty Hump are there, you should be too.

Digital Underground appears at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 27, at Gotham, 4385 W. Ina Road. Cover is a remarkably cheap $5 for those over 21, and $12 for those 18 and over. For more information call 744-7744.


INTO THE MYSTIC: Is it just me, or has the volume of live reggae in Tucson been somewhat dwindling as of late? Just in time to save the day, the annual Bob Marley Festival hits town this weekend with a rock-steady lineup of loads of reggae acts both touring and local, including Tribal Nation, One Blood, Cannon and the Lion of Judah Band, Stuck in a Groove, Zebbhi Niyah, Neon Prophet, DJ Papa Ranger, and Dee Dread & The Zion Knights. This year's festival, dubbed Natural Mystic, takes place on Saturday, April 28, and Sunday, April 29, at Kennedy Park. There is a suggested donation of $5 and two cans of food for the local food bank. For more information call (713) 688-3773.


STORM FRONT: Kudos to Club Congress for bringing back live music on Tuesdays, in addition to their longstanding Friday night bookings. This week's Tuesday sees San Francisco's Storm, Inc. pull through in support of its debut CD, The Calm Years (Taylor Made Records). The band, fronted by a tall drink of water who calls herself Storm, has been darlings of the S.F. scene for a few years now, having won a Bay Area Music Award for Best Rock Band and being voted the same accolade by the readers of the San Francisco Weekly. And while The Calm Years surely doesn't cover any uncharted territory, it's chock full of hard-edged, atmospheric pop tunes with hooks a-plenty, sorta like a less cloying version of Garbage. (Random aside: the band's publicity duties are being handled by one Pennie Lane--yes, that Pennie Lane.) Check 'em out when they take the stage of Club Congress, 311 E. Congress, along with an opener yet to be determined at press time, at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 1. Admission is $5, and you can call 622-8848 for more information.


JAZZED UP: Modern jazz is not dead, it's just taken a slightly different form in order to keep the kids interested. A new crop of acts has taken elements of traditional jazz, injected it with a heavy dose of danceable funk grooves cut with a trace of electronica, and in the process, has attracted a huge following of displaced Dead- and Phish-heads. One of the genre's finest and earliest proponents, Medeski, Martin & Wood, returns to Tucson this week. Having cut their teeth with modern-day musical oddballs Mark Ribot, the Lounge Lizards, and John Zorn, John Medeski, Billy Martin, and Chris Wood formed their namesake band in New York City in 1992, seeking to combine the improvisatory elements of traditional jazz and the jam band masses. Earning a reputation as a stellar live act, the trio was also one of the first acts of the jam-jazz scene to lend its material to remixes, releasing the results on stopgap EPs.

Medeski, Martin & Wood appears at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $18 at all Ticketmaster and Zia locations. For more info call 798-3333.


WHERE'S WALTER: SoCal blues-rock singer/guitarist Walter Trout has garnered the kind of press most musicians only dream about. Over the years he's performed sideman duties for the likes of John Lee Hooker, Joe Tex, and Big Mama Thornton, as well as playing with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Canned Heat. In 1990, Trout stepped into the spotlight with his own band and hasn't looked back since. He has recently appeared on the cover of Blues Revue magazine, was voted Number 6 in a BBC poll naming the Top 20 greatest guitarists, and has been compared to everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan to Eddie Van Halen. He's been touted in the Los Angeles Times as "a torrential, gladiator guitar player--the kind the term 'guitar hero' was coined to describe."

Discover for yourself what all the hubbub is about when Walter Trout and the Free Radicals trek into town this week at 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, at Nimbus Brewery, 3850 E. 44th St. For details call 745-9175.

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