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SEASON'S GREETINGS

As we discussed last week, The Season of Rock is well upon us. If last week's offerings amounted to but a light sprinkle, this week brings a torrential downpour of can't-miss live acts making their way to Tucson en route to Austin for next week's South By Southwest music conference. Since we never made it past college algebra, we've gotta pose the question: Is it mathematically possible that more bands are playing in Tucson on their way to SXSW than will actually be playing in Austin? What's that? It's not? OK, there, math pro. But, ya gotta admit, it sure seems like it.

Onward!


SPOOKED, BUT NOT SPOOKY

While cult legend Robyn Hitchcock (formerly of the Soft Boys, and Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, and currently of Robyn Hitchcock) spent a period of no insubstantial duration here in Tucson last spring, he made periodic side-trips to various locales around the country: a quick West Coast solo tour here, a jaunt out east to film Jonathan Demme's remake of The Manchurian Candidate there, a trek to Nashville for some secret project he didn't much like discussing at the time.

Well, it turns out that last trip was actually to record an album with the much-worshipped Americana duo of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, the latter of whom also served as producer. On paper, the pairing (which came complete with bizarre coincidences that inspired it, in typical Hitchcockian fashion) seems like odd bedfellows, but the resulting album, Spooked, which was released late last year on the suddenly fantastic Yep Roc label, is a lovely addition to Hitchcock's catalog. While Hitchcock is as British as they come, and Welch/Rawlings just as American, the pairing works splendidly, finding Hitchcock stripping a batch of fine new tunes (and one Dylan cover) down to their barest essentials. While longtime fans might bemoan a lack of Hitchcock's trademark surreal imagery and humor in many of these songs, if they're bummed about it, they're missing the point. Call it mature, if you must, but if anyone's earned the right, Hitchcock has.

Robyn Hitchcock performs songs old and new at 9 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $10 at Hotel Congress' front desk; they'll be $12 at the door. Call 622-8848 for more information.


HECKA GOOD

Take a listen to Sacramento guitar/drums/vocals duo Hella's new double CD set, Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard (Suicide Squeeze), and the last thing that would come to your mind is, "Hey, I'll bet the guys from Maroon 5 would really dig this!" But at Hella's last visit to town (Club Congress, last year), there they were, in the audience, the guys from Maroon 5, who had just finished playing a show at the Rialto across the street.

If you think about it, it's not actually that bizarre. Maroon 5 are dedicated to the craft of pop songwriting, while Hella rocket-launches slabs of blazing, confounding, thrilling noise-assault mindfuckery--performed with impeccable precision and brutality that any self-respecting musician would have to respect, in turn. Drummer Zach Hill is the Muppets' Animal in actual flesh and bone, pummeling his skins like Keith Moon on a five-day bender, and guitarist Spencer Seim is inventive and adventurous enough to send you searching for a newly updated guitar-chord chart when you get home. That said, in all honesty, I may never have occasion to listen to this album again, but I'd go see 'em live again in a heartbeat.

Hella perform an all-ages show at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., Monday, March 14. Numbers open at 9 p.m. Admission is $7. Call 884-0874 for further details.


NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH MR. DOG

Last December, in an article titled "Amid Harmonies and Chaos, a Young Band Starts to Find Its Way," The New York Times profiled the Philadelphia quintet Dr. Dog, leaving hipsters across America feeling like they had lost their edge. But before you could mumble the words "Who the hell is Dr. Dog?" bloggers everywhere began posting MP3s of the band, and suddenly everyone--or at least the hipsters, anyway--seemed to know what they are: damn good.

Their homemade album, Easy Beat (which was originally self-released, before being picked up by National Parking), comprises nine songs of lo-fi pop bliss that The Times deemed "sure to attract a rabid cult of indie-rock fans--if they can find it." Imagine if Wings only had the budget to record on a four-track in their garage, and Linda McCartney could actually harmonize in key; then think back to how floored you were when you first heard Guided by Voices' Bee Thousand. Now become part of that rabid cult and go back for seconds on the Kool-Aid. It only gets tastier the more you drink.

Following Dr. Dog's set are their old friends from Philly, Tucson's own Galactic Federation of Love, whose headlining performance this week will be their last for 2 1/2 months, to allow singer Lemon Man to perform the role of a mental patient in a production of the musical James Joyce Is Dead and So Is Paris, which is playing in Philly and Rhode Island. (No, we're not making that up.) Get 'em while you can.

Galactic Federation of Love and Dr. Dog perform at 9 p.m. Friday, March 11, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. For more info, call 622-8848.


MEET JOHN DOE, AGAIN

The legendary John Doe made his name as co-leader of L.A. punk band X before moving on to a solo career, performing the roots-rock in which he had dabbled in X. So it should come as no surprise that on his upcoming album, Forever Hasn't Happened Yet (due out March 22 on Yep Roc), he pays tribute to another indigenous variety of American music: the blues.

But before you start expecting a crappy excursion into 12-bar blues, get a load of opener "The Losing Kind," which channels the Doors more than any old Buddy Guy record; or the gorgeously spare arrangement and harmonies (with Grant-Lee Phillips) of "Twin Brother"; or the oddly lo-fi, driving "Hwy. 5," on which Neko Case plays Exene to Doe's Doe. (Nine of the album's 11 songs are collaborations, and other notable contributors include Kristin Hersh, Dave Alvin and Cindy Lee Berryhill.) It certainly ain't yer grandpappy's blues.

Meanwhile, locals the Nick Luca Trio continue the high-profile engagements that began with opening a couple shows for Los Lobos last week, as they both open for and serve as backing band for Doe on a tour of east-of-the-Mississippi America. That tour begins in earnest a week after their one-off show here this week.

Catch John Doe and the Nick Luca Trio at 9:30 p.m. Monday, March 14, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Advance tix are available for $8 at www.virtuous.com ; they'll be $10 at the door. Questions? Dial up 798-1298.


ON THE BANDWAGON

Fans of Grandaddy and the late Elliott Smith should check out a fine triple-bill of bands at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Tuesday, March 15. Headliners Earlimart's dreamy recent album, Treble & Tremble (2004, Palm Pictures), is an excellent elegy for Smith, paying homage by appropriating elements of his sound. Openers Built Like Alaska's 2005 release, Autumnland, was released on Future Farmer in conjunction with Grandaddy's Sweat of the Alps Music Products, and one listen will explain it all away--the two bands are cut from the same sonic cloth. And while we haven't heard middle-slotters Film School, a friend in San Francisco with impeccable taste recently called them her favorite local band. The show begins at 9:30 p.m., and cover is $7. Call 798-1298 for additional information.

And, speaking of fine triple-bills, for a night of solid, ass-kicking, rootsy rawk, you can't do much better than the extravaganza hitting City Limits, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road, Wednesday, March 16. Headlining is the Reverend Horton Heat, who began putting the rock (and the humor) back in rockabilly back in 1992. They're touring to promote last year's Revival, their first release on Yep Roc. In the middle slot are Seattle's Supersuckers, who rock mightily, even though they abandoned their Tucson home for the Emerald City at the first whiff of grungemania. (We forgive them.) And you may not have heard of openers Trainwreck, but you've most certainly heard of their guitarist, Kyle Gass, the slightly less-famous half of the most rockinest band ever that only plays acoustic guitar--Tenacious D. Doors open at 8 p.m. for this 21+ show. Advance tickets are available for $18.50 at the venue, all Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at 321-1000. For more info, call 733-6262.

We've barely managed to scratch the surface of this week's bounteous musical offerings, and here we are out of space already. Be sure to check out our listings section for a full run-down.

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