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SUCK ON THIS: Tucson's favorite prodigal sons return to their old stomping grounds this week.

Once the pride of Santa Rita High--which they immortalized in song--the Supersuckers headed for the greener pastures of Seattle right before grungemania hit, capitalizing on a stint on then-label-of-the-day Sub Pop. Almost 15 years later, the band is still at it, and things in 'Suckerville haven't changed much over the years (they named an album The Songs All Sound the Same for a reason). But just because they're seasoned veterans now, it doesn't mean they've lost anything along the way; their reputation as one of America's premier party bands is still intact.

For evidence, check out the Supersuckers' most recent release, 2003's Motherfuckers Be Trippin' (Mid Fi). The album's opening song, "Rock-n-Roll Records (Ain't Sellin' This Year)," which the band debuted live at their last Tucson appearance, is a bitchfest about the state of the music industry that wonders how a band as rockin' as the Supersuckers can tour their asses off for years on end, while third-rate johnnys-come-lately can shoot to the top of the charts. From another band, the song would likely just sound like sour grapes. But, due to their undying sense of humor, and the fact that they do actually blow away the majority of their platinum-selling "competition," the song becomes a virtual credo for underappreciated bands everywhere. Welcome home, guys.

The Supersuckers perform on Monday, Feb. 23 at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. The show begins at 9:30 p.m. with an opening set from L.A. cult heroes The Hangmen. Cover is $8. For more information call 798-1298.


DOWN WITH THE GAUZE: With its 2001 debut, Goldenwest (Burnt Toast Vinyl), Tulsa's Ester Drang caught the attention of revered, usta-be-all-things-emo indie Jade Tree. That album merged Mogwai-like peaks and valleys with shoegazer density, but the band's Jade Tree debut, Infinite Keys (2003), takes a cue from Ester's friends from up the road, fellow Oklahomans the Flaming Lips, tending toward spacey strums with electronic textures whooshing around the edges. Come to think about it, they probably listen to a hell of a lot of Radiohead, too. It's all very dreamy and post-modern and pretty, but when the album was finished, I couldn't remember a bar of it. Still, it was nice while it lasted.

Ester Drang performs on Sunday, Feb. 22 at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Via Satellite (featuring a member of Album Leaf) and Nowhere Man open at 9 p.m. Admission to the all-ages show is $6. For more info, call 884-0874.


WE BE JAMMIN': Phoenix native Vince Welnick played keyboards for cabaret-rock band The Tubes for their peak years before being offered the most dangerous position in rock: keyboardist for the Grateful Dead (Ron "Pigpen" McKernan and Brent Mydland both met their maker while in the same spot). But Welnick managed to survive the gig, even if Jerry Garcia didn't. Since then, Welnick formed his own band, Missing Man Formation, which released a self-titled live album of mostly Welnick-penned songs, on Arista, in 1998. While it's a bit unclear whether that's the band Welnick will bring with him this week, expect the performance to be jam-heavy regardless.

Vince Welnick appears at City Limits, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road, on Friday, Feb. 20. Opening at 8 p.m. is Grateful Dead cover band Xtra Ticket. Tickets are a mere $6, with advance tix available at the club's box office, Zia Record Exchange, www.calproductions.com and by phone at 1-800-514-ETIX. For further details, call 733-6262.


METAL MAYHEM: Two shows featuring thinking-man's metal-influenced bands hit town this week.

First up on the agenda is The Dillinger Escape Plan (where were they a few weeks ago, during Dillinger Days?), who combine an ear-splitting assault of metal and hardcore with jazz time signatures and enough chops to land them in guitar mags alongside Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. They're about as musically creative as anything this heavy out there today.

The Dillinger Escape Plan performs on Friday, Feb. 20 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Openers The Locust and My Enemies' Friends take the stage at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $12 at the venue and Bookman's, online at www.rialtotheatre.com, and by phone at 740-1000. For more info, call 798-3333.

A couple days later, Coheed and Cambria, whose albums tell the ongoing tale of a pair of characters that go by the names Coheed and Cambria, hit Tucson for their only scheduled Arizona appearance. The band specializes in an arty hybrid of '70s-influenced glammy pop-metal and more forward-looking emo.

Coheed and Cambria perform at an early, all-ages show on Sunday, Feb. 22 at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave. The Jealous Sound will start the show at 6 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $12 at CD City and all Ticketmaster outlets. For more 411, call 629-9211.


ON THE BANDWAGON: Underground hip-hop is the name of the game at The Fuck Clear Channel Tour. (And amen to that sentiment!) Headlining the nationwide tour is the highly acclaimed emcee Sage Francis, who will be joined by Joe Beats; the two recently collaborated under the name Non-Prophets and released an excellent album called Hope (2003, Lex), which sounds a bit like what Atmosphere might sound like if he recorded for Anticon. Also on the bill are Pittsburgh wiseasses Grand Buffet, Mac Lethal and The Gimme Fund.

The Fuck Clear Channel Tour hits The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 25. Advance tickets for the all-ages show are available for $13.50 at all Zia Record Exchange and Ticketmaster locations; they'll be $15 at the door. For further info, call 629-9211.

Singer/songwriter Chuck Pyle's songs have been covered over the years by the likes of Tish Hinojosa, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Suzy Boguss, Chris LeDoux and John Denver, which should give you some clues to his musical bent--country, folk, Western--but he's also a far better guitarist than the bulk of his peers. Just check out "Spank," the solo guitar instrumental that closes his latest album, Affected By the Moon (2002, Bee 'n' Flower), for evidence of his superb picking. Famously dubbed the "Zen cowboy," his lyrics stand out, as well--more lyrical and literary than the standard cowboy-folk fare.

Chuck Pyle will be accompanied by fiddler Gordon Burt when he performs at St. Andrews Church, 545 S. Fifth Ave., on Friday, Feb. 20. Way Out West opens the show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available for $10 ($8 for TKMA, TFTM, and KXCI members) at the Green Fire Bookstore, Antigone Books, The Folk Shop, and Guitars, Etc. For more information, call 544-0401.

Former Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff Pinkus brings his current outfit, Honky, to town this week. The band, which also features guitarist Bobby Landgraf and drummer Lance Farley, follows the Southern rock path laid before them by bands like Molly Hatchet, Black Oak Arkansas, and even Lynyrd Skynyrd, with just a hint of Buttholes weirdness thrown in to remind you that it is, after all, the 21st century.

Honky performs with openers Great American Tragedy and Bricktop at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Cover is five bones. For further info, call 622-8848.

One of the most creative funk groups of the 1970s, War integrated jazz, soul, rock, reggae and, perhaps most notably, Latin influences into its sonic gumbo, charting such classics as "Low Rider," "Why Can't We Be Friends?" and "Cisco Kid" along the way. While the band never shied away from sociopolitical messages, it also never let its politics get in the way of a good groove.

War inaugurates the new 600-seat Sunset Pavilion at Casino of the Sun (take I-19 and exit west on Valencia Road) when it performs at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 23. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 879-5400.

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