Who'da thunk that the beginning of December would be so jam-packed with great events?
The highlight for me, and for a whole lot of other music fans, is the arrival of The Great Cover-Up, now in its 13th year. After a somewhat lackluster incarnation of the event last year, the organizers of this year's event—Club Congress' David Slutes and Dan Hernandez, the Rialto Theatre's Curtis McCrary and Ryan Trayte, KXCI FM 91.3's Mel Mason (a Weekly contributor) and myself (in an almost non-existent role)—decided to band together to not only revive the Cover-Up, but make it the best one yet.
Having seen the schedule for the event, which this year is split between the Rialto (Thursday, Dec. 8, and Saturday, Dec. 10; both all ages) and Congress (Friday, Dec. 9; 21 and up), I can attest that they've done one hell of a job.
Here's the gist: Local bands perform a 20-minute set of cover songs by one well-known artist of their choosing, often dressing up like the band they're covering. Some acts completely reinterpret the material; some play it straight; and some go for comedic effect. And no one in the audience knows which band is being covered until the band hits the stage. At last count, 44 bands—including, for the first time, finalists of the Arizona Daily Star's high school Battle of the Bands competition—will be performing over the three-day event.
Best of all, everyone involved is donating their time to a good cause. As in the past few years, all of the money brought in from the event will be donated to TAMHA, the Tucson Artists and Musicians Healthcare Alliance, a local organization that connects local artists and musicians to health care and health-care resources.
Here is the schedule (subject to change) for opening night of The Great Cover-Up, next Thursday, Dec. 9, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St.: HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS (1 a.m.), The Monitors (12:30 a.m.), The Ghost of 505 (midnight), The Gallery (11:30 p.m.), Fourkiller Flats (11 p.m.), Michael P. (10:30 p.m.), Top Dead Center (10 p.m.), Jeremy Michael Cashman (9:30 p.m.), The Break-Up Party (9 p.m.), The Electric Blankets (8:30 p.m.), Still Life Telescope (8 p.m.), Monster Pussy (7:30 p.m.), Dark Aeturnis (7 p.m.), Battle of the Bands finalist TBA (6:30 p.m.), Battle of the Bands finalist TBA (6 p.m.).
Bands being covered (in no particular order): The Who, Cake, New Order, AC/DC, Dean Martin, Alice in Chains, Sheryl Crow, Black Sabbath, Roxy Music, Alkaline Trio, The Allman Brothers Band, Beat Happening, John Mayer and others.
It's a long night, but we strongly encourage getting there early for a couple of reasons: A band in an early time slot could turn out to be the talk of the event, and all of the acts performing have put in an awful lot of work practicing a bunch of covers they'll probably never play again, all in the name of a good cause. The least you can do, pally, is show up on time.
The schedules for the next two nights will appear in this space next week, or you can head to our Facebook page, where the information has already been posted.
Also worth mentioning: This year's sponsors for the event are Rainbow Guitars, Sticks N' Strings and the Tucson Weekly.
Admission to The Great Cover-Up is $8 for a single night, $12 for two nights or $15 for a three-day pass, which also includes a copy of the event poster. Questions? Call 740-1000 (the Rialto) or 622-8848 (Congress). See you there.
In a recent video tour of Tucson for National Geographic, Calexico selected a few of their favorite local spots, one of which was gallery/studios/performance space Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. The space means a lot to a wide cross-section of Tucsonans, and two events there this weekend prove just how diverse the offerings at the place really are.
Tommy Cormier is the singer/keyboardist for local dance-punk act Feel Good Revolution, as well as a member of Young Mothers. In 2005, he began a solo project under the name Golden Alphabet. Since then, the project has blossomed into a full-fledged band with, as their bio puts it, an "open door" membership policy: "Local musician friends were invited to attend practices and contribute to the writing process." The same goes for the band's live performances: You never know who's going to be sharing the stage with Cormier.
