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GRAB THE HARPOON

A couple of acts I saw in March at SXSW in Austin are making their way to town this week for two separate shows.

Depending on your perspective, Dead Confederate, of Athens, Ga., had either one of the best or worst slots of the festival when they opened for R.E.M. at Stubb's. Best, because that's a pretty sweet opening gig for a band that hadn't even released an album yet; worst, because the crowd was so giddily anticipating the headliner that no one seemed to be paying a whole lot of attention to Dead Confederate.

The band's debut album, Wrecking Ball (TAO), was finally released in September, and listening to it now ... well, it strikes me that maybe those of us at that R.E.M. show weren't paying much attention for a reason. The band comes across as a slightly psychedelic cross between the Afghan Whigs and Nirvana--which looks pretty good on paper, but in execution is actually pretty boring. The band attempts to kick up dust and drama, but the songs are underwritten, and there's not much there to grab on to.

That being said, there are at least two good reasons to head to the band's show here this week, namely local headliners Mostly Bears and one of the openers, Boston '60s-style psych-poppers Apollo Sunshine, who would have fit right in on the Elephant 6 roster. The Boxing Lesson open the show at 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 11, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Cover is only $7. Call 798-1298 for more info.

One of the coolest events I attended in Austin was the Lou Reed Tribute show, in which a slew of mostly big-name bands performed anywhere from one to three songs from either Reed's solo years or the Velvet Underground. Participants included My Morning Jacket, Thurston Moore, Moby and Yo La Tengo, just to name a few, and Lou himself stood on the side of the stage watching. It was all pretty heady stuff, probably for no one so much as a young guy named Ezra Furman, who strolled on stage armed with only an acoustic guitar and a harmonica and proceeded to tear into a dizzying, angst-ridden version of "Heroin."

Playing "Heroin" on an acoustic in front of Lou? Balls, my friends. Big ones. His normal gig is fronting Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, who sound something like a cross between early Violent Femmes and the first Modern Lovers album. Good, fun stuff.

They'll be at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Tuesday, Nov. 11, opening for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. This all-ages show gets rolling at 8 p.m., and tickets are $12. For further details, call 622-8848.


GET READY TO SCOOT

While I was on vacation all over the Midwest a couple of months ago, I was surprised to find that heartlanders have a newfound appreciation for scooters--which is odd, considering they can't be ridden there year-round. If you think it's tough navigating a car on an ice-covered road, well, you can see where this is going.

In Tucson, though, it's another story, and for that reason, local scooter ownership has never waned. For proof, look no further than the annual Scooter Rally, which is celebrating its 21st year this weekend. The rally itself is a 125-mile group ride that leaves Hotel Congress on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 8, winds its way through Patagonia and Nogales, Ariz., and ends up at the Calabasas Group Campsite in the Coronado National Forest. There, riders will be greeted by a catered barbecue, kegs of beer, music and a bonfire. Most will camp, but hotel rooms are also available. On Sunday, it's a Mexican breakfast and the ride back to Tucson.

Before all of that, on Friday, Nov. 7, Hotel Congress will host the traditional kickoff show. Rally registration begins at 6 p.m., and much mingling, drinking and live music will ensue. Bands for this year's celebration are beat-happy Mesa mod revivalists Eurovox and Madison, Wis., co-ed five-piece Pale Young Gentlemen, whose second album, Black Forest (Tra La La), was released last month on Science of Sound and will appeal to fans of Andrew Bird. Just expect finger-picked guitar in place of all that whistling.

Registration packs, which include a rally patch and shirt, a raffle ticket, dinner on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday, and all the beer you can drink, cost $25. But the kickoff show, which is outdoors, is free and open to all. For more information, head to hotelcongress.com, call Matthew or Megan Noli at 591-6945 or e-mail tucsonrally@hotmail.com.


SHORT TAKES

The annual Dia de los Muertos All Souls Procession takes place downtown this weekend, on Sunday, Nov. 9, and Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., is hosting an afterparty featuring Molehill Orkestrah and the Mission Creeps. It'll start once the festivities end, around 8 p.m., and admission is $5. 622-8848.

Toubab Krewe comprises five white dudes who, as I once wrote, "use the rhythms and grooves native to West Africa as a jumping-off point for their own brand of sonic exploration, which also incorporates other global elements that include everything from Brazilian pop to the loping sound of the Caribbean, as well North American-originated traces of American Indian tribal drumming, psychedelic and surf guitar, jazzy detours and way more." Recommended. They'll be at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., at 9:45 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8. Tickets are $10; 798-1298. (Please note that this show has been moved from its original location at the Fox Tucson Theatre.)

The punk-rock shindig known as Spasmpalooza hits Vaudeville, 110 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8. The lineup this year is Bloodspasm (now in its 23rd year!), American Death Trip, Bricktop, Dephinger, Limbless Torso and The Awful Truth. Cover is five bucks. In an e-mail sent to Soundbites, Bob Spasm writes: "Any band trying to play more than 30 minutes will be kicked off stage. Any singer that talks for more than one minute between songs will get the boot, leaving his band to continue without him. If you are unemployed, we feel for you, and we will let you in for the discounted rate of $4.99."

Such a charmer, that Bob. 622-3535.

The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., will host what's being billed as the Southern Arizona Tri County Allstars, which culls bands from--you guessed it--a trio of counties in Southern Arizona. Representing Maricopa County are the wonderful Latin-indie combo Fatigo and Merrily, a piano-and-voice Fatigo side project. Representing Cochise County are the lovely co-ed duo Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl and singer-songwriter Dylan Charles. And representing our own Pima County: The Dusty Buskers, Family of Light and Joshua Butcher and the Melancholy. It all goes down on two stages starting at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7. Cover is a mere $5. 623-3200.

Elsewhere: The Fertile Crescent will be at the Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St., around 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 11; Funzalo recording artist Tony Furtado and Kevin Pakulis will be at Old Town Artisans, 201 N. Court Ave., at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8; k.d. lang, who in February released Watershed, her first album of original material in seven years, will perform at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 12, at UA Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd.; '90s survivors Local H, comedy-rockers the Electric Six and locals Garboski will be at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., at 9 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 9; Blues Traveler and Fastball play the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at 8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 10; and veteran bluesman Willie "Big Eyes" Smith will be at Old Town Artisans, 201 N. Court Ave., at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7.

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