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INFORMATION, PLEASE

In the Tucson Weekly's Dec. 24 issue, we'll feature our annual New Year's Guide, a handy go-to resource to help you plan how you'll usher in 2010.

But in order to inform our readers of their options, we need to know exactly what in the heck is going on. That's where you come in.

If your club, restaurant or other venue is hosting a New Year's celebration that will feature live music, let us know what you've got going on. Send complete details—that's performers, location, address, phone number, Web site, time, cost and a description of the event—to musiced@tucsonweekly.com and listings@tucsonweekly.com no later than Friday, Dec. 11 (of course, the earlier the better), and I'll give your shindig some free publicity.

I will be patiently waiting at my desk for your e-mails to arrive.


A PERSONAL FAVORITE

The first nonlocal musician I ever interviewed for this paper, almost 11 years ago, was Athens, Ga.'s Vic Chesnutt, who happens to be one of my favorite songwriters.

I couldn't believe my good fortune. I interviewed him by phone, and when I later spoke to him in person, after a show at Club Congress, I had a few drinks in my belly and was feeling fearless—perhaps too much so. I jokingly told him that it was a bad idea for him to have given me his personal phone number, because I might call him again, possibly in the middle of the night. "Oh, that's OK," he replied without a beat. "I don't have to answer."

I also gushed about how much his music had meant to me, something I hadn't yet learned was to be avoided. I told him that I was a tough cry, but that his song "Stupid Preoccupations" (from 1991's West of Rome) made me weep when I first heard it. "That means a lot to me, Stephen," he said, "because I cried when I wrote that song."

I bring this up, because it demonstrates something about Chesnutt and about his music: There's a dichotomy there between light and heavy, funny and serious. Chesnutt is a master at this, making you chuckle one minute and cry the next. We discussed it during that phone conversation. Chesnutt said, "That's very important in my songs: Don't know whether to laugh or cry. It gives energy to my songs, somehow, and it gives energy to me when I'm writing it if I don't know whether to bum out or giggle. I'm a cynical person."

The humor, of course, is there to offset the underlying sadness in his songs, of which there is a lot. Chesnutt has earned his cynicism. While he despises sympathy, he's been bound to a wheelchair since a single-car drunk-driving accident at age 18. He played guitar and wrote songs before the accident, but afterward, he couldn't play. "My fingers just wouldn't do it," he told me, so he wrote songs on a keyboard instead. A full year after the accident, he dropped a bunch of acid one night, and by morning, he found, miraculously, that he could play guitar again.

In the '80s, Chesnutt performed regularly at Athens' famed 40 Watt Club, and it was there that Michael Stipe came across him. Eventually, Stipe called Chesnutt one day to say that he had an extra day in a recording studio, and asked Vic if he wanted to come down and do some recording. That day yielded Little (Texas Hotel, 1990), Chesnutt's acclaimed debut album.

Since then, Chesnutt has released a dozen albums and had his songs covered by the likes of Madonna, R.E.M. and Smashing Pumpkins. In 1995, he collaborated with Widespread Panic, and the pairing yielded two albums released under the name Brute. It was the first in a long line of collaborations; in more recent years, he has teamed up with Lambchop, Bill Frisell, Van Dyke Parks, Elf Power and Cowboy Junkies, among others.

A couple of months ago, in a two-week span, Chesnutt released two new albums: Skitter on Take-Off (Vapor), a relatively stripped-down, lo-fi affair co-produced by Jonathan Richman and Tucson's Tommy Larkins; and At the Cut (Constellation), his second album backed by a band that includes Fugazi guitarist Guy Picciotto and members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Silver Mt. Zion. (The first was 2007's North Star Deserter, also released on Constellation.)

Those Constellation albums are some of the slowest, darkest and noisiest he's released. Chesnutt's songs mostly provide the skeleton for the large band to embellish upon, and they indeed open up and stretch out. The albums are largely a series of inspired dirges and cacophonous brooding (and are, by the way, gorgeous). Listening to Skitter and At the Cut back-to-back, it's striking how one man's songs can become so different depending on the musicians he's playing them with.

At his appearance in Tucson this week, Chesnutt will have the Constellation band in tow, so expect them to mostly play songs from At the Cut and North Star Deserter.

Vic Chesnutt performs at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, Dec. 2. The show begins at 9 p.m. with opening sets by Liz Durrett and Golden Boots. Tickets are $10 in advance, or $12 on the day of the show. For more information, call 622-8848.


KEENAN STRIKES AGAIN

As far as late additions go, this one's a doozy.

If you haven't had a gander at the Rialto Theatre's marquee lately, you may not know that Puscifer is headed our way this week.

Puscifer is, of course, yet another spectacle from the mind of Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle), Arizonan, winemaker (a documentary about his winemaking efforts, Blood Into Wine, is currently set to be released early next year) and, oh yeah, musician.

Based on reviews of previous shows, the Puscifer live show is a twisted, sexually explicit variety show, with Keenan portraying characters such as the flag-waving Major Douche and backwoods country crooner Billy Dee. (Spin compared this section of the show to an "X-rated episode of Hee-Haw.") Another portion of the performance reviewed in Spin had the band members playing more straightforward songs while hidden behind flat-screen TVs that showed them projected onscreen. Apparently, the shows vary from night to night, so what we'll get at this week's show here is anybody's guess. But you can pretty much count on the fact that it'll be some good, dirty fun.

Puscifer performs at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, Dec. 2. Comedian Neil Hamburger opens the all-ages show at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $39.50 to $55; VIP packages that include a wine tasting are also available. Call 740-1000 for further details.

Maynard James Keenan and his partner in Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, Eric Glomski, will also be signing bottles of their wines at Whole Foods, 3360 E. Speedway Blvd., from 2 to 5 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 6.


INSERT MARIJUANA JOKE HERE

The legendary Willie Nelson brings his guitar Trigger and a lifetime of incredible songs back to Tucson for a pair of shows on consecutive nights this week.

Also in tow: the sprawling Western-swing combo Asleep at the Wheel, with whom Nelson collaborated on an album, appropriately titled Willie and the Wheel (Bismeaux), released earlier this year. More recently, Nelson released American Classic (Blue Note), a collection of his interpretations of standards that is something of a sequel to 1978's Stardust (Columbia).

Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel perform at the Diamond Center at Desert Diamond Casino, 1100 W. Pima Mine Road, at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 2, and Thursday, Dec. 3. Advance tickets run $35 to $70 at all Ticketmaster locations, at ticketmaster.com and at (800) 745-3000. They'll be $5 more on the day of the show. For more info, call 294-7777.

After selling out AVA at Casino del Sol about a year ago, reunited stoner-comedy legends Cheech and Chong will take a victory lap at the Diamond Center at Desert Diamond Casino at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 28. Tickets are $35 to $65 in advance; they'll be $5 more on the day of the show. See above for how to get them.

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