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TRADITIONS WITH BENEFITS

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and just as your Aunt Gladys always brings that oyster stuffing that everyone pretends to love to dinner, there are traditions involving Thanksgiving and music here in the Old Pueblo.

Here's some info about a couple of benefit shows for very worthy causes—especially at this time of year, and especially in an economic situation such as ours.

For the last nine years, Sand Rubies and Luminarios singer/guitarist Rich Hopkins has staged his annual Casa Maria Thanksgiving Benefit. (Hopkins claims this is the 10th anniversary of the event, but he's older than I am, so I'm sticking with my story.)

As I have stated in this column in previous years: For more than 25 years, the soup kitchen 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.

Hopkins met Casa Maria founder Brian Flagg about a decade ago when he was searching for a location to shoot a video for his song "Tender Mercies," about the plight of the homeless community. He was so impressed with the soup kitchen that he began volunteering there; he's also released a pair of compilation albums to benefit Casa Maria.

Hopkins has recently been spending more time in Texas with his girlfriend, singer-songwriter Lisa Novak, but he'll be back in town for this week's benefit, which will be held at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Performing will be Stefan George and friends (midnight), Salvador Duran (11 p.m.), Rich Hopkins and Luminarios (10 p.m.) and Tammy West (9 p.m.). Admission is a suggested $5 donation, and attendees are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items, clothes and/or toiletries for donation. For more information, head to plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298.

A few miles north, Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave., will throw its annual Thanksgiving bash to benefit the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona on the same night, Wednesday, Nov. 23. This one starts at 7 p.m., and admission is a suggested donation of $5 and whatever nonperishable food items you can offer, though no one will be turned away.

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."

Heather Hardy and the Li'l Mama Band will be performing at and curating this year's event; according to Boondocks' website, Hardy says "a talented selection of tasty Tucson 'A-list' musicians (is) being scheduled to tear up the dance floor with blues and beyond!" For further details, head to boondockslounge.com, or call 690-0991.


EXPRESSION WORTH SUPPORTING

As long as we're discussing benefits, here's another worthwhile one: You may have passed Café 54, 54 E. Pennington St., and thought it was just another downtown lunch spot. It's not. Here's its mission statement: "To assist individuals with various types of mental illnesses to become independent, taxpaying citizens. To provide the community with a pool of reliable employees who have had training and firsthand experience working in (a) quality restaurant setting. To provide trainees with the tools they need to recognize their inherent talents and skills. To reduce and ultimately eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness by shifting focus from disabilities to abilities."

At 4:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, the café will open its doors for An Evening of Ongoing Expression, an art show and performance to benefit the eatery, featuring paintings by Joelle Pitts, Fish Karma and Al Perry, and music by Perry, Karma and Kevin Henderson. Proceeds from art sales will go to the café, but there is no donation for admission. There will also be free food and nonalcoholic drinks. For more info, visit www.cafe54.org, or call 622-1907.


TWO MORE BENEFITS, WHILE WE'RE AT IT

Let's keep this benefit train rolling, shall we? Here's some pertinent info about two more benefits happening in the next couple of months.

This one came in just before going to press: Those of us who made it to the Concert for Civility, Respect and Understanding—thrown in the wake of Tucson's Jan. 8 shooting rampage—not only got to see one of the greatest lineups of musicians to ever grace the stage of the Tucson Convention Center; we also got a sense of how music can help heal a community in the wake of a devastating moment of violence.

Now Ron Barber, the district director for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' office, is putting together another one of his "roncerts." This one will feature Ben Folds, along with Tucson's own Calexico and the Silver Thread Trio, plus a few more special guests.

"We've been asked by many people to continue putting on musical shows on behalf of the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding," says Barber, who funded the organization to support programs to fight bullying in local schools, and to help the mentally ill. "We believe music is a very healing force and a way for people to come together."

Barber, who is still recovering from his own wounds from the shooting, says he's hoping to put together a series of smaller concerts next year, rather than one mega-show.

The Ben Folds concert will be at the Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St., on Sunday, Jan. 15; tickets go on sale at 10 a.m., this Friday, Nov. 18. They'll be $30 to $75. For more info, call the box office at 547-3040.

In other news: The ball is rolling along nicely in preparation for the annual Great Cover-Up, which will take place at Plush, Club Congress and the Rialto Theatre from Thursday, Dec. 15, through Saturday, Dec. 17. This year's event will for the first time feature a daytime component, on Saturday, Dec. 17, and the list of acts being covered at the big shew has been revealed on the event's Facebook page. Head there to "like" it and get info as it is updated. This year's Cover-Up will once again benefit the Tucson Artists and Musicians Healthcare Alliance.


MUSICIANS MUSEUM FINDS A HOME

Created in 2006 to "pay tribute to musicians who have contributed to the local music scene for many decades and to educate the community about Tucson's rich musical heritage," the Tucson Musicians Museum has found a new, permanent location: the 17th Street Market's Music Store, 840 E. 17th St.

From noon to 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, the market will hold a grand opening for the museum featuring live performances by a number of musicians including Stefan George, Mariachi Kids and Junior Strings (both from the museum's mentorship program), and host band the Bryan Dean Trio. More info can be found at tucsonmusiciansmuseum.org and seventeenthstreetmarket.com, or by calling the market at 792-2588.


ALIENS BRING US NEW MUSIC

Local female-fronted rockers Alien Jane will be releasing a new EP this week to follow up their debut album, last year's Evolve. The self-released 11:11 features three new straightforward hard-rock songs: the slow-burning "Easy," with its short grunge bursts; the plodding (but not in a bad way) "The Hollow," which features a verse by guest rapper Lil Dead; and "Hide," whose chorus is the most rockin' thing on the EP, and therefore sounds a bit more like the work on Evolve. Aside from the rap verse, the EP sounds like it could have been released in 1983 alongside a contemporary such as Pat Benatar.

Alien Jane celebrates the release of 11:11 at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., on Friday, Nov. 18. They'll share the bill with openers Lazer Totin' Lizards, who will also be releasing a new EP, Smoke Break, that night; and The Tryst, who will close out the show. Music begins at 9 p.m., and cover is $5. For more info, call 623-3200.

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