ACORN BCORN IS BCACK
It's rare to see sisters Marina and Leann Cornelius without one another. You know how most twins have that seemingly impenetrable bond, that way of communicating without speaking? Well, Marina and Leann aren't twins, but they might as well be, such is their closeness. Though they're always friendly, one gets the feeling they've got a secret they'd rather not share.
You probably remember the duo as the female two-thirds of the blues-punk trio The Beta Sweat, along with drummer Jake Bergeron. During its short existence, the band made a huge splash, enough so that The Beta Sweat was the Tucson Weekly's official showcase band at South by Southwest in 2006. A year later, the band went on "indefinite hiatus," and never performed again. Marina and Leann started a new duo; Bergeron sadly passed away a year ago.
Acorn Bcorn, the ladies' current band, has been performing around town for a couple of years or so. Following their inclusion on the Live at Red Room, Vol. 1 compilation, with five songs, this week, the duo drops its debut EP, the self-released 3 Songs + 3 Songs—so named, because the songs are grouped according to mood: Side A is three loud/fast songs, while Side B is quieter/slower songs.
For those who haven't had the pleasure of seeing the band perform live, you should know that their musical division of labor is unique: Marina sings and plays guitar, and Leann plays bass. But the tricky part comes with the percussion: Both sisters play drums according to what each individual song calls for. If there's a bass break in a song, Marina carries the beat; if Marina is cranking out a blues riff on her guitar, Leann takes the drums. Sometimes the sisters will play drums on the same song, trading off as needed.
Marina tells me via e-mail, somewhat unnecessarily, that this setup is physically challenging: "But the thing we love about it is that we are fully involved in every beat, and every song is totally wrangled start to finish, no coasting allowed! It's fun to divide drumbeat labor between the two of us, sometimes breaking a beat in half. You know when you try to clap hands with someone else, using just one hand? It feels like that. That said, our focus is just to write songs we plain love and play shows with all our might. Rooted in rock 'n' roll, grit, drama, atmosphere, sincerity."
While part of the fun of seeing Acorn Bcorn perform live is that musical choreography, the EP retains all of those qualities Marina mentioned. 3 Songs + 3 Songs opens with the bass and percussion thump of live staple "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" "Well, your jaws are open wide / And your teeth are long and white," Marina sings, drenched in the kind of raw and threatening sexuality that made those early PJ Harvey records so appealing. "I wonder if you bite / Smile at me tonight." Even when the guitar kicks in, and Marina goes into her patented, powerful, potent riot grrrl blues wail, the song remains skeletal; there are no extraneous sounds.
Elsewhere on Side A, "A Shape That's Hard to Break" is more traditional garage rock ("I want to smash your heart against my heart"), while "I Don't Get You" uses the soft-loud-soft template the duo utilizes so well.
Side B begins with the sparse, gorgeous "Never Again," a throwback to '50s rock ballads; "Other Plains" is a slowly chugging groove that surveys the narrator's family history; and the closing "Indigo" is an atmosphere-drenched torch ballad.
I'm envious of someone who hears the EP first, and then sees just what it takes to perform these songs live. But the important thing here is that the performance style is no mere gimmick: The songs on the EP stand on their own just fine.
Acorn Bcorn opens for the Black Lips and Cerebral Ballzy at 9 p.m., Tuesday, June 21, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Tickets are $15. Copies of 3 Songs + 3 Songs will be available for purchase on CD, digital download and vinyl (which also comes with a download code). For more information, head to plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298. Be sure to check out the band's Facebook page for additional upcoming shows.
A PARTY FOR RICKY DEAN
There's another local CD-release event happening this week, though it's of a far-different nature.
Ricky Dean has been a working musician in Tucson for the last 32 years. He's performed in numerous bands, playing several different genres of music, but it's his work with the Saddle City Band—who from the mid-'80s to the early-'90s regularly drew crowds of up to 500—for which he is best known. Dean, a singer-songwriter who plays bass and harmonica, sang lead vocals on that group's "The Lights of Tucson," which was ubiquitous on local jukeboxes during the band's heyday.
