With half the bands in the world on their way to South by Southwest (SXSW), which takes place in Austin next week, it's only natural that a fair amount of them would pass our way.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first of two of the busiest music weeks of the year in Tucson.
One way to capitalize on all of the acts on their way to SXSW is to curate them into a festival. Well, Tucson has not one, but two of these festivals this week.
Now in its fourth year, West by Southwest gathers some of the biggest names and brightest up-and-comers hitting town. The oddly scheduled fest—it runs two days this week, on Sunday, March 14, and Monday, March 15, and then continues for four days next week—takes place at both Club Congress (311 E. Congress St.) and Plush (340 E. Sixth St.). An $8 cover gets you into both venues for a single night, or you can pay $30 for a festival-encompassing wristband. Trust me: The wristband is a smokin' deal.
Bearing in mind this represents only two out of six nights of the fest, here's this week's schedule:
Club Congress, Sunday, March 14 (early, all ages): Straight outta Lafayette, Ind., In the Red Records' TV Ghost play dark, menacing, organ- and angular-guitar-fueled psych punk at 7:30 p.m. At 8:30 p.m., The Pack a.d.—two women from Vancouver, British Columbia, who specialize in thick, dirty, blues-based, growl-y, garage-y riff-rock—preview their upcoming album for excellent Canadian label Mint Records. At 9:30, former Tucsonan and current Oakland, Calif., resident Justin Champlin dons a crusty old bunny mask to perform a sweet, and potentially disturbing, set of '60s bubblegum pop-meets-Ramones-era punk rock as Nobunny.
Plush, Sunday, March 14 (21 and up): Pancho-san is a new band formed by three dudes—one current member of Rogue Wave, one former member of Rogue Wave, and a former member of Beulah—who play slightly twangy, slightly psychedelic whimsical pop songs. Catch them at 8:30 p.m., just prior to Miles Kursosky, the pop savant behind Beulah, who unveils songs from his excellent, recently released, uber-ambitious orchestral pop album The Desert of Shallow Effects (Majordomo), at 9:30 p.m. Two members of the late, lamented Grandaddy—frontman Jason Lytle and drummer Aaron Burtch—have teamed up with Earlimart members Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray to form Admiral Radley, who will perform for the first time anywhere at 10:30 p.m. No telling exactly what they'll sound like, but the Tiny Mix Tapes blog's guess is as good as you're gonna get: "Grandaddy + Earlimart = Elliott Smith fronting E.L.O." San Francisco's The Fresh and Onlys round out the night at 11:30 p.m. with a set of garage-inspired anthemic rock; their third full-length is due on In the Red later this year.
Club Congress, Monday, March 15 (early, all ages): A roots-oriented extravaganza begins at 7:30 p.m. with the Seattle-based nine-piece the Maldives, who can play a pedal steel-led weeper one minute, and a raucous country-rock stomper the next. All seven members of San Francisco's Or, the Whale sing, which provides some mighty fine harmonies for their Byrds 'n' Burrito Bros.-inspired twang-rock. They're on at 8:30 p.m., right before the exuberant, gospel-tinged pop-rock of Long Beach's Delta Spirit, who turned in one of the most memorable sets I saw at last year's SXSW. They'll play at 9:30 p.m.
Plush, Monday, March 15 (21 and up): Toro Y Moi starts the night off at 8:30 p.m. (see this week's Rhythm and Views), right before hypnotic New Zealanders The Ruby Suns demonstrate that psychedelic indie-pop and world music are not mutually exclusive. Their fine second album for Sub Pop, Fight Softly, was released earlier this month. The Portland, Ore., female trio Explode Into Colors, who sound something like the Slits might have if they were schooled by Mika Miko instead of dub reggae, were named Best New Band in Willamette Week and "one of the top 10 bands of SXSW 2009" by NME—all before even releasing an album. They're on at 10:30 p.m., right before Quasi (see this week's feature article) caps off the night at 11:30 p.m.
Stay tuned to this space next week, when we'll discuss WXSW's final four nights. Call Congress at 622-8848, and Plush at 798-1298, for more information.
