As we've mentioned many times before, bands love to release new albums in the spring, as it gives them an excuse to hit the road to promote their work.
The reason why local acts, especially ones that don't do much touring, do the same is a bit of a mystery. Maybe they all just holed up over the chilly-ish winter season to record, and those efforts have come to fruition. Whatever the reason, there are no fewer than four local albums being released this week, and two release parties scheduled to celebrate them. Rich Hopkins and Luminarios are hosting their own CD-release event at The Hut on Friday, March 5, with The Jons opening. And the other three acts—Tracy Shedd, The Modeens and The Monitors—will all be feting their respective releases at a joint triple-release party at Plush the following night, Saturday, March 6.
You can read about three of the four in this week's Rhythm and Views (Page 56). The odd band out is The Modeens, whose album I intended to tell you about in this space, but frankly, I haven't had the chance to spend enough time with it to discuss it very intelligently. With apologies to them, keep your eyes peeled to Rhythm and Views in upcoming weeks for a full review. In the meantime, you can, of course, check them out for yourself on Saturday.
Speaking of local bands with new albums: The boys of Harlem—the band, not the neighborhood—moved from Tucson to Austin a while back, and whaddayaknow, they ended up scoring a deal with a little label called Matador Records. The New York-based label, home to acts like Pavement, Liz Phair and Guided by Voices, as well as current ones such as Ted Leo, Cold Cave and Shearwater (those latter three are scheduled to play upcoming shows in Tucson), will release the band's second album, Hippies, on April 6. It just happens to be my favorite album of 2010 so far.
There's been a stream of new bands with a retro vibe lately, and I suppose that's nothing new. Bands like Girls and Hunx and His Punx trade in dreamy pop rooted in the late-'50s and '60s, and the girl-group sound, respectively. Harlem, on the other hand, apply a '60s garage aesthetic to '50s rock 'n' roll and early British Invasion, with a bit of surf rock thrown in. They'll probably hate me for saying so: In a year-old interview with the blog The Art of Losing, guitarist/drummer Michael Coomers insists, "We're not retro. ... We're not trying to sound retro."
The thing is this: It doesn't really matter what sort of adjectives one applies to Harlem. They've got some killer songs, period. The verses are consistently solid, and the choruses are even better: Hippies is jam-packed with earworms you'll be humming for days. If you don't believe me, head to matadorrecords.com for a free download of "Friendly Ghost." If you aren't singing the chorus—"I wanna disappear all the time / Probably disappear tonight"—by the end, check your damn pulse.
Harlem returns to Tucson on Friday, March 5, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. The show starts at 9 p.m. with opening sets by The Matadors and The Lifers. Admission is a mere five bucks. Now would be a good time to catch 'em on the cheap, considering the advance buzz Hippies has been receiving. Call 622-8848 with questions.
While churches in some cities have gospel brunches, at least one church in Tucson holds an annual Jazz Sunday in the fall, and a Blues Sunday in the spring. And since spring usually arrives early in Tucson, that means Blues Sunday is happening this week.
At 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 7, St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, 3809 E. Third St., will host its annual Blues Sunday service. The lineup of performers features Lisa Otey on piano and vocals, "Hurricane" Carla Brownlee on tenor sax and vocals, Ed DeLucia on guitar, John Snavely on clarinet, Mike Levy on bass and the Rev. Mike Smith on drums.
Smith is a retired pastor and the organizer of both the church's Jazz Sunday and Blues Sunday. In a press release, he explains why it's appropriate to celebrate the blues during Lent: "It is a time when we contemplate the entire human experience of suffering, loss, sadness, yearning for love and justice, and disappointment. Blues music was created by African Americans in the South, and it functions much like laments in the Bible—songs of melancholy, enduring cruelty, oppression and hard times. During Lent, as Christians aim to feel deeply with Jesus' suffering and faithful witness to God's love, we are moved to feel with and act on behalf of all people who would 'sing the blues.'"
Refreshingly, the press release states that St. Mark's Presbyterian Church "welcomes all God's children without regard for age, gender, race, country of origin, ethnic heritage, sexual orientation, variety of abilities, marital status, economic, cultural or religious background, or any other human condition."
Call 325-1001 for more information.
Alter Der Ruine is one of those local bands that seem to be more famous outside of Tucson. Although they don't perform in town all that often, talk to anyone who's seen them, and you'll hear that you simply must go see them next time they perform. That chance comes this week as the power-noise trio (and, rare in this genre, one with a sense of humor) headlines a triple bill at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., that also includes Ensphere and Blind Divine. It all goes down at 9:30 p.m., Friday, March 5, and admission is $5. For further details, call 798-1298.
Bonnie Vining's nonprofit Live Acoustic Venue Association (LAVA) kicks off its spring Courtyard Series in the Civano Neighborhood Center, 10501 E. Seven Generations Way, with a performance on Thursday, March 4, by Lost in Holland, featuring Michael G. Ronstadt and Josh Hisle. Upcoming in the series: the Larry Redhouse Trio on Thursday, March 11; Small Potatoes and Anna Coogan on Thursday, March 18; and Chris Gregory on Thursday, March 25. All shows in the series run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Suggested donation is $5; you're encouraged to bring lawn chairs and a picnic dinner, but please leave the alcohol at home. For more info, head to lavamusic.org.
The Dirty Heads is yet another in the recent line of Sublime-influenced bands, albeit one with some cred in the laid-back beach-ska world. (The group's debut single, "Lay Me Down," which recently hit No. 1 on L.A.'s KROQ, features a guest appearance by Rome, the re-formed Sublime's new singer.) They'll be at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., next Thursday, March 11. Skitn opens at 8 p.m.; 623-3200.
We don't have enough room to tell you about these fine shows: Ozomatli and Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, March 5; Rx Bandits, The Builders and the Butchers and Zechs Marquise at Club Congress on Wednesday, March 10; Awakening electronic music festival at The Rock on Saturday, March 6; Keb' Mo' at the Rialto Theatre next Thursday, March 11; Steve Poltz at Club Congress next Thursday, March 11; Lily Tomlin at UA Centennial Hall on Saturday, March 6; the Black Dahlia Murder and others at The Rock on Friday, March 5; Birds and Batteries at Plush on Sunday, March 7; Hans Mayer at Bentley's on Saturday, March 6; Trevor Hall at Club Congress on Sunday, March 7; Bordertown Devils, Labor Party and Scorpion vs. Tarantula at the Surly Wench Pub on Friday, March 5; Dirk Wednesday and Ricky Shimo at Plush on Monday, March 8; the Sir Harrison Band at the Bashful Bandit on Friday, March 5; Treehouse Fire at the Red Room at Grill on Friday, March 5; Bradford Trojan at Plush on Tuesday, March 9; Young Mothers, Seashell Radio and Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl at Plush next Thursday, March 11; Love Mound at Vaudeville on Saturday, March 6; True Widow and Dead Western Plains at the Red Room at Grill on Sunday, March 7.