Jonathan Richman is one of the more peculiar figures in popular music. Born in Boston in 1951, like so many before and after him, he began playing guitar in his teens. He fell in love with the Velvet Underground, which was one of the noisiest and most-subversive bands of the day, and moved to New York to try to get to know them. He ended up crashing on the couch of the Velvets' manager for a time before moving back to Boston.
It was then that he teamed up with the band that would become the Modern Lovers, whose final lineup included Jerry Harrison (later of the Talking Heads) and David Robinson (who would go on to The Cars). Although they weren't noisy like the Velvets, they borrowed their two- and three-chord, drone-y approach to songwriting. The band recorded two sets of demos—one with the VU's John Cale, and the other with Kim Fowley—but neither secured them a record contract. Both sets of demos were eventually released after the band broke up in 1974.
Richman had decided to leave the loud stuff behind for mellower songs—basically, for rock 'n' roll on acoustic guitars. He formed a new band he called Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, which released several albums with a rotating cast of backup musicians, and was true to his new vision. (I can't attest to the truth of this story, but it's been said that Richman was invited to open for the Sex Pistols on their only U.S. tour, but he turned them down, saying they were too loud and hurt his ears.) His songs always had a wide-eyed innocence, but it was further emphasized in this new setting. Someone once said that he wrote children's songs for adults, and that's pretty accurate.
He eventually went solo and continued in this vein, although he began experimenting with more-exotic forms of music, recording albums in Spanish and even releasing a country album. His live performances would find him playing at hushed levels, often pausing mid-song to stop playing guitar and dance to the beat in his head. This began making more sense once he began touring with a full-time drummer, Tucson's own Tommy Larkins. An appearance by the duo as the chorus in the film There's Something About Mary upped their profile, even if they're still widely regarded as a cult act. Still, it's nearly impossible not to have the pants charmed off of you at a Jonathan Richman show, no matter your taste in music.
Jonathan Richman and Tommy Larkins perform at La Cocina, 201 N. Court Ave., at 10 p.m., Wednesday, June 27. Advance tickets are available for $10 at La Cocina and Bentley's House of Coffee and Tea. For more information, call 622-0351, or head to lacocinatucson.com.
PAYING TRIBUTE TO DOC
Doc Watson, the pre-eminent flat-picking guitarist, died last month at 89. Whether he was playing folk, blues, bluegrass, country or gospel, it's hard to overstate his influence on nearly every guitarist who came after him.
This week the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association (TKMA), the folks who put on the free Tucson Folk Festival each year, will gather some of Tucson's finest guitarists to pay tribute to Doc Watson while raising money for next year's Folk Fest. In ascending order, the lineup features Joe Reighley, Slim Edelman and Los Hombres; Bev Seckinger and the Wayback Machine; Bobby Kimmel; Kevin Pakulis; Stefan George; Earl Edmonson; Greg Morton; and Peter McLaughlin. The night will end with a "monster jam" featuring all of the guitarists playing a few Watson tunes.
The TKMA Tribute to Doc Watson runs from 6 to 10 p.m., Tuesday, June 26, at Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave. Admission is a suggested donation of $10, but no one will be turned away due to a lack of funds. For further details, check out boondockslounge.com or call 690-0991.
BREAK OUT THE '70S SLEAZE!
According to Jared "Kitty Katt" McKinley, last weekend's inaugural MEOWmeow Productions event, Lose Your Clothes: The Underwear Party, drew almost 900 people to Club Congress—quite a feat.
You'd think that the MEOWmeow crew would take a week or two off to rest on their laurels—but you would be wrong.
This weekend, MEOWmeow presents Smooth Sailing: The Next Epic Yacht Rock Party. In case you're not familiar with Yacht Rock, it's a certain brand of smooth pop-rock tunes from the '70s and '80s by the likes of Christopher Cross, Steely Dan, Hall and Oates, Kenny Loggins, Gerry Rafferty—you know, the sort of stuff you'd listen to on your yacht, if you had a yacht, a goofy '70s haircut (bonus points for mustaches and/or beards) and piles of blow. (In case you're wondering why there's a "Next" in the title, the organizers held the first Yacht Rock party at a house several years ago, making this something of a sequel.)
Andy DePew from Satyr Entertainment will be spinning the grooves, and the night will also include a Smooth Sailing game show to test your Yacht Rock knowledge, plus an actual boat that will double as a photo booth. Attendees are encouraged to dress up in nautical-themed attire, or just '70s sleaze.
In keeping with the idea of holding parties at whatever venue best suits them, the action moves over to La Cocina, 201 N. Court Ave. Smooth Sailing: The Next Epic Yacht Rock Party starts at 9 p.m., Friday, June 22. Admission is $3, and you must be 21 or older to enter. For more info, go to lacocinatucson.com, or call 622-0351.
Bombastic Cincinnati-based rockers Foxy Shazam will roll into The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., to headline a show in support of their fourth and latest album, The Church of Rock and Roll (Capitol/I.R.S.), on Friday, June 22. Also on the bill are Armastus, Contraband and Stars in Stereo. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are available for $9.21 in advance at Bookmans and ticketforce.com. For more info, check out rocktucson.com, or call 629-9211.
Perhaps best known for his remix of Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks," Minneapolis-based producer and DJ Gigamesh has also remixed tracks by everyone from Katy B to Radiohead, Michael Jackson to Yo la Tengo. He'll perform at Opti Club at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., next Thursday, June 28, along with Punks Jump Up and Speakers. Music begins at 9 p.m., and cover is $3, or free with an Opti Club card. For more info, head to hotelcongress.com/club, or call 622-8848.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Lariats, Electric Blankets and Yardsale Heart at Plush on Friday, June 22; Stareater, Some of Them Are Old and Still Life Telescope at Club Congress on Friday, June 22; Vine St. at Sky Bar on Saturday, June 23; Mason Reed at Plush on Monday, June 25; The Furys and Outlaw Rebels at Surly Wench Pub on Friday, June 22; OM House Party at Solar Culture Gallery on Friday, June 22; Jazz Telephone at Sky Bar on Tuesday, June 26; Sweet Nasty at The Hut on Saturday, June 23.