Meanwhile, the other festival in town this week, the inaugural South by Meow West, is a one-night affair that gathers eight bands on two stages at The HangArt, 512 N. Echols Ave. This one is open to all ages (no alcohol, please) and includes a vegetarian potluck, so bring your favorite dish to share. Doors open at 3 p.m., Sunday, March 14, and the lineup looks something like this: Tucson's Real Phony inject an indie sensibility into their bar-band-inspired, ramshackle pop tunes at 4 p.m., right before locals Low Ones launch into their hazy folk-pop at 4:45 p.m. The San Francisco sextet Battlehooch plays a frenetic set of songs equally influenced by No Wave's James Chance, Oingo Boingo, They Might Be Giants and the Beatles at 6:15 p.m., right before the local, Mullarkey-fronted, Beat Happening-influenced naïve-punk/pop trio Monster Pussy at 7 p.m. Philadelphia's Hermit Thrushes specialize in unwieldy lo-fi pop and free-jazz-inspired noise rock that should appeal to fans of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 and their ilk. They play at 7:45 p.m., just prior to the U.K. garage 'n' beat combo Thee Vicars, at 8:30 p.m. Finishing up the night at 9:15 is the sisters duo Acorn Bcorn, formed from the ashes of the late, lamented Beta Sweat/Sweat Band.
Admission is $5. For more info, head to thehangart.org.
We're already getting short on space, and we've only begun to pick at the surface of the week's more-than-promising shows. Here are some quick takes on several more.
A can't-miss trio of Seattle's finest up-and-coming bands perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, March 13: The Cave Singers, The Dutchess and the Duke and the Moon-doggies begin at 9:30 p.m. $8. 798-1298.
Little Dragon, whose frontwoman appears on some of the better tracks on the upcoming Gorillaz album, headlines an 8 p.m. all-ages show that also features Cali-based Tucson faves Princeton, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Saturday, March 13. $12. 622-8848.
Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., has four great all-ages shows booked this week, chock-full of acts headed to SXSW. (Check out this week's Rhythm & Views for info about the Xiu Xiu show there on Tuesday, March 16.)
On Saturday, March 13, the venue hosts the wildly acclaimed and awesome purveyors of '60s-influenced psych and garage rock Thee Oh Sees, along with Baths and The Runaway Five. $7.
Sheffield, England's Slow Club headline a show opened by Tucson's Asher Deaver on Sunday, March 14. $7.
And Philadelphia shoegazers A Sunny Day in Glasgow perform with openers ... music video? on Monday, March 15. $7.
All shows begin at 9 p.m. Call 884-0874 for more info.
Looking for some holiday-appropriate live music on St. Patrick's Day, Wednesday, March 17? Margaret Regan has a roundup along with her cover story this week; for even more information, check out our listings.
Arizona Voodoo Kittens present March Madness featuring Hipster Daddy-O and the Handgrenades, the El Camino Royales, and Creepsville 666 at The Hut on Saturday, March 13; Ladysmith Black Mambazo at UA Centennial Hall on Sunday, March 14; the Emmitt-Nershi Band at the Rialto Theatre on Sunday, March 14; Erin Muir at Candelabra Gallery on Saturday, March 13; Pierce the Veil and others at The Rock on Friday, March 12; Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta and Gabriel Sullivan at the Rialto on Saturday, March 13; Molehill Orkestrah and L'Orchidee d'Hawaii at Club Congress on Friday, March 12; a music swap meet at the Rialto on Saturday, March 13; a SXSW fundraiser featuring Garboski, Juarez and Crime at Club Congress on Tuesday, March 16.
Finally, the Weekly's official sponsored band for SXSW 2010, the Holy Rolling Empire, will play two shows before heading to Austin: an all-ages show at Skrappy's on Friday, March 12, that includes Finn Riggins, the Lifers, Boy Eats Drum Machine and Jurassic Parking Lot; and a free show at Sky Bar with The Swim and San Francisco's Mata León on Saturday, March 13.