Soundbites 

DEAR CATASTROPHE WAITRESS: MEET YOUR NEW FAVORITE BAND

Remember a few years ago when we all heard about how the Internet was going to level the playing field for bands trying to get a foot in the door, and how major labels would no longer be necessary because bands could distribute music on their own? And remember wondering, well, yeah, that works in theory, but how will any of us be able to sort through it all? Who will separate the wheat from the chaff so we don't have to listen to a hundred lousy bands to find one decent one?

Those days were way too recent to seem quaint, but here, in the age of Myspace and consistently reliable blogs, that's exactly how they feel. An awful lot of excellent bands would be languishing in obscurity were it not for the quick dissemination of information and downloads that the Internet provides--and, of course, constant touring still doesn't hurt, either. A buzz band that has benefited from both heads our way this week.

I can't tell you a heck of a lot about Austin, Texas' Voxtrot beyond this: They're a five-piece headed by Ramesh Srivastava; following last year's acclaimed Raised by Wolves EP (Cult Hero), they released another EP, Mothers Sisters, Daughters and Wives (Cult Hero), earlier this week; and, oh yeah, they're freakin' awesome.

The five songs on the new EP recall a lot of other bands, but are written and executed so expertly and joyously that it hardly matters. The title track, for example, looks rather tired on paper, as it utilizes many of the same dance-punk elements that everyone else is using these days (that propulsive drum beat, time signature changes), but here's where it's different: There are no angles on the guitar riffs--instead, the guitars chime in classic Brit-pop style, and it changes the tone of the song entirely.

Voxtrot get compared to a lot of bands, but I'd say the most accurate comparisons are to Belle and Sebastian and the Housemartins--the former due to Srivastava and Stuart Murdoch's shared penchant for lyrical density (i.e., cramming too many well-written words into each line, but making it flow seamlessly), and the latter because they're just so damn bouncy, a quality said to be expanded exponentially live.

I, for one, can't wait to see Voxtrot at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Wednesday, May 24. The all-ages show starts at 9 p.m. with an opening set from Mr. Free and the Satellite Freak Out/Mad River Glenn. Admission is $6. Call 884-0874 for more information.


COUNTRY-ROCK KILLED THE DISCO STAR

For those of us who weren't yet living in Tucson in the '70s--or living at all, for that matter--Chuck Wagon and the Wheels were one of a handful of bands responsible for a thriving country-rock scene here. In those days, if you were a fan of popular music, in most cases, you were either a rock fan, a disco fan, a country fan or a punk fan--with very little crossover, and not a small amount of animosity toward fans of the other genres. (In these heady days of extreme musical cross-pollination, it seems difficult to fathom, but that's how it was.)

In 1976, pop radio DJ Rick Dees released a novelty single, "Disco Duck," that put Donald Duck-voiced ramblings over a disco beat, and went on to sell 4 million copies. For punk, rock and country fans alike, this was simply too much to bear. Our own Chuck Wagon and the Wheels issued an answer song of sorts called "Disco Sucks," which became a rallying cry for those nauseated by polyester leisure suits, medallions and the flaunting of abundant chest hair. When Chicago radio DJ Steve Dahl got pissed off enough about the disco craze to organize a "Disco Demolition" rally between games of a doubleheader at Comiskey Park in 1979, "Disco Sucks" was its default theme song. But things at the anti-disco rally got out of hand, as drunken baseball fans quickly turned it into an anti-disco riot (these people were either really drunk, they really hated disco, or both), and the participants were cast in the media as heathens. Radio stations that may have only begun spinning "Disco Sucks" around that time weren't about to start now, and Chuck Wagon and the Wheels' big break was not to be.

An awful lot has changed since then. Chicago has a new Comiskey Park (although its name has been sold out to corporate interests); disco has come to be a somewhat respected music form; disco-punk bands (a genre that would have seemed sacrilegious in 1979) are now overabundant; and a country-wrestling trio stole the name Chuck Wagon and the Wheels and released a parody of the disco-era classic "Play That Funky Music," called "Play That Country Music Cowboy." Funny how things come full circle, eh?

Luckily, the Tucson version of Chuck Wagon and the Wheels have retained their sense of humor after all these years, and will reunite for what is being billed as their "20 Year No Class Reunion." According to our top-notch research team, the band last performed locally in 1995. A reunion show was originally scheduled for last December, but was canceled.

The original Chuck Wagon and the Wheels perform at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 20 at the El Casino Ballroom, 437 E. 26th St. Admission is $20. Call 623-1835 for more info.


HOOT ALL YOU WANT, BUT HOLLERING WILL NOT BE TOLERATED

For years, The Hut, the bar located at 305 N. Fourth Ave. that resembles an aluminum can sliced down the middle, languished in quietude compared to the hustle and bustle of most drinking establishments on the Avenue. Now that the joint is under new ownership, however, things seem to be picking up rather quickly. The venue has recently been hosting live music on weekends, and last week began a Thursday night series of acoustic showcases called "Hoot at The Hut."

Your hosts each week are alt-acoustic-folk trio The Determined Luddites, who perform an opening set, followed by that night's guest performer. (Ice-9 were the inaugural special guests last week; tonight, Thursday, May 18, it's the String Figures, the bluegrass-and-more trio of Greg Morton, Jim Stanley and Mark Robertson-Tessi. At press time, organizers were still rounding up acts for upcoming weeks, with Mitzi Cowell already booked for Thursday, June 22.) The end of the night will feature a third set, either by the Luddites, that week's guest or some jam-session combo thereof.

It all kicks off at 7 p.m. each Thursday night, and cover is $3. For more info about upcoming acts, call 623-3200. If you head out to tonight's show, be sure to wish Luddites bassist Randi Pantera a happy birthday.


EVERYTHING YOU'VE BEEN TAUGHT IS A LIE

Anyone who's followed the odd paths Bradford "LemonMan" Trojan has traversed over the past few years--member of the Galactic Federation of Love and many other bands with "LemonMan" their name; summers spent in Philadelphia as a musical theater performer; conspiracy theorist regarding UFOs and Atlantis, among others--won't be at all surprised at what he's got up his sleeve this week.

Transplanted from Philly, where it was first performed, "Star Surf Productions Presents: Our Hollow Earth!" is described by Trojan as "a musical/rock cabaret" that, in its Tucson incarnation, will feature members of Tucson Puppet Works, The Okmoniks, Caliche Con Carne and, of course, LemonMan himself. The event, which Trojan promises will include "a lot of fun stuff like food, music, dance, puppets, ballet and much more," is being produced in association with a grant from the Tucson Pima Arts Council.

Check out the madness at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission is $8, and all ages are welcome. For further details, head to solarculture.org or call 884-0874.


WITH KARATE, I'LL KICK YOUR ASS

Tucson native Ben Ratliff fronts Devastating Karate, a Venice, Calif.-based trio that, on their self-titled 2005 album (self-released), recall the riff-heavy rock--and sense of humor--of Spinal Tap and the Supersuckers, but with a heaping dose of roots-rockabilly tossed on top. They'll be sandwiched between openers the Little Morts and headliners Los Hangovers at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., on Sunday, May 21. The show starts around 10 p.m., and you can call 622-3535 for more info.

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