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A GIANT CRAWL

The biggest story this week is, of course, the Tucson Weekly-sponsored Fall Club Crawl™, which takes place at venues and outdoor stages all over the downtown and Fourth Avenue area on Saturday, Oct. 6. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 85 bands and performers--local, regional, national and international--will tag team on about 25 stages, and about 10,000 of you will be there to soak in the madness.

There's still time to stop by any Bookmans location to get your all-inclusive wristband in advance, which we highly recommend for three reasons:

1. You'll save a couple of bucks. Bookmans is selling wristbands for $8 through Friday. They'll cost $10 on the day of the Crawl.

2. If you already have your wristband in hand, you won't have to wait in line for one on Saturday evening. Some lines are inevitable at the Crawl; this is one that's completely avoidable.

3. As long as supplies last, those who pick up wristbands in advance will be treated to a free copy of Club Crawl Vol. 4, a 15-track compilation CD featuring a diverse crew of local bands and artists. This is the only way to get a copy of the CD. Once they're gone, they're gone.

Copious details regarding the Crawl can be found in the insert in the paper you're now holding, so I won't expound too much. (You can also head to ClubCrawl.net for more info.) I would, however, like to take a few moments to self-indulgently reminisce about one particular act performing at this year's event: They Might Be Giants.

The very first time I ever ventured to downtown Tucson was to see They Might Be Giants perform. I was a sophomore at the UA--this would have been back in 1988 or '89--and received word that Club Congress was hosting a show by the then-duo. The band's first, self-titled album had been in constant rotation in my CD player, and I was ecstatic to find out they were coming to town. Alas, I was less than ecstatic to find out that the show was only open to those 21 and older. What better time to test the, uh, bona fides of the fake ID I had procured while living in the dorm? Sure, it worked at penny-pitcher college haunts like The Green Dolphin (The Green Dolphin, anyone?), but who the hell knew if it would get me into some place called Club Congress? And why the hell were They Might Be Giants playing at a hotel, anyway?

I couldn't find anyone who had even heard of the band, let alone who wanted to go with me to the show. I didn't have a car. I had a bike, but no sense of where the hell downtown even was (and believe me, downtown Tucson was pretty damn shady in those days). So I called a cab. I knew things were going my way when the taxi that pulled up was one of those old-fashioned yellow cabs that you simply don't see on the streets anymore. As a poor, naive college kid venturing to an unknown place in an antique taxi, to see one of my favorite bands, well, I felt like a king.

The person at the door didn't even blink at my phony Massachusetts driver's license, and the show was fantastic. There were about 15 other people there, and the two Johns played what seemed to be every song they knew at that point--and this was still in the days when it was just the two of them and a boombox. After the show, I indulged my inner fanboy and chatted with them, bought a shirt and had them sign it.

Although those signatures have long since faded, that almost-20-year-old shirt is still hanging in my closet, a reminder of a lot of things. My halcyon college days, sure, but more than that, the personal enrichment that comes from stepping out of your comfort zone and into the unknown. I realize I didn't exactly climb Mount Everest or anything, but like I said, I was a pretty naive kid, and it was kind of a big deal at the time. But if I had just blown it off, if I had decided I didn't want to venture to a "scary" part of town with which I was unfamiliar, by myself, I never would have had that cherished experience.

So, to those of you who are still unfamiliar with downtown Tucson for the lack of ever venturing to the area, all I can say is: You have no idea what fun you're missing. And what better time to start than at this weekend's Fall Club Crawl™?


SINFUL CD

If you've been paying attention to this space for the last several weeks, you know that local CD-release season is in full effect, and this week sees another Tucson band (or two--see Rhythm and Views for info on Luca's CD-release party tonight) unleash months of hard work on the public, in the form of a 5-inch plastic disc.

The subject: Four 20-somethings--specifically, singer/guitarist Andrew Rivas, guitarist Johnny Perez, bassist Davian Pedroza, drummer Bobby Mendibles--who call themselves Sinphonics. Biggest claim to fame so far: The group took top honors at this year's Fox 11 Tucson Music Melee.

For what it is, the band's self-titled, self-released debut CD is pretty impressive. The album is littered with remnants of a bygone era: squealy guitar solos, dual lead guitars, and clean and technically proficient passages that get louder and bigger when the distortion pedal is hit. (Downtown hipster types would call this "eastside rock.") And, somewhat remarkable for a debut album from a young band, the songs don't all sound the same (there's a screamo diversion here, a Traffic-inspired jam with horns there).

For the sake of making a point, let's concentrate on the album's opening track (one of its strongest), "Swingy." Against the tap of a hi-hat, one guitar plays strutting, loungey chords while the other noodles about. Enter the drums; then, at the 25-second mark, grungey guitars take over for a bit, before it's back to the opening section, which becomes the first verse. The chorus is set against that teen-spirited guitar riff, but even so, recalls the radio rock of the '70s and early-to-mid-'80s more than the grunge era. In fact, the whole CD has a way of reminding of a time when hard rock bands that weren't labeled "new rock" or "alternative" or whatever were played on radio stations other than those that spin nothing but "classic rock." If anyone remembers what, say, KLPX FM 96.1 used to play before they became a classic-rock station, that's the stuff I'm talking about. If such a station existed today (and I'm sure in some cities, it does), Sinphonics would be in heavy rotation.

So, yes, the style of music Sinphonics plays is somewhat dated in an adventurous era of microgenres. But, ironically, that quality is the very same thing that makes it sound refreshing. You just don't hear bands that sound like this much anymore, unless they're being ironic. Sinphonics' lack of irony, its sincerity, is what makes this CD so appealing.

Sinphonics performs at the CD-release party for its debut album on Friday, Oct. 5, at O'Malley's, 247 N. Fourth Ave. Showtime is 9 p.m., and the bill also includes Crash Academy, The Diversion Program and Gaza Strip. Cover is $6. For more information, call 623-8600.


ON THE BANDWAGON

After releasing three albums on three different indie labels (OK, so one of them is distributed by a major), Rilo Kiley's latest effort, Under the Blacklight (2007), is its first full-fledged release for the big boys--in this case, Warner Bros. And that's not all that's different about Blacklight. Whereas in the past, the group leaned toward the rootsier side of indie-pop, the new album is all about the groove, whether it's bouncy, soulful or downright funky. Aside from a few obvious things (Jenny Lewis' distinctive voice, the odd country tune), this simply doesn't sound like the Rilo Kiley of yore--not a bad thing, just different. The changes are also evident in subject matter: Lewis always played coy in the past, but here, she's got sex on the brain--and on her tongue--throughout almost the entire album. We're not complaining.

Rilo Kiley performs at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Tuesday, Oct. 9. Things get underway at 8 p.m. with opening sets from The Bird and the Bee (featuring Inara George) and Grand Ole Party. Advance tickets for the all-ages show are available for $20 at the venue's box office, online at rialtotheatre.com or by calling 740-1000. They'll be a buck more on the day of the show. For more info, call the aforementioned number.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for these other fine shows in town this week: Dionne Warwick at Centennial Hall on Friday, Oct. 5; The Riders at Shot in the Dark Café on Saturday, Oct. 6; GWAR at the Rialto Theatre next Thursday, Oct. 11; and The Mother Truckers and Loveland at Plush on Wednesday, Oct. 10.

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