Tucson is rather fond of its musical traditions—think HoCo Fest, KFMA Day, Club Crawl®, the Great Cover-Up, etc.—and this week brings with it another wonderful tradition.
In the late 1980s, then-River Roses frontman Chris Holiman had an idea to attempt to unite a fractious music scene by putting a pile of acts on the same bill, at Nino's Steakhouse, with one rule: Musicians had to perform using mostly acoustic instruments. He called it the Wooden Ball, and while people's memories of the event seem to be a bit foggy, by all accounts, it was a success.
By 1994, the River Roses had broken up, but Holiman had a new band, 35 Summers. The music scene had come a long way, too: There was a slew of great young bands and a renewed sense of harmony and camaraderie. Holiman revisited the idea of the Wooden Ball, this time to demonstrate that Tucson bands contained songwriters good enough that they didn't need an endless rack of effects pedals and Marshall stacks to entertain. The second one was held that year at Club Congress and has been an annual event ever since.
The ensuing years have seen a short-lived change of venue, and Holiman—who performs occasionally with a backing band, the Downtown Saints—mostly gigs solo these days. (Late last year, he released a fine new album, The Sailor's Daughter.) But the spirit and the excellently curated lineups—Holiman is careful each year to provide a balance between tried-and-true acts and up-and-comers—remain. Several people have told me recently that the Wooden Ball was their introduction to local music, and I imagine the lineup at this year's two-night event will win a few new converts, too.
Here's the lineup for this year's Wooden Ball:
Friday, Jan. 8: Chris Holiman (8:30 p.m.), Andrew Collberg (9 p.m.), Space Over Desert (9:30 p.m.), Gabriel Sullivan (10 p.m.), Sand Rubies (10:30 p.m.), Gila Bend (11 p.m.), The Mission Creeps (11:30 p.m.), The Swim (midnight) and Al Perry (12:30 a.m.).
Saturday, Jan. 9: Betsy (8 p.m.), Lydian Ali (8:30 p.m.), 35 Summers (9 p.m.), Charlie Faye (9:30 p.m.; side note: Faye is from Austin, and quite possibly the first nonlocal to play the Ball), Namoli Brennet (10 p.m.), Young Mothers (10:30 p.m.), Seashell Radio (11 p.m.) and Greyhound Soul (11:30 p.m.).
The Wooden Ball takes place at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Doors open at 7 p.m. each night, and admission is $7 per night. A portion of the proceeds collected at the door will be donated to the Primavera Foundation. For more information, call 622-8848.
Musicians: Have you ever finished recording a song and said to yourself, "Man, I'll bet this would be huge in Europe"? Well, now's your chance to find out.
Local chanteuse Marianne Dissard, who is currently somewhere in Europe and about to embark on a tour of New Zealand, dropped us a line of interest to local bands and musicians.
The European label Le Pop Musik, which has released albums by Naïm Amor, Andrew Collberg and Dissard, is seeking tracks for a Tucson-themed compilation album to be released this year. All styles are welcome. To be considered, send a couple of your best MP3s to firstname.lastname@example.org, and put "Tucson 2010 compilation" in the subject line. Deadline for submissions is Friday, Jan. 15. Good luck to all.
The musical landscape is littered with reformed rockers who, as they get a bit older, either rediscover their Americana roots or begin to investigate American roots music for the first time.
In the case of A.A. Bondy, former frontman for Alabama post-grunge rockers Verbena, the loud guitars of that band have been replaced in his two recent solo albums, 2007's American Hearts and 2009's When the Devil's Loose (both on Fat Possum), by singer-songwriter mellowness. That doesn't sound good, does it? Well, it is; the albums are stunningly beautiful in a world-weary way.
Forsaking the single-acoustic-guitar treatment used on American Hearts, Devil adds bass and drums to the mix, though often rather sparingly. But it's Bondy's voice, which reminds me of Ryan Adams (though I'd argue it's more soulful—and more believable) and is placed front and center, that really makes the album—that, and Bondy's way around a heartbroken melody. Fans of Will Oldham, or anyone with a beat-up copy of Harvest or Heartbreaker, should really do themselves a favor and check out Bondy's next week.
A.A. Bondy performs at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., next Thursday, Jan. 14. Opening the show at 9 p.m. are similarly acclaimed singer-songwriter Willy Mason and Tucson's own Amy Rude. Admission is $10, and all ages are welcome.
Also at Solar Culture this week is Berkeley, Calif.-based duo (and its rotating cast of collaborators) Odawas, who have released a trio of critically well-received albums for Jagjaguwar, the latest being 2009's The Blue Depths. The band takes the rootsy sound of Neil Young or My Morning Jacket and casts it into a swirl of atmosphere that recalls The Blue Nile, Talk Talk and even Angelo Badalamenti.
If the name Dominique Leone sounds familiar, you're either scoring street cred points for following rather obscure artists, or you read your share of music criticism—Leone has reviewed albums for the likes of Pitchfork and AllMusic. His music, largely rendered through electronics, sounds a bit like an aural history of the last 50 years of pop music fractured to bits and reassembled. If the Beach Boys, Can and Stereolab ever got together to collaborate on a tune for a sequel to Free to Be ... You and Me, the result might sound like just another Dominique Leone tune.
Odawas and Dominique Leone perform at Solar Culture on Saturday, Jan. 9. Opening the all-ages show at 9 p.m. is Tucson's own Redlands. Admission is $7.
For info about either of these shows, call 884-0874.
The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who produced the debut album by San Antonio, Texas-based Hacienda, Loud Is the Night (Alive, 2008), has described that band as "Mexican Americans who are obsessed with the Beach Boys." That's a pretty good description, but I'd add that there are garage-rock elements, a hint of doo-wop and vintage soul, and more than a passing resemblance to fellow '60s-hearkening bands found on the Elephant 6 label found in their mix.
They'll be at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Sunday, Jan. 10, along with openers Golden Boots, who begin at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $7, and you can call 798-1298 with questions.
If the idea of a band merely sounding like it belongs in the Elephant 6 collective just isn't enough, Athens, Ga.'s Nana Grizol, which actually is part of E6, will be performing a show this week, on Monday, Jan. 11, at a warehouse whose address we've been asked not to publish. If you're interested in attending, keep your eyes open for posters, and your ears open for word-of-mouth info.
New Orleans' Cowboy Mouth, which folds roots rock and AAA elements into its alt-party-rock stew, is one of those bands that's never sold many albums but still manages to draw throngs of fans to its live shows. Find out why when the group brings its Annual Rock and Roll Mardi Gras to the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., next Thursday, Jan. 14. Also on the bill: Cottonwood, Ariz., native and master of the guit-steel, Junior Brown; Indian Teeth; and the Carnivaleros, who start the night off at 8 p.m. Tickets for the all-ages show are available for $23 in advance, or $25 on the day of the show. Call 740-1000 for more info.
Singer-songwriters Howie Day and Serena Ryder at Club Congress on Monday, Jan. 11; "fluffy guy" comedian Gabriel Iglesias at the Fox Tucson Theatre on Friday, Jan. 8; My Dads, Poor Boy's Soul and Adam Cogswell at the Red Room at Grill on Saturday, Jan. 9; The Fisters, The Round Eyes and The Pork Torta at Vaudeville on Saturday, Jan. 9; State Radio at Club Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 13.