Tucson, are you ready to rock?
Are you really ready to rock?
Because the Music Gods are smiling upon the Baked Apple. April is going to bring you more rock 'n' roll than this town may have ever seen in a single month—not to mention blues, gospel, roots and all that jazz.
You've got Joe Ely, Dick Dale, Bombay Bicycle Club, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and more onstage at Club Congress. Diana Krall, the Soweto Gospel Choir and Bobby McFerrin are appearing at Centennial Hall. The Fox Theatre's lineup includes a Nat King Cole tribute with Ramsey Lewis & John Pizzarelli, as well as the Appalachian roots music of Kathy Mattea.
And then there's the senses-shattering lineup you're going to see at the Rialto Theatre: The Rev. Horton Heat. Neko Case. Broken Bells. Foster the People. Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls. Neutral Milk Hotel. Cage the Elephant. Beck. Los Lobos. Gogol Bordello. And—as you can see from the music calendar that the Weekly has assembled just for you—that's only about half of what the Rialto has scheduled.
Sure, you're gonna be broke if you try to see it all—but what good is having money in your bank account if you can't dance? Get out, support your local venues and have one hell of a time, Tucson!
Saturday, April 5
If you haven't heard of Treasure Mammal by now, then you're doing life all wrong.
The Phoenix five-person party rock band has been chugging along for over 10 years, and things look like they are on the up and up. The Flaming Lips co-founder Wayne Coyne invited Treasure Mammal to perform at his art/music space The Womb Gallery in Oklahoma City earlier this year. "It was a bad week because my girlfriend just moved away and things weren't going right. But then I got a text message from Wayne Coyne," Treasure Mammal lead singer Abelardo Andre Gil said.
Coyne asked the 35-year-old from Valencia, Venezuela to pick a song to from the Beatles; classic album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to cover while they were in town.
"When Wayne Coyne tells you to do something, you fucking do it," Gil said.
Although there's not an announced release date for the project yet, when it does hit stores, you'll be able to hear Treasure Mammal's version of "She's Leaving Home" alongside covers by MGMT, Tame Impala, Miley Cyrus and many more. "It's an honor to be in the mix with these mega stars and lo-fi independent bands," Gil said. "Coyne seems to be a fan of our band and the weird shit we do."
Speaking of Miley, Treasure Mammal has been working on something special for their upcoming Tucson visit. "We are going to cover "Wrecking Ball," but all in Spanish," Gil said. Gil says he's fluent in Spanish and decided to try to invent a new music style.
"Death Metal Cumbia is a genre I have been leaning towards. I always wondered what it would sound like."
Sunday, April 6
The Coathangers, who are far more obscure than they should be, specialize in an intoxicating mix of assaultive, primitive post-punk styles that frame assaultive, radical feminist-based lyrical themes. In the wrong hands, this could be challenging, heady and dour. But for the Coathangers, self-empowerment equals every man, woman and child's inalienable God-given right to get down and party. So you won't find any dry manifestos from this all-female trio (recently pared from a quartet), which formed in Atlanta in 2006, because you'll be too busy dancing till you drop to incendiary manifestos in the form of anthems like "Shut the Fuck Up" and "Don't Touch My Shit!"
The Coathangers have a reputation for exhilarating live shows that flip the switch on oppression—personal, gender, etc.—from mournful to celebratory, leaving audiences exhausted from shared triumph over repression. Sometimes you just have to scream "Shut the fuck up!" at each other until the Coathangers and you are both winners. It's the most basic and satisfying form of release.
Over the seven years, four albums and countless singles of the Coathangers' career, the members have shown remarkable growth. Their most recent album, Suck My Shirt (Suicide Squeeze Records), contains traces of power-pop songwriting and even a ballad. On this record, the song "Shut Up" is worlds away from the earlier "Shut the Fuck Up!," and "Love Em and Leave Em" isn't what you think it's about. The band is growing up, trading uncompromising bile for uncompromising self-awareness. And this means that when the Coathangers hit the stage at Club Congress on Sunday, April 6, you get it all, because raw ferocity and (slightly) refined ferocity have been scientifically proven to be far more effective and fun than therapy.
The War on Drugs
Tuesday, April 8
The War on Drugs mastermind Adam Granduciel builds his songs slowly, tinkering and experimenting, recording and rerecording mere snippets at a time, until he starts seeing the outline of a song, partly sculpting and partly willing it into existence. And then he rocks out.