In an open letter to friends and fans, Dean describes his current situation: "Now, at the tender age of less than 60, I've fallen victim to Tucson's curse on musicians. As if working in Tucson isn't tough enough, I had to be special and get a rare brain tumor called a meningioma, which creates a perplexed look on doctors' faces.
"At the urging of good friends, I've put together some recorded oddities for your amusement and to show something for the past 32 years."
The Best of Ricky Dean—It Ain't Easy collects songs spanning Dean's career, including two songs recorded in the last year, following his diagnosis. The CD and Dean will be celebrated at a CD-release party on Saturday, June 18, at Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave. The event will run from 5 p.m. to midnight; all ages are welcome until 9 p.m.; it's a 21-and-over event after that. The list of performers is long and continues to grow, and it includes Chuck Wagon and the Wheelchairs (performing with several special guests), Second Nature, Whole Lotta Zep, Time Pilots, Harmonica Pierre and The Deacon, as well as the "Virtual" Saddle City Band, i.e., videotaped performances of the group in its prime.
The release party doubles as a benefit for the Tucson Artists and Musicians Healthcare Alliance (TAMHA), which provides local artists with health-care resources. Admission is a suggested donation of $10, but no one will be turned away. If you've got questions, head to boondockslounge.com, or call 690-0991.
Here's wishing you the best, Ricky.
ON THE BANDWAGON
There are lots of other great shows that we simply didn't have room to cover, starting with a diverse, jam-packed week at the Rialto Theatre: Buckethead and Wolff (of Drums and Tuba) tonight, Thursday, June 16; Krishna Das on Friday, June 17; Toots and the Maytals on Monday, June 20; Brett Dennen and Dawes on Tuesday, June 21; and Skrillex, Porter Robinson, Zedd, Juggernaut, Innerpartysystem and Whiteboi on Wednesday, June 22.
Elsewhere: The Doobie Brothers at AVA at Casino del Sol on Wednesday, June 22; Hellogoodbye, This Century and Mansions at Club Congress on Monday, June 20; Unwritten Law, An Outside Chance, The Ellipses and Orange Kids at The Rock on Wednesday, June 22; Keaton Simons and Jakob Martin at Club Congress on Sunday, June 19; benefit for Deng Ater Foundation—Lost Boys Schools for Sudan featuring Goshen Ministries' African Choir and Congolese musicians Adrien Nkurunziza and Fidele Karamege at La Cocina on Tuesday, June 21; Monster Pussy, Poison Control Center and Mad River Glenn at Preen on Sunday, June 19; Sundays on the Strip Father's Day, which includes a sausage fest and live music at The Bashful Bandit, a crawfish boil and live music from the River Road Ramblers and Tony and the Torpedoes' Tony Uribe at the Red Garter, and a pool tournament and live music from the Sunday Soul Savers at Chicago Bar; The Swigs' vinyl-release party with Fourkiller Flats and Lunar Light Collectors at Plush on Friday, June 17; Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl, Bella Ruse and Leila Lopez at Plush on Saturday, June 18; Henry Turner Jr. at The Hut next Thursday, June 23; Greyhound Soul and La Cerca at Sky Bar on Sunday, June 19; Cats in a Bowl, Sssssss and Anarchestra at Dry River Collective next Thursday, June 23; Holy Rolling Empire, Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout and Seashell Radio at Club Congress on Friday, June 17; Ramshackle Glory CD-release party at Dry River Collective on Saturday, June 18; Media Blitz and Line of Fire at Noise Venue on Tuesday, June 21; Matt Cordes at La Cocina on Saturday, June 18; Ensphere, Stands With Fists, Animus Divine and Angelic to Ashes at The Rock on Friday, June 17; Martin Holland, Kevin Henderson and Fish Karma at Red Room at Grill on Tuesday, June 21.