As we've discussed in recent weeks, 'tis the season for local CD releases, and this week is no exception, with a pair of bands holding shows to celebrate the fruits of their labor—on the same night, at two different venues.
According to its one-sheet, Gamma Like Very Ultra began life in 2006 as a "far-out tape-collage project" between bassist/vocalist Joseph De La Rosa and keyboardist/trumpeter/vocalist Christine Heinisch. That version of Gamma Like Very Ultra produced an EP, Silhouettes in Velvet, in 2008. Since then, the group has acquired guitarist Ariella Lake and drummer Roger Reed, and this week, GLVU releases its debut, self-titled album on Facetrain Records.
The album demonstrates that, five years later, the band is still pretty far-out.
The group is clearly influenced by musicians and bands who regularly get called avant garde, and you can add Gamma Like Very Ultra to that list. The problem with some of those acts is that they tend to take themselves a bit too seriously. That isn't the case with Gamma Like Very Ultra, who seem to be having an awful lot of fun, fucking around with sounds, rhythms and the soft-loud dynamic.
Vocals are pretty rare here, and for the most part, that's for the best. A song like "Electric Bills"—in which De La Rosa affects a Mike Patton-meets-Grover (yes, the Sesame Street character) growl, which then becomes a bad accent of indiscriminate origin, to announce things like "I don't pay my electric bill"—seems like an unsuccessful attempt to be creepy. It's a relief when "Oh, 20th Century"—a nifty slice of jazz, heavy on the trumpet and abetted by a proggy guitar passage—comes along next. (The songs on the album mostly flow seamlessly into one another, so that it sounds like one long piece of music.) It's one of the best songs here, and it's pretty darn great.
The most obvious touchstones on the album are Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, though the band's bio also cites Can and Sonic Youth as influences. But "Wes Parker's Allergy Song" tosses some Primus funk into the mix, and the vocals seem taken from the Les Claypool playbook, too. Other highlights include "Kim and Kelley Deal," which has nothing to do with the Breeders but is instead a delightful meshing of jazz rhythms, a clean guitar jangle and a beautiful trumpet tone; the propulsive "Henry the Wittiest Cow" (which, again, would fare better without the guttural vocals); and the brief, album-closing "New Orleans," which pays homage to the second-line tradition of its titular city.
Gamma Like Very Ultra celebrates the release of its debut album with a CD-release party at Vaudeville, 110 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Feb. 26. The show begins at 10 p.m. with an opening set from Brass Tax, and Frank will DJ following GLVU's performance. Admission is free. For more information, call 622-3535.
The band Stillsuit, which has played around town for the last six years, recently changed its name to Spiders Can Fly, and under that name, the band will release its debut album this week. We didn't receive a preview copy, but expect long songs that veer from nearly ambient space-rock to churning post-rock to indie-rock. The band fetes the CD with a release show at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, Feb. 26. Sketching in Stereo and Mercury Transit open the show at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $5. Call 798-1298 for more info.
Because I've never met a benefit show I didn't like, here are three worthwhile ones happening this week.
With the Tucson Folk Festival coming up on April 30 and May 1, the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association is in full swing to raise funds to keep the festival free to all comers. This week, the organization will hold what sounds like a real hoot from 5 to 9 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 27, at Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave. The show, which is open to those of all ages, will feature local musicians performing the songs of singer-songwriters John Prine and Lucinda Williams, two of the finest living songwriters in the genre. Scheduled to appear are Joel Dvoskin, Phil Borzillo, Maria Pakulis, Kevin Pakulis, Don Simpson, Robert Oser, Deuce of Hearts, Duncan Stitt, Kevin Schramm, Charles Breaux, The Wayback Machine, Linda Lou Reed, Ron Pandy and John Jensen, Eb Eberlein, Stefan George, Ruff Mix and Ronaldo Walker. The suggested donation is $7, or $5 for TKMA members. For more info, call 690-0991.
That same evening, at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 27, Plush will be the site of a MyTown Music Benefit Concert. As we've mentioned before, MyTown is a local, community-oriented music school that seeks to fill the gaps left by budget cuts to arts and music education in public schools. Performing at this week's fundraiser will be the MyTown Music Instructor and Student Ensemble, Owstailia, Psyindicate and Serenity From Ruin. Admission is a suggested donation of $5, and proceeds from this all-ages show will go toward the purchase of instruments and teaching materials. Plush is located at 340 E. Sixth St. For further details, head to mytownmusicschool.com, or call 798-1298.
On Saturday, Feb. 26, from 7 to 10 p.m., Che's Lounge, 350 N. Fourth Ave., will host Orange Out, a benefit for the local emergency financial aid fund of the Arizona Chapter of the National MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Society. Performers include Jim Cox with Jimmy Carr and Discos, which features John Polle and Ricky Shimo (both also of Lenguas Largas), Ben Degain (Terraformation), and Tommy Melchionda (formerly of Transceiver and Twine). Admission is free, but donations are welcome. Attendees are encouraged to wear orange clothing, as orange is the official color of MS; orange corsages and boutonnieres will be available for a donation. For more info, call 623-2088.
Greg Ginn is one of the most legendary figures in American punk rock. A few highlights from his CV: founder, guitarist and primary songwriter for the seminal hard-core band Black Flag; founder and owner of SST Records, which has released albums by, in addition to Black Flag, the Meat Puppets, Hüsker Dü, the Minutemen, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.; his brother is artist Raymond Pettibon, whose art defined the aesthetic of SST.
Since the breakup of Black Flag, Ginn has performed with countless bands and musicians, and at press time, it's unclear exactly what, or with whom, he'll be performing when he hits Tucson this week.
Here's a quick anecdote to demonstrate what an incredible guitarist Ginn actually is. (He's ranked 99th on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.) As Black Flag progressed, their music became increasingly experimental and imbued with elements of jazz and metal. Similarly, Ginn's guitar-playing became so complex that, on the band's later albums, I was convinced that he was simply improvising random notes on his guitar. But when the band released the 1986 live album Who's Got the 10 1/2?, Ginn nailed those seemingly random solos note-for-note. It was an absolutely mind-blowing discovery, one that still floors me 25 years later.
Greg Ginn performs at the Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St., next Thursday, March 3. BooBooKiss opens at around 10 p.m. Admission is free. Call 623-7621 for more information.
There's a ton of great shows this week that we don't have room to tell you about here, so be sure to check out our listings section. But here are several highlights: The Young Dubliners and the Dusty Buskers at Plush on Friday, Feb. 25; Optimist Club with Database, Diamond Rings and PS I Love You at Club Congress next Thursday, March 3; Nancy McCallion and Catherine Zavala with Danny Krieger at La Cocina on Saturday, Feb. 26; Moonalice at The Hut on Saturday, Feb. 26; Rotten Records Showcase at The Rock on Saturday, Feb. 26, and Sunday, Feb. 27; Savoy Brown at Nimbus Brewery next Thursday, March 3; Civil Twilight, The Daylights and Voxhaul Broadcast at Club Congress on Tuesday, March 1; The Subsonic Tour featuring Excision, Downlink, Antiserum and others at The Rock on Wednesday, March 2; The Red Elvises at The Hut on Tuesday, March 1; Ronstadt Generations at Suite 149 in Plaza Palomino on Saturday, Feb. 26; Monroe Crossing at Abounding Grace Sanctuary on Saturday, Feb. 26; Rave On! The Buddy Holly Experience at the Fox Tucson Theatre on Friday, Feb. 25; Teodoro "Ted" Ramirez at the Tubac Presidio on Sunday, Feb. 27.