"Under Pressure," the nearly nine-minute track that opens the new Lost in the Dream, shows all the band's essential strengths—there's a bottom layer built from loops, ambient tones and swirling textures; a driving beat; a melodic interplay between guitars and keyboards throughout; and finally Granduciel's lilting vocals, in this case about wasted dreams and staring into nothingness.
That sets the tone for the album (10 songs in just over an hour) and Granduciel continues to unspool carefully crafted, brilliant songs, more personal and sharply focused than on Slave Ambient (2011) or Wagonwheel Blues (2008). The songs reflect internal battles, existential questions, depression, confusion anxiety and loneliness. And yet, as a whole, Lost in the Dream is triumphant, the songs rescuing the singer.
The first single, "Red Eyes," is propulsive and monumental, a song worth repeating over and over. The mesmerizing "Eyes to the Wind" is the album's emotional core, with Granduciel singing of a haunting alienation and "lost inside my head" feeling, like a stranger in his own mind. "An Ocean in Between the Waves" is another long one—topping seven minutes—that holds your attention straight through, Granduciel leading the way like a guide hurrying into some hazy mist.
With one of this year's most acclaimed albums in tow, The War on Drugs is making Tucson a stop on its lengthy tour with a show Tuesday, April 8, at Club Congress.
Saturday, April 12
I suck at surfing. Really suck. The first (and only) time I went, I borrowed my friend's sister's surfboard. It lacked a leash and every time I swam out to the break, the board would slip out of my hands and ride back to shore on a wave. I spent the entire two hours swimming back and forth from shore to break, trying to hang onto the board while simultaneously trying to be the "cool girl" by not whining about how exhausted I was. Ugh.
But when I listen to Dick Dale, that story dissolves into an ethereal, reverbed guitar riff. When I listen to Dick Dale, I am a surf goddess with a Tiki drink in hand. I look fabulous in a bikini and own the Southern California '50s shore. I own it. And then Moondoggy asks me to the luau and all of my dreams come true.
Dick Dale makes my delusional reality possible. Heavily influenced by his Lebanese, Polish and Belarusian background, Dale's staccato picking technique and Eastern scales evolved into the pounding, distorted guitar that defined surf rock.
And while surf rock's popularity was short-lived due to the British Invasion, his impact on the future of music is undeniable. One look on YouTube at his live performances and you can see how his sound and strange, convulsing stage presence is regarded as a precursor to heavy metal.
And if all that isn't enough to get you excited, I'm guessing there's a good chance he'll play "Miserlou" for all you obnoxious Tarentino superfans out there.
Don't miss the legendary Dick Dale performing at Club Congress on Saturday, April 12. Order a Scorpion from the bar and channel the surf god I know you can be.
Laura Reese is a local publicist and a DJ at KXCI.
Wednesday, April 16
Copper Hall, Hotel Congress
When Joe Ely toured Europe in 1979 opening for punk icons The Clash, you can bet the crowds were squeezed in, moshing, slamming and jumping as if to do damage in their steel-toed boots. As Ely reported later in a TIME magazine interview, they were also throwing "shirts, hot dogs, bottles and panties at us."
Ely's earthy tales and blue-collar poetics thrilled the punk scene worldwide with their "authenticity," the holy grail for which the movement strove. Still, it's hard to imagine Clash fans got much out of his lyrics for all the racket on the dance floor. For the last couple of decades, Ely has captained his crowds and their energy on the strength of his songs and storytelling. The songs sometimes rock hard, but at times you can hear a pin drop.
The fans have changed, too, of course. They have likely grown up and gotten jobs, and even had a kid or a few. Their passion for Ely and his music may not have waned, but their nights end sooner and their lives are shorter. Those fans have earned, and expect, an early show with comfortable chairs. Dammit.
Club Congress smartly booked Ely's last appearance into a cabaret setup with some chairs on the floor and a few tables on the south wall It's a layout they've used for quieter shows, solo singer-songwriters and other events favored by slightly-graying but still-hip crowds. Many fans were left standing a quarter-hour after doors opened, but it was still the closest thing Tucson had to an actual nightclub—a place where grownups order cocktails brought to their table and enjoy a show.
On Wednesday, April 16 (a school night) Congress offers Copper Hall, as a pop-up nightclub in a stroke of genius we can only hope will be repeated. Ely's fans get a comfy night out with a beloved entertainer; Hotel Congress makes some money from an unbooked event room, and the club is available for another dance night or trivia contest.
