If it seems as though Tucson's streets are as clogged as Rush Limbaugh's arteries, you are not imagining things.
Traffic during the non-sweltering season in town is bad enough with just townies, UA students and snowbirds. But during the month of February, thousands of people from across the globe descend upon our fair burg for the purposes of buying, selling and trading gems and minerals and other stuff like that.
That's right, it's Tucson Gem and Mineral Show time, which means a special breed of, well, gem-and-mineral types are in town getting a taste of what Tucson has to offer—and pumping millions of dollars into our economy while doing so. So it only makes sense that venues around town are catering to the visitors, which they do every year at this time.
While I try not to engage in stereotypes, the gem-and-mineral folks seem to prefer world and electronic music, very often of the danceable variety. Why, I don't know, but trust me, they do.
So, here are some events that seem target-marketed to our rock-lovin' temporary denizens. And if you're not here for the gem show, well, you're welcome, too.
On Friday, Feb. 3, Club Congress is hosting the Official Gem Show World Music Party, featuring Spirit Familia, a world-music troupe that incorporates everything from reggae to rap, gypsy to cumbia, in their repertoire, and Batucaxé, Tucson's own Afro-Brazilian collective. In other words, prepare to groove.
The Official Gem Show World Music Party begins at 9 p.m. Club Congress is located at 311 E. Congress St. $6 gets you in the doors. For more info, check out hotelcongress.com/club, or call 622-8848.
The following night at Club Congress should also appeal to the gem-show attendees in all of us. Tesoro, the flamenco-fusion band that has recently emerged from an extended hibernation, will take to the stage for a show that is being recorded for possible future release.
The show begins at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 4, at Club Congress. This one will run you $7.
Meanwhile, it's a busy week over at Solar Culture Gallery, at 31 E. Toole Ave., for shows geared toward gem-show attendees and others.
The action begins on Friday, Feb. 3, when Flagstaff's Firefly Collective presents Illuminate, which will feature DJs and performers, live art and performance art. The show begins at 9 p.m., and admission is only $5.
A couple of nights later, on Sunday, Feb. 5 (following a show by Indian Jewelry and Not Breathing on Saturday, Feb. 4), Solar Culture will host a show by Ariana Saraha, whose sultry, ethereal singing draws on influences from Ireland, Spain, India and the Middle East.
Ariana Saraha begins at 9 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 5. Admission is $5.
And next Thursday, Feb. 9, Solar Culture will feature a performance by Scott Huckabay, winner of BAM Magazine's Guitarist of the Year award. Why am I including him in this gem-show section? Because he says stuff like, "It's the soul expression of music I play that feeds my constant bliss. In the midst of it all, my hope is that I can help invoke creativity and inspiration in others throughout this beautiful planet!" Rain sticks will be involved.
Scott Huckabay performs at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., at 9 p.m., next Thursday. Admission is $8. All shows at Solar Culture are all-ages. For more information, head to solarculture.org, or call 884-0874.
WHERE SUDS MEET SONGS
Good news for local beer-lovers and music fans: Borderlands Brewing Company, downtown's latest brewery, has started hosting live music. Even better news: One of their first events is the release party for the new 7-inch single issued by Fort Lowell Records by Andrew Collberg.
In case you've been hiding under a rock: Fort Lowell Records is the vinyl-only label run by James Tritten, husband to and guitarist for singer-songwriter Tracy Shedd. The label's first six releases were all singles featuring mostly local acts. Last year, the label took a detour to release its first LP, the Luz de Vida compilation, whose proceeds go to the Tucson Together Fund, the only officially sanctioned fund to assist victims, families and witnesses of the Jan. 8 tragedy. (Full disclosure: I was one of the people who assisted with that release.)
This week, Fort Lowell gets back to its usual game of releasing songs seven inches at a time, and Andrew Collberg's single is a real gem.
It's been fascinating to watch Collberg progress over the years from a teenage John Lennon worshiper too young to gain admittance to most of the clubs in which he played, to a fine singer-songwriter in his own right, as evidenced by his excellent 2010 album On the Wreath (Le Pop Musik). His new single only bolsters that argument. A-side "Dirty Wind" is just plain killer; it's a burner that sounds a bit like Elvis Perkins backed by Crazy Horse, and that's a very good thing, indeed. The B-side, "Back on the Shore," is more pensive, a gorgeous ballad that gets better with every listen.
Andrew Collberg celebrates the release of his new single with a performance at Borderlands Brewing Company, 119 E. Toole Ave., on Friday, Feb. 3. Tracy Shedd and Young Mothers, both of which have released singles on Fort Lowell Records, will start this early show off around 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, and you can call 261-8773 for more info.
WILL DANDO BE DANDY?
After releasing a few albums of tuneful punk rock on Taang! Records in the late-'80s, in 1992, Boston's The Lemonheads put out one of the cornerstones of the golden age of indie rock. It's a Shame About Ray (Atlantic) was a brief, nearly flawless collection of songs that sounded instantly familiar, showcasing all of bandleader Evan Dando's strengths as a singer and songwriter. Its release catapulted The Lemonheads from punk-rock also-rans to the top of the 120 Minutes heap, and propelled Dando to teen-heartthrob status.
The band never came close to matching that album, largely due to Dando's much-publicized battles with substance abuse. Frankly, in recent years, it's been tough to know which Dando will show up onstage at any given show—the charming and thoughtful, if disheveled, singer-songwriter, or a messier, more-out-of-control version of that.
But on the band's current tour, they're playing It's a Shame About Ray in its entirety (and hopefully other songs, too, as that album clocks in at less 30 minutes), which is enticement enough to give the dude a chance.
The Lemonheads perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Tuesday, Feb. 7. Opening at 9 p.m. is Meredith Sheldon. Admission is $15. Questions? Head to plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Vine St. CD-release party with Shaun Harris with Full Release and Havarti Orchestra at Plush on Saturday, Feb. 4; Leo Kottke at the Temple of Music and Art next Thursday, Feb. 9, and Friday, Feb. 10; Jake Shimabukuro at the Rialto Theatre next Thursday, Feb. 9; Talkdemonic at Solar Culture Gallery on Tuesday, Feb. 7; Fred Eaglesmith at Suite 147 in Plaza Palomino on Saturday, Feb. 4; Big Wide Grin at Abounding Grace Sanctuary on Saturday, Feb. 4; Lisa Otey and the Desert Divas present Super Boa! XI: Are You Ready for Some Diva? at the Rialto Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 4; The Expendables at The Rock on Saturday, Feb. 4; Starting Over: The John Lennon Experience at the Fox Tucson Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 4; Courtney Marie Andrews and Steff Koeppen and the Articles at Skrappy's on Sunday, Feb. 5; Last Call Brawlers and Sunny Italy at Surly Wench Pub on Saturday, Feb. 4; Ed DeLucia Band on Thursday, Feb. 2, and every Thursday in February at Boondocks Lounge.