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TWO NIGHTS OF WOOD

Club CrawlTM, The Great Cover-Up, the Club Congress Anniversary celebrations--all have become traditional events in the annals of Tucson music, and this week brings another one of those institutions.

The first Wooden Ball, originally conceived by organizer Chris Holiman as a way of unifying a then-fractious local music scene, was held in the late '80s at the now-long-defunct Nino's Steakhouse. It remained a one-off event until 1994, when Holiman revived it as an annual occurrence in order to provide a sampler showcase for the multitude of musical talent in town, in an intimate setting. To further that goal, all participating acts performed short, acoustic sets that placed the emphasis on the songs themselves.

Since then, the Ball has changed venues a couple of times--first Club Congress, then Plush, then back to Congress--and last year, the event was expanded to two nights in order to accommodate more bands and artists and provide a more rounded representation of what Tucson music has to offer. This year, it remains a two-night hootenanny, though Holiman recently told Soundbites via e-mail that next year, it will be scaled back to one night.

"I think there is enough talent in Tucson and then some to fill two nights," Holiman wrote, "but it becomes more of an event than a single experience. ... The Wooden Ball to me has always been a little more about a 'warm' night of music ... a night of music with heart."

We can't argue with that--it's a singularly special gathering: Acts performing at the Ball seem to always make the most of their 20-minute sets, reconfiguring their own material to best suit the unplugged format and often treating the audience to covers learned specifically for the night.

Here, then, is the schedule for the 15th (and 14th consecutive) Wooden Ball:

Friday, Jan. 12: 5ft2 (8:30 p.m.), Redlands (9 p.m.), Nowhere Man (9:30 p.m.), Leila Lopez (10 p.m.), Downtown Saints (10:30 p.m.), Namoli Brennet (11 p.m.), Sunday Afternoon (11:30 p.m.), Luca (midnight), Howe Gelb and Friends (12:30 a.m.).

Saturday, Jan. 13: Chris Holiman (8:30 p.m.), Andrew Collberg (9 p.m.), Cathy Rivers (9:30 p.m.), Little Sisters of the Poor (10 p.m.), Creosote (10:30 p.m.), Loveland (11 p.m.), The Wyatts (11:30 p.m.), Greyhound Soul (midnight), Al Perry (12:30 a.m.), plus MC Bruce Halper.

The Wooden Ball takes place at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission for one night is $6, or $10 for both. For more information, call 622-8848.


GET A LIFT AT LEVEL

With the apparent shuttering of Heart-Five, the local dance scene got a huge boost with the recent opening of Level Bar and Lounge, an upscale establishment that has been attracting some mighty big DJs for its Mix Thursdays. Next Thursday, Jan. 18, the lounge will host its biggest name yet, San Francisco's DJ Dan.

Named the No. 5 most popular DJ in the world by DJ Mag and "America's Favorite DJ" by URB, DJ Dan is best known for his patented house mixes, although he's also remixed tracks for the likes of New Order, the Pussycat Dolls, Keoki and A Tribe Called Quest. Though most of his mix CDs have been released by Moonshine and Kinetic, with last year's celebrated Lift, he began a series of releases for the Thrive label, which was continued in September with the release of Lift, Vol. 2.

It's pretty rare for a DJ of his caliber to visit our burg, so don't miss DJ Dan when he visits Level, 4280 N. Campbell Ave., Suite 37 (in St. Philip's Plaza) next Thursday. Admission is $15, and the performance begins at 10 p.m. Call 615-3835 or head to www.leveltucson.com for additional info.


THIS IS HOW THEY'LL GET TO MEMPHIS

Over two consecutive Sundays in September of last year, at Club Congress, a baker's dozen of regional blues acts competed in the Southern Arizona Blues Heritage Foundation's Blues Challenge, for the honor of representing Southern Arizona in the International Blues Challenge, held each year in Memphis, Tenn. The victors were The King Bees, who will venture to that American music mecca to compete in the 23rd annual event, a judged battle-of-the-bands-style competition to be held Feb. 1-3. (The IBC's Web site calls last year's event, in which Tucson's Tom Walbank competed, the "largest gathering of blues bands in the world.")

Although the regional competition earned the soulful blues sextet $2,000 toward travel expenses, additional funds are needed to send the group to the international competition. To that end, The King Bees, along with some of their friends, will return to Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Sunday, Jan. 14, for a fundraiser being billed as An Afternoon of Blues. The show runs from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and there is a suggested donation of $5. For further details, call 622-8848.


IT'S RAINING PUNK

As if anyone needed proof that the punk-rock umbrella is a mighty large one, encompassing myriad variants of the genre, look no further than a trio of shows this week to drive that point home.

This weekend Vaudeville Cabaret features a night of good ol' fashioned '80s-style punk rock headlined by a reunion of the hard-core band that sounds like "1,000 pounds of hate," False Promise. While we have a sneaking suspicion that this won't be their last reunion, hell, ya never know, so smoke 'em if ya got 'em. Also on the bill are Riverside, Calif., punk veterans Sick Sense, and a pair of Tucson trios, DirtEater and Stripper Killers. Things kick off around 10 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 13, and you'll find Vaudeville at 110 E. Congress St. For more info, call 622-3535.

Stop and think about it, and it should come as no surprise that the Austin, Texas, band that calls themselves The Applicators is composed of four women. The group's original lineup came together in 1999, but it wasn't until 2002 that their debut album, the Greg Hetson-produced What's Your Excuse (Skunk), which included 10 original tracks and covers of songs by Sleater-Kinney and The Dead Milkmen, appeared on record store shelves. Since then, they've released an EP and a pair of full-lengths, the latest of which is last year's My Weapon (Kingfing'r/HairBall8), which finds the ladies trading in a sweet blend of pop and punk influenced by '60s girl groups, '70s punk acts such as The Runaways and the Ramones, '80s beat-happy popsters The Go-Go's, and '90s bands like L7 and The Donnas. They'll be at the Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., next Thursday, Jan. 18, along with opening band The Johns (not to be confused by Tucson's The Jons), who hail from SoCal. The night gets rolling at 10 p.m., and you can call 882-0009 for further details.

On the very same night, Skrappy's hosts an all-ages show that features a trio of Fat Wreck Chords bands, plus one local act. Having released two albums and an EP on Jade Tree, Richmond, Va., five-piece Strike Anywhere headline in support of their Fat Wreck Chords debut Dead FM (2006). The album finds the group still merging accessibly anthemic poppy punk with their trademark politically conscious lyrics, while expanding those concerns this time around to include topics such as the death of the American middle class, environmental issues, and child abuse.

The other two Fat Wreck Chords bands on the bill are Dead to Me, the San Francisco trio that rose from the ashes of the late One Man Army, and their Bay Area compadres Love Equals Death, while Tucson is represented by openers Feel Good Revolution. The show starts at 7 p.m., and Skrappy's is located at 201 E. Broadway Blvd. Admission is $10. Call 358-4287 for more information.

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