"The Copper Room" even has the charm of night-club tradition built into its name. Chicago's Pump Room at the Palmer House and New York's "Rainbow Room" atop the Chrysler Building won world fame when the Jazz Age, and jazz fans, grew up out of underground clubs like the latter-day likes of CBGBs and Whiskey a Go Go.
Thursday, April 17
Having staked his claim as heir to the British folk-punk mantle occupied by the late, revered Joe Strummer and the restless elder statesman Billy Bragg, Frank Turner is a major star in the U.K.
Now making his first headlining stop in Tucson—on Thursday, April 17 at the Rialto Theatre—Turner and his Sleeping Souls are probably best known locally for their energetic opening sets for Social Distortion in 2010 and 2012.
Combining folk, punk and pub rock, Turner's rapid ascendancy hinged on the three-album burst of Love Ire & Song (2008), Poetry of the Deed (2009) and England Keep My Bones (2011), after which he was called to perform at the preshow for the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.
On last year's Tape Deck Heart, a self-reflective breakup album, Turner expanded on the brusque, urgent poetry he'd adopted from punk rock, incorporating a more candid, personal style in line with the contemporary folk rock of Josh Ritter or Glen Hansard. Standout songs like "Recovery," "Losing Days" and "The Way I Tend to Be" find Turner singing about more than heartbreak and change. It's a record about putting himself back together again, eyes to the horizon, even while sorting the ongoing twinges of pain into what's momentary and what's lasting.
Turner's live shows are cathartic, celebratory odes to rock 'n' roll and life itself, with singalong choruses drawing the crowd together. Whether it's on "I Still Believe" ("Now who'd have thought that after all/ Something as simple as rock 'n' roll would save us all") or "Photosynthesis" ("I won't sit down/ I won't shut up/ Most of all I won't grow up"), you'll be raising your voice as well.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Saturday, April 19
In late 1994, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion performed at Tucson's landmark underground rock venue, the Downtown Performance Center. Back in those prehistoric days, you'd find out who was scheduled to play the DPC by using a telephone to call the space's ancient device known as an answering machine, where prerecorded messages, updated weekly, would list upcoming concerts. The DPC hosted shows by heavyweights like Fugazi, Royal Trux, Archers of Loaf and Greg Ginn. Even a little-known act at the time by the name of Green Day played.
One week, around the time the Blues Explosion's classic album, Orange, was released, the answering machine at the DPC said that the band's imminent show would be "the show of the decade." It was.
Frontman Jon Spencer, guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins performed with an overwhelming intensity and physicality that was not only unique in its era, but also at a level from which myths are made. The Blues Explosion introduced funk, soul, and rock 'n' roll rhythms to a generation of indie and punk kids at a time when showmanship and dancing were decidedly unfashionable. At this particular event, dancing by audience members was not negotiable; it was involuntary. It was, and still is, the best concert I have ever seen in my 36 years.
I've seen the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion several times since then: Club Congress in 2002 and again last year, to name just two. No show by the New York band is ever less than excellent. And though none were as profoundly revelatory for me as that appearance in 1994 at the DPC, that may very well be because lightning typically doesn't strike the same person twice.
The Blues Explosion return to Club Congress on Saturday, April 19, and who knows, it could be the best show you'll ever see.
Monday, April 21
You're 55 years old, you have natty dreadlocks well down past your ass, you recently awoke from a life-threatening diabetic coma, you haven't had a sniff of cocaine or a sip of Budweiser since 1989, and you were once the lead singer of not one, but two, legendary West Coast hardcore punk bands. What do you do next?
If your name is Keith Morris, and you were the frontman for Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, you start a new band and get back in the van. That's exactly what Morris did in 2009, a year after he slipped into a diabetes-induced coma a week before he was scheduled to perform with members of Tubronegro at a festival in Oslo, Norway.
On the rebound, Morris formed punk supergroup OFF! with drummer Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket from the Crypt), guitar player Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides) and bassist Steven McDonald (Redd Kross). Since then, they've released several EPs, a live album and one full length (Wasted Years, the band's second studio album, is scheduled to be released Tuesday, April 8). Not one song is longer than two minutes; the average OFF! track is over before you have time to take a few swigs of beer.
Live, they're simply a blistering barrage of pure rock 'n' roll fury. I've caught them four times now and each show was better than the last. The band stomps through tracks like "King Kong Brigade," "Rat Trap," "Jeffrey Lee Pierce" and "Toxic Box" in record time; I've always said the perfect punk show should last no more than 30 minutes. Wipe 'em out and leave 'em wanting more!
