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LOCALS ORGY

Aside from the mercury in your thermometer dropping, another sign that the end of summer is fast approaching comes this week in musical form. Fall signals the beginning of the second heavy period of new releases each year, and proof we're almost there can be found in the fact that not one, not two, but three Tucson bands will celebrate new CD releases in the coming week.

Though we reviewed it in our July 7 issue, the Nick Luca Trio--now simply called Luca--are just now getting around to throwing a release party for You Win Again, released June 21 on Tucson's Funzalo Records. Since we last heard from ol' Nick, the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer/engineer/general jack-of-all-trades has taken his band on the road as opener and backing band for John Doe, and has also opened for Lucinda Williams; worked in the studio on the forthcoming Neko Case album (as well as several others); and lost a drummer--Jim Kober, who appears on the album but won't be embarking on the two-week West Coast tour that kicks off at Club Congress this week. (Bassist Chris Giambelluca can still be counted among Luca's ranks.)

Though it forgos the high-profile guests of the trio's past two albums, You Win Again is a more textured affair than previous releases, with a fleshed-out version of the band's understated, wee-hours sonics on top of which Nick's breathy vocals float gently. Boasting a dozen songs, many of which have become staples of the band's live shows (you can practically smell the creosote on the version of "Summer Rain" found here), the album is an assured step forward.

Luca perform on Friday, Aug. 19 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. The show begins at 9 p.m. with an opening set by Al Perry, backed by Calexico, and DJ Carlos will spin his scratchy records before, between and after the live sets. Cover is $4. Call 622-8848 for more information.

Fresh off a stint in her former hometown of Portland, Ore., where she taught at The Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls, Amy Rude sets up shop with her band, The Rise and Fall of Amy Rude, at Plush on Saturday, Aug. 20 for a release party for Snakeheart, their debut album, and another fine entry in the Albums Meant to Be Listened to in a Dark Room Late at Night category. Imbued with gorgeous violin threads courtesy of Vicki Brown and some sweet banjo picking from Lazyhorse, the storytelling quality of these 10 songs remind of Cat Power, Jesse Sykes or Will Oldham sans irony.

Kicking off with the line "Love is a set of malleable molecules, always in agreement with you," from "White Walls," the album goes on to tell a tale of envy of an anthropomorphized version of Willie Nelson's guitar ("Trigger"), showcase Rude's diverse songwriting via an accordion-imbued waltz ("Roadside Attraction") and explain what it's like to be lonely on the plodding woe-is-me ballad "Weeping Willow." There's a certain ramshackle quality here that charms rather than distracts, and Rude's delicate but strong voice grows on you with each listen. Snakeheart is a terrifically strong first effort.

Things get underway at 9:45 p.m. with opening sets from Lonna Kelley and the Reluctant Messiahs from Phoenix, and San Francisco's Brown Recluse. Plush is located at 340 E. Sixth St. Admission is $3. For further details, call 798-1298.

Following their debut full-length, Pass the Flask, on Fiddler, Skrappy's-spawned quintet The Bled are officially making the jump to the big time: Found in the Flood, which will be released on Tuesday, Aug. 23--the same day as their show at the Rialto Theatre--is on mega-indie Vagrant. The album, produced by Mark Trombino (Jimmy Eat World, Blink-182), is another slab of brutal, inventive hardcore that marks a great leap forward.

What's perhaps most impressive about Flood is the needle-jumping dynamic range; the noise bursts pummel you, while the melodic passages are actually memorable, often within the same song. Case in point is "My Assassin," which begins with some nifty guitar work before exploding--and we do mean exploding--into the first verse. As for the chorus, well, it's downright--dare I say--pretty. Elsewhere (and remember, we're still listening to the same song), there are staccato bursts of guitar and drums, while singer James Munoz shifts from throat-scarring screams to a convincing falsetto quicker than you can say "Warped Tour Main Stage." The Bled are pretty damn big already, but Found in the Flood will make them huge.

The Bled's CD release party kicks off at 7 p.m. with opening sets from Versus the Mirror and Funeral March. Advance tickets for the all-ages show are available for $10 at the Rialto box office and Bookman's. The Rialto is located at 318 E. Congress St. Questions? Call 740-1000.


ESCOVEDO'S COMEBACK

After being sidelined from performing for a couple years due to a battle with Hepatitis C (he collapsed in Phoenix following a show there in early 2003), legendary singer/songwriter/rocker Alejandro Escovedo brings his Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra to Club Congress on Tuesday, Aug. 23.

In the mid-'70s, Escovedo made a name for himself as a member of The Nuns, a San Francisco punk band he started in order to make a student film about "the worst band in the world." From there, he relocated back to his native Texas--Austin, to be exact--where he formed two seminal alt-country bands, Rank and File and the True Believers, the latter of which also included John Dee Graham, who will open for (and, you can bet, perform alongside) Escovedo and company at the Congress gig. He subsequently launched a solo career that has included writing and performing By the Hand of the Father, an acclaimed performance piece that traces his musical lineage, as well as a slew of fantastic albums. And he occasionally indulges his inner glam rocker by way of his band Buick MacKane (named after a T. Rex song).

Soundbites caught Escovedo performing at a huge outdoor show at Austin's South by Southwest music conference in March of this year, and was delighted to find him back in fine performance mode, even launching into an inspired cover of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog." We couldn't be more pleased to say: Welcome back, Alejandro.

The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Club Congress is located at 311 E. Congress St. Tickets are $15. Call 622-8848 with questions.


ON THE BANDWAGON

And now, here some short takes on just a sampling of the musical treats headed our way this week.

What's a DJ to do when his pioneering mixes of classic rock and hip-hop garner him enough attention to get signed to Hollywood Records, but not enough pull or cash to get the samples cleared? That's the dilemma Phoenix's Z-Trip faced a couple years ago, but with Shifting Gears, he does exactly what the title says--virtually reinvents himself as a hot-shit producer for a slew of guest rappers including Murs, Soup (Jurassic 5), Chuck D, Aceyalone, Busdriver and Lyrics Born, on tracks about eating cereal and watching cartoons on Saturday mornings. This sucker will take you back to the giddiness found on The Pharcyde's debut.

Z-Trip appears at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., tonight, Thursday, Aug. 18. Also on the bill are rappers Black Sheep (!) and Golden Child. Advance tix for the all-ages show are $20. Call 622-8848 for more info.

The very same night, across the street at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., the master of the goodtime zydeco dance party, Buckwheat Zydeco, hits the stage at 7:30 p.m. for an all-ages blowout. Folks from The French Quarter will be on hand to dish out N'awlins favorites like jambalaya and gumbo to enhance the voodoo vibe. Tickets are $20 at the door. Need more details? Ring 'em up at 740-1000.

Supergroup Velvet Revolver (essentially Guns N Roses, minus Axl, and plus the even-more-annoying Scott Weiland) will hit the AVA at Casino del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Road, on Sunday, Aug. 21. Chevelle open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $30 and may be purchased through your frienemies at Ticketmaster (321-1000; ticketmaster.com). For more info on the show, call 838-6700.

Be sure to check out our listings, as there were just too many good shows and not enough space to discuss them all this week.

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