Organized by Chris Holiman (River Roses, 35 Summers, Downtown Saints), The Wooden Ball gathers a slew of local veteran and up-and-coming acts under one roof for two nights of (mostly) acoustic performances. The first installment took place in the late '80s, at the long-defunct Nino's Steakhouse, before a period of dormancy that ended in 1994, when Holiman revived it. Since then, it's been an annual affair that demonstrates what local bands are made of when they don't have a row of Marshall stacks to hide behind.
Behold the awesome lineup of acts Holiman has rounded up for your listening enjoyment this year:
Friday, Jan. 9 (doors at 8 p.m.; acts listed in descending order of appearance): Al Perry, Calexico's Joey Burns and John Convertino, the Sand Rubies, Chris Holiman and Friends, Sunday Afternoon, Golden Boots, Nick Luca, Cheepness, Courtney Robbins and Fish Karma.
Saturday, Jan. 10 (doors at 7 p.m.; acts listed in descending order of appearance): The Jons, Tom Walbank, Marianne Dissard, Leila Lopez, Andrew Collberg, Ft. Worth and Lydian and the Amphibians.
Best of all, the proceeds from this year's event will be donated to the Tucson Community Food Bank and its Community Food Security Center. (Read more at the Food Bank's Web site.)
The Wooden Ball sets up shop at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, Jan. 9, and Saturday, Jan. 10. Admission is a mere $6 each night. For further details, call 622-8848.
Local musician Brian McClain, of the band Nobody, et al. , has curated a host of acts to perform at the Sabbar Shrine, 450 S. Tucson Blvd., throughout January and February. (If successful, the series, dubbed Shriners ROCK!, will be extended.)
In an e-mail to the Soundbites desk, McClain writes, "The idea is to create a win-win situation for bands (who receive 75 percent of the door) and the Shriners. The Shriners are really struggling due to an astonishing attrition rate and the lovely economy. However, they have a full-service bar and restaurant, and space that can flex from 125 up to 300 seating."
The series kicks off tonight, Thursday, Jan. 8, with performances from Nobody, et al. and The Tryst, and continues thusly: Thursday, Jan 15: The Last Call Girls and The 4th Street String Band; Thursday, Jan. 22: Calle Debauche and Molehill Orkestrah; Thursday, Jan. 29: Al Foul and TBA; Thursday, Feb. 5: Nobody, et al. and Combo Westside; Thursday, Feb. 12: the Gary Bonnett Band and The Wyatts; Thursday, Feb. 19: The Mission Creeps and TBA; Thursday, Feb. 26: Haley Jane and Redlands.
Each night of music begins at 8 p.m. sharp, and drink specials include $1 domestic drafts, $2 domestic bottles and $2.75 wells. Admission is $6. For more info, head to shrinersrock.com, or call 407-6324.
For starters, there's that ventriloquist act at the Tucson Convention Center Arena next Thursday, Jan. 15. Check this week's Nine Questions for a Q&A with Jeff Dunham, the Dane Cook of 2009 (and by that, I mean "guy who is exploding in popularity, but whom I still don't find funny"). Thank goodness, then, that two other comedy acts hitting town this week are hilarious, in my opinion.
Take the Smothers Brothers, for example. As someone who'd rather not admit to being old enough to have grown up absorbing the subtle subversiveness of this comedy-and-music brother duo in the '60s and '70s, I can also tell you that any champion of the First Amendment has them to thank for the obstacles they overcame.
In the Vietnam War era, Tommy and Dick Smothers took the ground that Lenny Bruce had broken, and made similar ideas palatable to a broader audience. In doing so, they paved the way for the likes of George Carlin and Richard Pryor, whose ideas seemed a bit more easily digestible in their wake.
If the Smothers Brothers cloaked liberalism in normal-suburban-dad clothing, Craig Ferguson might be best categorized as a humorous humanist. The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson on CBS is unlike any other late-night talk show.
Ferguson's appeal is almost universal. He clearly loves women (even if Ferguson is newly married), and is a shameless (and usually successful) flirt--the kind of ladies' man David Letterman aspires to be, but is too dorky to realize. But guys fall under his spell, too. After all, he's just one of us--only far wittier.
Where most opening monologues are a series of jokes written by a team of writers, Ferguson's are delivered completely off-the-cuff and are, therefore, exciting and unpredictable. One night, he'll fill the camera frame with a monkey puppet announcing, "People of Earth! We have arrived to take over your society!" The next, he'll spend the entire show delivering a funny, heartbreaking eulogy for one of his departed parents. He's funny and quick on the draw, but most of all, he's a completely charming and utterly likeable Scottish expat who came here and found the American dream.
Craig Ferguson performs an all-ages show at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 9, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are $55 for reserved floor seats, and $35 for reserved balcony seats; they'll be $3 more on the day of the show. For more information, call 740-1000.
The Smothers Brothers perform with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Pops! at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10, at the Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. Tickets range from $26 to $81, and are available online at tucsonsymphony.org; at the TSO box office at 2175 N. Sixth Ave.; or by phone at 882-8585.
Please note that the Wanda Jackson show originally scheduled at Plush on Saturday, Jan. 10, has been cancelled due to a family emergency. A rescheduled date has been promised.
Finally, it saddens us to mention that bluesman and former Tucsonan Sam Taylor passed away last weekend in Islandia, N.Y., at the age of 74. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to his family and friends. A local memorial is being planned; we'll keep you posted as we receive details.
R.I.P., Ron Asheton.