Wednesday, April 23
Beck—the loser-proclaiming, two-turntable-playing, cold-brained, "Sexx Laws" defying, sea-changing guero—is back in a big way for 2014.
On Morning Phase, his 12th album and first record of all-new material in six years, Beck sounds like he skipped over the last decade, producing the same kind of swirling melancholy that marked 2002's Sea Change.
Songs like "Blue Moon" and "Waking Light" are soft but oh-so-well layered, perfect headphone listening, with Beck's trademark sound-collage production blending disparate elements in perfect balance. Catch the preview clips from Beck's Saturday Night Live and Tonight Show appearances for proof of how well his band brings these intricate and lush compositions to life (no word yet on whether Father John Misty will reprise his backup singing on tour).
Now a rarely touring musician, the 43-year-old Beck tends to stick to performances at larger festivals and 2014 is no different. His show at the Rialto Theatre on Wednesday, April 23, is just one of four dates on a minitour built around Coachella. And of the 16 performances Beck has scheduled for all of 2014, the Rialto is by far the most intimate venue—Santa Barbara, Calif.'s Arlington Theatre is next closest at 2,000 seats and most of the rest are festival slots.
So whether you caught Beck's last Tucson show—the lauded June 2006 sold-out Rialto gig that opened with a video of marionette versions of Beck and his band clowning around town—or somehow foolishly missed it like I did, this one is gonna be a treat.
Thursday, April 24
It may be more prescient than bold for the Men to call their latest album Tomorrow's Hits.
The one-time noise-punk band from Brooklyn, N.Y., has toned things down, incorporating blues, soul and classic-rock swagger into a singular sound that's had critics buzzing about Open Your Heart (2012), New Moon (2013) and now Tomorrow's Hits (all on Sacred Bones).
Wild, loose and restless, the Men just may have hit their creative peak on Tomorrow's Hits and are in the middle of a two-month tour that brings them to Tucson on Thursday, April 24, performing at 191 Toole.
The album's eight songs sound like an alternative history of classic rock, punk and alternative, each one a lively and rousing song as the band jumps around stylistically.
"Get What You Give" opens slowly with a jangling guitar riff, then kicks in like a 1980s college radio jam, reminiscent of later Replacements or the West Coast psychedelic bands of the same era. With its exuberant horns, "Another Night" sounds like a lost track from the early, jam-prone, Bohemian-soul days of the E Street Band.
"Different Days" builds around a steady punk bass groove, a lost slacker anthem with a chorus that rests on a single angst-ridden line: "I hate being young." "Sleepless" is a jaunty piano-driven track that almost could've come out of Dylan and the Band's Woodstock basement, with its rolling drums and harmonica outro, while "Pearly Gates" is a full six minutes of helter-skelter blues-rock.
What's most remarkable about the Men is how the band's music spans eras, blending 30-plus years of influences together, setting seemingly incongruous styles and eras next to each other and not only making it work, but reveling in every bit of their new concoctions.
Trampled by Turtles
Monday, April 28
The versatile Trampled By Turtles are a bluegrass band for all seasons, appealing to fans of traditional Appalachian picking, contemporary folk, the jam-band circuit and those who like their acoustic music performed with a punk-rock edge.
After forming in 2003 to get a break from their rock bands, the members of Trampled By Turtles soaked up old fiddle songs and traditional folk and bluegrass tunes, and within a year all those rock bands had called it quits. Since then, the Duluth, Minn. quintet have worked on original tunes and taken on the lives of road warriors, touring their way to national prominence. Trampled by Turtles headlines at the Rialto Theatre on Monday, April 28.
The band's fifth record, Palomino (released in April 2010 on BanjoDad Records) hit No. 1 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart and remained in the top 10 for a remarkable 52 consecutive weeks.
For their follow-up, Trampled by Turtles mellowed a bit, led by the gorgeously haunting single "Midnight on the Interstate" and the slow-burn ballad "Alone," which they performed in their television debut on The Late Show with David Letterman. Stars and Satellites, released in 2012, was a crossover hit, debuting at No. 32 on the Billboard 200 chart and No. 11 on the Alternative chart. It hung around the Bluegrass chart for 78 weeks.
"Musically, we wanted to step out of our comfort zone; the border of which, I believe, defines any creative endeavor," guitarist Dave Simonett says on the band's website. "I like to think Stars and Satellites is the result of us continuing the search for our own voice and a step in the growth of a band that, at the very least, still loves to play together."
Trampled By Turtles' latest release, Live At First Avenue, was recorded during a three-night stand in Minneapolis to celebrate the band's 10th anniversary.