When I first arrived in Tucson in the fall of 1987, desert rock was the shit. Sure, it's hip to disparage it, now that there's a plethora of musical genres being represented around local clubs, but in the late '80s, sun-baked, Neil Young-inspired rock was king, and its best loved practitioners were the Sand Rubies, nee the Sidewinders. As the Rubies, the band went on to some (inter)national success, recording for RCA (same label as Elvis!), and later, Chrysalis and Polygram. But in 1988, the band needed a label to release its debut album, and in true DIY fashion, the then-Sidewinders' guitarist, Rich Hopkins, started San Jacinto Records to do so. Since then, dozens of albums made by bands local and otherwise have appeared on the imprint.
To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the label, Hopkins has assembled a roster of acts that will have fogies like me flashing back to those heady days, while the young'uns just might learn a thing or two about Tucson's rich musical history (pun intended). In some cases, however, it is impossible to reassemble some of the performing bands' original lineups; thus, some of the bands will be represented by pared-down incarnations of their former selves. But never you mind that: This is as close as we're ever going to get to re-creating our past glories.
The San Jacinto Records 15th Anniversary Party will include performances from the Sand Rubies (reunited for the umpteenth time), the Luminarios (Hopkins' current band), Black Sun Ensemble (in what is being touted as its final live performance, as leader Jesus Acedo--now going by Jesus-Angel de la Pax--has decided to spend his time studying the Bible and giving neighborhood kids guitar lessons), Happiness, Stefan George, the Woodcocks, Felipe Jarra, and members of the Phantom Limbs and White Chrome Splendor. The illustrious Fish Karma will serve as master of ceremonies for the event, which begins at 9 p.m. on Friday, January 19, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission is five bucks. For more information call 622-8848.
Then, two days later, it's more history in the making, as the annual Wooden Ball adds another notch to its belt. Like San Jacinto Records, the Ball's history dates back to the '80s, when downtown mainstay Chris Holiman (River Roses, 35 Summers, Downtown Saints) attempted to foster good will in the local musical community by gathering as many of his friends under one roof as he could fit onto one bill. To expedite change-overs from act to act, all acts performed acoustically. In 1994, Holiman resurrected the idea, and the six-hour event has been staged annually since then.
In recent years, the focus of the Ball has been on the bare-bones performances of the participating acts (or, "It's the song, stupid") and the typically loose atmosphere engendered often results in some inspired mania: oddball covers, lots of guest performances, etc. As such, this year's list of performers is heavy on the singer/songwriter types, though there's a handful of full-fledged bands on the bill, as well. The lineup, then, for this year's Wooden Ball, in order of appearance, is as follows: Cathy Rivers, Tom Walbank, Jason Steed, the Nick Luca Trio, Panic Over Trainwreck, Chris Holiman, Truck, Sunday Afternoon, Spacefish, Greyhound Soul, Chris Burroughs and Al Perry. Each act will perform for 20 minutes.
The annual Wooden Ball gets underway at 7 p.m. on Sunday, January 19, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Admission is $5. For further details call the club at 798-1298.
STICKIN' IT TO THE MANN: Singer/songwriter Aimee Mann is known for a lot of things: that totally wack 'do she sported in 'Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry" video (the song itself has aged better than most MTV hits from the same era), getting screwed over by the powers that be at her former label (yeah, we know, who hasn't?), and writing and performing the songs that inspired, and appeared in, P.T. Anderson's film, Magnolia. (If you saw the film, you likely think that the "Wise Up" sequence is either pure genius or pretentious pap, but there's no denying the song's hushed power.) But what she should be best known for by now is a talent for understated songs that attest to the plight of the emotionally wounded, most recently demonstrated on last year's Lost in Space (Superego).
Aimee Mann performs, along with opener Duncan Sheik, at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, January 21, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $17 at all Zia Records locations and online at www.rialtotheatre.com. They'll be $20 on the day of the show. For more info call 798-3333.
SONIC YOUTH: Rincon High School student Mike Peel was so inspired by reading a newspaper article about Youth On Their Own, a local organization that helps homeless or near homeless students by providing financial assistance, basic needs and guidance, that he decided to start his own organization. Since its foundation, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) has become one of Rincon High's most active clubs. This week, the organization will sponsor a benefit show for Youth On Their Own, the entity that inspired it. High school bands Fowler and Seven Day Sun will open for Shotstar, Infected Genepods, the Mean Reds and Fusty Luggs at the benefit, which runs from 6 to 10 p.m. on Sunday, January 19, at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway. Admission to the all-ages event is $6. For additional information log onto www.skrappys.com.
KINGS THINGS: In celebration of the Martin Luther King Day holiday, political activist and singer/songwriter Charlie King and his musician wife, Karen Brandow, make an appearance in town this week. King has been entertaining local audiences for nearly a quarter of a century, as he's made an annual pilgrimage to Tucson since 1979. This year's model comes in the form of a dinner and performance, set to begin at 6 p.m. on Monday, January 20, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4831 E. 22nd St. Advance tickets are available for $14 (includes a meal and the show) at Antigone Books. Admission will be $15 at the door. For more info call 623-1688.