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HELP THE NEEDY; ENJOY GREAT MUSIC

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and as you can imagine, times are tough right now for those organizations that feed the needy. Two local benefit events, both of which take place on Wednesday, Nov. 24, seek to help out on that end.

For the last eight years, Sand Rubies and Luminarios guitarist/singer Rich Hopkins has staged his annual Casa Maria Thanksgiving Benefit. Edited slightly from a previous column, here's some information about Casa Maria and how it all began:

"For over 25 years, the local soup kitchen, located at 401 E. 26th St., has provided free meals to the poor and homeless from 8 a.m. to noon, 365 days a year. ... No one in need is ever turned away, and remarkably, Casa Maria receives no funding from any government agency; every penny comes from private donations.

"(Several) years ago, local musician and San Jacinto Records owner Rich Hopkins decided to make a video for the song 'Tender Mercies' by his band, the Luminarios (he's also guitarist for the Sand Rubies). The song is about the ongoing plight of the homeless community, and when Hopkins asked around to find a location to shoot, all paths led to Casa Maria and (founder Brian) Flagg, whom Hopkins quickly befriended. The video was eventually shown at every stop on the Luminarios' subsequent European tour, and Hopkins raised funds for Casa Maria from those stages.

"Additionally, Hopkins began donating his time to working at the soup kitchen about once a week; he's released a pair of compilation albums to raise money for Casa Maria; and he began staging the annual benefit concerts to aid the establishment during its peak season."

This year's installment, the ninth, is being held at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Here's who will be performing: Triple Double Band (11:45 p.m.), Tammy West (10:45 p.m.), Rich Hopkins and Luminarios (9:45 p.m.) and Kevin Pakulis (8:45 p.m.). Admission is a suggested donation of $5, and attendees are highly encouraged to bring canned or other nonperishable food items for donation. For more information about Casa Maria, head to casamariatucson.org; for more about the show, go to plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298.

A couple of miles north, Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave., is doing its part to help out the Tucson Community Food Bank. This one begins at 8 p.m., and the suggested cover is two cans of food, or $5.

A few quick facts about the Community Food Bank from its Facebook page: "The Community Food Bank provides enough food for over 48,000 meals every day. ... Every month, over 215,000 people receive assistance through our programs. ... Over 22 million pounds of food were distributed through the food bank's programs last year."

Performing from 8 p.m. to midnight will be the über-versatile trio of Grams, Gilmore and Krieger, who embrace every style that falls under the banner of Americana. To make things a bit more special, the event will double as a retirement party for Steve Grams.

In a recent phone conversation, Boondocks owner Cathy Warner said, "We don't care if people pay $5 or bring a couple of cans of food, because it's all going to be donated to the Food Bank. We just want to get people in here to have lots of fun, and help feed some hungry people along the way." For further details, head to boondockslounge.com, or call 690-0991.


FISTS VS. PLAINS

There are two notable releases this week from local bands, each being feted with its own release party—again, both on the very same night.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more enthusiastic cheerleader for local music than James Tritten. The guitarist for (and husband to) local artist Tracy Shedd, Tritten decided last year to put his money where his mouth is and start a (mostly) locals-only, 7-inch-vinyl-singles-only record label, with the goal of releasing four singles in 2010. It's been a trial by fire, and this week, Tritten meets his goal. After putting out singles by Young Mothers, ... music video? and a split with Los Angeles' Wet and Reckless and Tracy Shedd, his Fort Lowell Records is releasing a white-vinyl 7-inch by Dead Western Plains.

The A-side, "Alta," is a shape-shifting 5 1/2 minutes that begins with an Animal Collective-like tangle of harmonies and whistling (or is that a theremin?) before it all recedes to the background in favor of a jaunty vocal melody that carries the song throughout a series of pleasant interruptions—a complimentary countermelody here, a well-placed breakdown there, before concluding: "Sometimes we fail / If the heavens won't hold you tight / the ground surely will." Cue the lovely, nearly two-minute outro.

The B-side, "Gift Horse in the Mouth," is darker and slightly less complicated, relying on a skittery drumbeat, some nifty interaction between keyboard and guitar, and a sung/spoken-word break. It's only slightly less enjoyable than the much-different "Alta."

As usual, each record comes with a code to download the songs onto your computer or portable device. And when you get to the download page, follow the gray dotted line, and scroll down. Click on the box that cryptically reads "treats are for the curious." It'll give you access to three remixes of "Alta" by Jacob Safari, ... music video? and Kurt Snell.

Dead Western Plains celebrate the release of their single at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, Nov. 19. DWP headlines; Holy Rolling Empire takes the middle slot; and Sleep Driver starts at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $5. That number, again, is 798-1298.

Over at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., local theatrical heavy-rockers Stands With Fists will release their debut album, The Time Capsule, which is intended to be the first of several related albums. From an e-mail we received from the band: "Stands With Fists' main focus is to deliver to the world an epic multi-chapter music story, The Time Capsule. This musical journey will be based on fact, fiction, science and spirituality. Each CD consists of dual albums: One of two chapters will contain diverse heavy sounds, and the other of the two chapters will be defined by psychedelic and softly gripping music. After the full multi-chapter box set, we will bring forth the Stands With Fists DVD, The Creation Machine." Ambitious, no?

Unfortunately, the CDs weren't ready in time for our deadline, so the band sent me three tracks—in a format my computer doesn't recognize. But based on the sample tracks on the band's website (standswithfists.com), the group successfully trades in a style that incorporates screamo, elements of nu metal and a bit of Tool-influenced gloom-rock; it's better than that description makes it sound.

Plus, how many hard-rock bands feature a violinist and not one, but two didgeridoo players?

Expect Stands With Fists to pull out all the face-painted stops at The Rock on Friday, Nov. 19. The show begins at 6 p.m. with openers (in descending order of appearance): Animus Divine, A Fall to Break, Ensphere, You Apart, Dread the Day, American Gods and We Killed the Union. Tickets are $6. For further details, call 629-9211.


GET THE HANKY READY

The Weepies, a folksy husband-and-wife duo, are almost too darn cute. With their winsome songs, effortless harmonies and somewhat MOR arrangements, they shouldn't have any problem appealing to middle-age office workers who listen to everything from Sarah McLachlan to John Mayer. I, for one, can't stand the music of either of those two, but I enjoy The Weepies, whose story, in a nutshell, is this: Deb Talan and Steve Tannen, both of whom were solo musicians at the time, met in a folk club nine years ago and became a duo—both in music and life. After a self-released album in 2004, they signed to Nettwerk, for which they have released three albums, the most recent of which is Be My Thrill, released in August.

While they played 180 shows to promote the first of their Nettwerk albums, Say I Am You (2006), they haven't toured since then. After the release of 2008's Hideaway, which made it to No. 31 on the Billboard chart, the duo took some time off to have a baby. But out of sight didn't mean out of mind: They've racked up more than 100 licensing placements in TV shows (Gossip Girl, Grey's Anatomy), films (Sex and the City) and even a campaign ad for Barack Obama.

The Weepies perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Monday, Nov. 22. Leila Lopez opens at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. For more info, head to plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298.

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