For some reason, Halloween weekend (or the weekend closest to Halloween) seems to be traditionally busy in Tucson for music and partying. Perhaps it's because the summer is finally over, and the weather's more temperate, allowing all of us desert lizards to emerge from under our respective rocks. No matter the cause, there are many choices for the musically minded in the next seven days.
You still don't find many virtuoso female guitarists playing progressive rock on the road these days, which makes the music of Marnie Stern all the more exciting. Touring to promote her remarkable third album, titled simply Marnie Stern, she and her band are headed to Tucson to perform on Election Night at Club Congress.
From New York City, Stern employs, among other styles, a finger-tapping method of guitar-playing, building avant-rock compositions as dense with guitar-shredding as with pop hooks.
In 2007, The New York Times called Stern's debut album, In Advance of the Broken Arm, one of the year's most exciting rock records. A year later, she released the equally well-regarded This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That.
Two years of woodshedding have given us Marnie Stern—which, like her first two releases, is on the uncompromising Kill Rock Stars label—and the results are awesome. It's like a chorus of enervated angels shaking hands with an Eddie Van Halen solo in a bubblegum punk setting; that's an amazingly insufficient way to describe Stern's style, but it's a hint in the right direction.
Stern also handles the vocals, by the way. She has long collaborated with Zach Hill, from the band Hella, but her backing group on this tour will include drummer Vincent Rogers, guitarist Joseph Tirabassi and bassist Nithin Kalvakota.
You can celebrate your candidates' wins and/or bemoan their losses when Marnie Stern and company play starting at 10 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 2, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission is free. Call 622-8848 for more information.
In these parts, many people are stoked to learn that the Austin-based electronic-rock duo Ghostland Observatory is back in action, with a brand-spanking-new fourth album, Codename: Rondo, released just this week on the band's boutique label, Trashy Moped Records. In other words, the timing of their impending concert couldn't be better.
Ghostland Observatory consists of charismatic vocalist and groovy dancer Aaron Behrens and producer/keyboardist/drummer Thomas Turner. Behrens' engaging, sexy singing style has drawn comparisons to Freddie Mercury and Prince, and Turner's music is a compelling interpretation of rock 'n' roll via electronic means: For this band, the influences of Daft Punk and Laurent Garnier are as important historically as David Bowie and The Clash.
In 2009, Behrens told me, "Foremost is that we try as much as possible to be positive, and in our live performances, we try to make it uplifting. No matter if you are having the worst day ever, if you come to a Ghostland show, for that 45 minutes or an hour and a half, whatever, you should be able to let loose and feel something. We want you moving and dancing by the end of our shows."
Ghostland Observatory will play Wednesday, Nov. 3, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., with a to-be-announced opening act. The show starts at 8 p.m.; tickets cost $25 in advance, or $27 at the door, available at the box office or via www.rialtotheatre.com. Call 740-1000 for further details.
Once you've been exposed to Latin-dance rhythms—be they salsa, mambo, cumbia or bossa nova—it's difficult to turn your back on them. This is especially true of the sexy and dramatic tango.
If you've got the urge to listen to classic Argentine tango this weekend, you're in luck. The Qtango Orchestra, a 10-piece tango group from Albuquerque, N.M., will play Saturday night as part of the Rhythm and Roots concert series in the courtyard at Plaza Palomino.
Formed only last year, Qtango already has started attracting enthusiastic crowds—most notably at the Hotel Andaluz in downtown Albuquerque—for its traditional take on music from the "golden age" of the tango big bands, bookended by the traditional influence of Carlos Gardel in the 1920s and the 1950s experimentation of Astor Piazzolla and his introduction of "nuevo tango."
The popularity of Qtango is due in no small part to the efforts of the orchestra's founder and leader, vocalist and bandoneon player Erskine Maytorena, a second-generation opera and tango singer who has said he started the group because he and his wife were learning to dance the tango. In that spirit, professional tango dancers will join in the performance, and a special dance floor will be provided for those concertgoers interested in joining in.
The show will begin at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 30, at Plaza Palomino, 2970 N. Swan Road. Advance tickets cost $22 at Antigone Books, all Bookmans locations, Grey Dog Trading Company, online at www.rhythmandroots.org or by calling (800) 594-8499. At the door, you can expect to pay $25.
The Champaign, Ill.-based band Elsinore brings an expansive, orchestral scope to what is essentially pop-rock with an ambitious slant. Makes sense, doesn't it, considering the group was named after the home of that melancholy Dane, Hamlet?
It works beautifully on Elsinore's new album, Yes Yes Yes. When the chords swell, and the band locks in, a rich texture and drama overtakes the listener, bringing to mind elements of pop pioneers from The Beatles to Talk Talk. The group is touring in support of that album, its third.
Elsinore will play Saturday, Oct. 30, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. They'll play one of the nicest-sounding rooms in town, in between local acts The Monitors and Seashell Radio, neither of them slouches at catchy, complex pop. Admission is $5. Ring the club at 798-1298 if you need to know more.
The Halloween-themed event known as Nightmare on Congress Street is back this year with The Generationals, Gabriel Sullivan and Taraf de Tucson, Mostly Bears, Holy Rolling Empire, Shaun Harris, The Ghost of 505 and more, starting at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 29, at Club Congress. Tickets are $10 in advance, or $12 at the door.
The Rialto Theatre is packed this weekend with dance-floor madness in honor of All Hallow's Eve. First, Designer Drugs, Bart B More and The Control Freaks will perform at a dance party dubbed Werewolf Bar Mitzvah (an homage to Tracy Jordan's infamous music video on the sitcom 30 Rock, no doubt) starting at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 29. Tickets are $16 in advance, or $20 on the day of the show.
Also at the Rialto, on Saturday, Oct. 30, The Mission Creeps will play at the rock-dance party Something Wicked This Way Comes, the latest event from Powhaus Productions. It starts at 9 p.m. and also will feature DJ Dan Shapiro playing spooky rock. Cover is $3.
Baroque dance-pop favorites The Apples in Stereo, riding high on their new album Travellers in Space and Time, will hit town for a gig Wednesday, Nov. 3, at Plush. The show will start at 9:30 p.m. with a set by artsy electro-pop band Fol Chen. Admission is $15.
Now 21 years old, the New York City-based Helmet will return to the Old Pueblo to play Wednesday, Nov. 3, at Club Congress, with its avant-garde heavy rock sound intact, and a brutal new record, Seeing Eye Dog, under its belt. You can get in for $15 at the door.