Two shows this week—both at Club Congress—put faces familiar to Tucsonans back up on stage after a bit of an absence.
For three years, from 2001 to 2004, Red Switch (later The Red Switch) was one of Tucson's best and most promising bands. Originally formed by singer-guitarist Josh Levine and guitarist Andrew Skikne, the group was filled out by drummer Ernie Gardner and a succession of bassists that ended with Billy Price. The band started playing during the "rock revival" of 2001, and was somewhat influenced by it. Levine had formerly led garage rockers the Apocalyptics, and Skikne had played drums in math-rockers Quadratics, but the new outfit played a brand of rock 'n' roll that had the tightness of the Strokes, the looseness of the White Stripes, and the swagger of the Stones. Levine could crank out fantastic new songs at such a prolific rate that a new one seemed to be debuted at each of the band's shows.
In the fall of 2002, Skikne and Levine decided to relocate to the San Francisco Bay area. Skikne knew a couple of guys there he had become friends with at the UA, who could become Red Switch's new rhythm section. But after an exploratory visit, Levine decided he didn't want to move after all. Skikne went anyway, and formed Roma 79, which has toured through Tucson a couple of times, with his UA buddies, drummer Aaron Bonsall and singer-bassist Jeremy Patfield. Levine soldiered on with Red Switch, replacing Skikne with keyboardist Justin Miller (now of ... music video?); this altered the sound a bit, so Levine renamed the band The Red Switch to mark the distinction.
The band's fans seemed split as to which version they preferred, which is to say both were potent in their own way. But the group's difficulties with alcohol (and less legal substances) were no secret and soon began getting in the way. To mix a couple of metaphors, Neil Young once sang, "It's better to burn out than it is to rust," but when you're burning the candle at both ends, it can't last forever. By August 2004, outside influences had gotten the better of The Red Switch, and the band was done.
For the last five years, Levine, a naturally charismatic frontman, has kept an extremely low profile. For someone as prolific as he once was, it's amazing that he went most of that time without picking up a guitar. He spent the time doing something far more important: getting his shit together, and becoming clean and sober.
But a few months ago, Skikne and Gardner reached out to Levine to gauge his interest in playing a reunion show. After a series of e-mails and phone calls, Levine agreed. Patfield will handle bass duties next to the band's three original members for this week's reunion show.
I, for one, couldn't be more pleased that Red Switch will perform at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, Sept. 18. Opening at 9 p.m. are The Static Session and Early Black. Admission is $7. Call 622-8848 for more information.
The other show this week that brings former Tucsonans back to the Congress stage is headlined by the fabulous Nobunny, who currently resides in Oakland, Calif., and splits his time between drumming for the Okmoniks and performing garage-y bubblegum pop tunes—while wearing a demonic bunny head, natch.
His 2008 album, Love Visions, has garnered heaps of praise from just about everyone with an opinion on such matters, including this publication's Mark Beef, who described it thusly: "What if GG Allin had been the Svengali behind a bouffant-ed girl group, having them out-raunch anybody while maintaining sweetness and light? ... Handclaps, broken pianos, toilet-bowl guitars and whisky bottles full of piss used as maracas make up just a portion of this irresistible infection created for the wino in the alley, as well as the kids just discovering the joys of masturbation and drugs. Songs are about giving girls what they really want, prostitution, laughing instead of crying about failed relationships, and fun, fun, fun like the Beach Boys never knew."
Touring with Nobunny is another former Tucsonan, Hunx, from gay-positive disco-party band Gravy Train!!!! His side project, Hunx and His Punx, trades in a similar territory as Nobunny (no surprise since Nobunny is one of his collaborators): It's heavily influenced by '60s girl-groups and doo-wop, sorta like the Ramones without the buzzsaw guitars.
Filling out the bill are the experimental punk of Tucson's Lenguas Largas and Phoenix's JJCNV (Janis Joplin Crap n Vomit). Trust me, that's one hell of a bill, my lovelies.
This one's all-ages and starts early, at 8 p.m. on the nose, on Sunday, Sept. 20. Again, Club Congress is located at 311 E. Congress St. Admission is a paltry five bucks. The number to call with questions is 622-8848.
Solar Culture Gallery has largely eschewed big indie-rock shows recently and returned to showcasing the more experimental-type acts it started out with. This week, the art-performance space has a relatively full slate of three such shows. Tonight, Thursday, Sept. 17, sees Prince Rama Ayodhya, who specializes in a blessed-out take on Eastern-influenced psychedelia, along with opener Lord Jeff, who has collaborated with Thurston Moore. $7.
On Sunday, Sept. 20, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Erinn, who should appeal to fans of Beth Orton, Björk, Tori Amos and all those 4AD acts of the '80s, headlines a show that also features locals Kaia and the Nazarenes. $6.
And on Monday, Sept. 21, Brooklyn's Kelli Rudick, a virtuosic guitar player in the tradition of Kaki King, performs her instrumental compositions following an opening set by singer-songwriter Leila Lopez, the 2009 TAMMIES winner in the folk category. $7.
All shows are welcome to all ages and begin at 9 p.m. Call 884-0874 for more info.
The ladies of Tucson Roller Derby are having a Band Bash to raise funds to send one of their teams, the Saddletramps, to Denver next month to compete in the WFTDA Western Regional Tournament, aka Derby on the Rocks. Starting at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., the Pork Torta, Flagrante Delicto and Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout will all perform sets to help get asses in the door. And if that's not enough to entice you, I've got four words for you: Roller Derby Musical Chairs. You are hereby powerless. $5 donation. Call 882-0009 for more details.
Aaron Watson at the Cactus Moon, tonight, Thursday, Sept. 17; John Legend at the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall on Sunday, Sept. 20; Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks at Plush on Tuesday, Sept. 22; Sugar Ray at the Rialto Theatre on Tuesday, Sept. 22; Larry the Cable Guy at Desert Diamond Casino's Diamond Center on Saturday, Sept. 19; Static X at the Rialto Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 19; Neal McCoy, Lee Ann Womack and others at the Pima County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Sept. 19; Erin McCarley and Landon Pigg at Club Congress on Saturday, Sept. 19; In Flames and others at the Rialto Theatre on Wednesday, Sept. 23; Thrift Store Cowboys at Plush on Sunday, Sept. 20; Nick Charles at the F.O.P. Lodge (aka The Lodge on Dodge) on Friday, Sept. 18; The Endless Endeavor and others at The Rock on Saturday, Sept. 19; Andre Nickatina at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, Sept. 18; Gabriel Sullivan, Two Cow Garage and others at The Living Room next Thursday, Sept. 24.
Also, a quick note: Due to a wrist fracture guitarist Lee Ranaldo suffered while playing tennis, the Sonic Youth show at the Rialto Theatre, originally scheduled for Friday, Oct. 2, has been rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 4, 2010. Tickets already purchased will be honored. Call 740-1000 with questions.