Cormier's got a lot of friends. Nearly 20 musicians, most of whom perform in other local bands, are listed in the credits of the band's debut album, A List of Our Worries, being released on CD this week on Worry Doll Records.
The album contains 10 tracks that fall under the wide-ranging category of indie rock, though there are variations in sound. After a minute-plus as a ramshackle instrumental, opening track "Visionary Quest" morphs into what sounds like a passage from a long-lost rock opera—it wouldn't sound out of place on The Wall—with Cormier singing, "If I'm just a little boy with a stick in his eye, I'll never be a Jesuit / I am self-deny." After a little synth-led passage, it leads smoothly into "This Cactus Country," a chugging little tune with a big sound (fun game: count the instruments!) and a gorgeously melancholy melody. The lyrics on the album, which are largely above-par, carry the weight of melancholy, too: "I've been buying into salesmanship / 'Good job! You know, you're really doing well' / I wonder how long Humpty Dumpty sat there / I wonder how long before he fell."
If I had to pithily describe the overall vibe of A List of Our Worries, I'd say it's like an indie-folk take on what Modest Mouse or Arcade Fire does (with Bright Eyes in there, too), but that's selling it short, especially when a song like "Me Lovely," the bulk of which resembles no one so much as the Tom Tom Club, comes on.
Golden Alphabet performs at an all-ages CD-release party on Friday, Dec. 3, at Solar Culture Gallery. The Pork Torta and Faster Than Light open at 9 p.m. Admission is $5, and CDs will be $5, too.
The following night, Saturday, Dec. 4, offers something completely different: a collaboration between the excellent local dance-friendly ensemble Key Ingredients of African Soul, which trades in all sounds African and Caribbean, and Bernard Woma, a master xylophonist, drummer and dancer from Ghana. In addition to being President Obama's cultural liaison during his visit to Ghana, Woma directs the Dagara Music and Arts Center in Accra, Ghana, which is, according to an e-mail from Key Ingredients' Tim McDonnell, "where UA music students have gone for years for a summer study abroad to learn traditional drum and dance techniques from Mr. Woma, making this weekend's event a unique opportunity for those students to reunite with him."
This rare, special pairing begins at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5. Admission is $10, or $5 for students with ID. All ages are welcome. For further information, head to solarculture.org or call 884-0874.
The Wonderland Music, Art and Imagination Festival takes over The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., at 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, and includes performances by Portland, Ore.'s MarchFourth Marching Band and San Diego's B-Side Players, as well as 10 local acts. Tickets are $15; find out more at enterthewonderland.com or by calling 623-3200.
Kim Wilson, singer and masterful harp player for the Fabulous Thunderbirds, headlines "a marathon of music" backed by the Blues All-Stars at Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave., on Sunday, Dec. 5. This Sunday Blues and BBQ event begins at 5 p.m., with Heather Hardy and the Li'l Mama Band and the Bryan Dean Trio. $12 in advance and for SABHF members; $15 at the door; 690-0991.
Winter Spasmfest 2010 featuring Bloodspasm and others at the Surly Wench Pub on Friday, Dec. 3, and at Skrappy's on Saturday, Dec. 4; Where the Teddy Bears Go to Die CD-release party at The Runway on Saturday, Dec. 4; Fight the Quiet CD-release and Flashing Amber Lights EP-release at Plush on Saturday, Dec. 4; Namoli Brennet and Eric Himan at Club Congress next Thursday, Dec. 9; Upright Citizens Brigade Touring Company at the Rialto Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 4; comedian Doug Stanhope at Club Congress on Saturday, Dec. 4; Pigeon John at DV8 on Sunday, Dec. 5; Framing Hanley at Club Congress on Friday, Dec. 3; Forbidden, Evile and more at The Rock on Monday, Dec. 6; Jer Coons and Alisha Peru at the Vail Theatre of the Arts on Friday, Dec. 3.