HARDWOOD ORB: Turn to page seven in your rock-and-roll history book. That takes you back about 40 years, back to when Alan Freed was the king of disc jockeys, spinning platters exposing white teenage audiences to the raved-up rhythm and blues that was fusing together with country music into rock and roll.
Freed should be remembered as much more than a DJ--he was also a promotional genius. He put together rock shows like no one will ever see again.
You got the Clovers, Dominoes, Orioles, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Fats Domino and others--all for two bucks.
Record-breaking audiences jammed the venues Freed used for his concerts. A band would get on stage, knock the crowd out with a few songs and then make way for the next act to do the same. Sets were short and sweet and left people yelling for more.
That's one of the ideas behind a local event known as the Wooden Ball--give the audience more of what they want than they're used to getting.
The other purpose of the ball is to expose a plugged-in rock-oriented audience to acoustic music. Most of the 14 different performers and bands normally play with electric guitars and keyboards and such. On Sunday, January 15, they'll put down the electric guitars (except for the bass players) and go back to wood.
"I like the acoustic idea, but the real thing is the 20-minute sets," says Chris Holiman of 35 Summers, the guy who put the ball together. "It's something you don't usually see. It's a cool thing to have a smorgasbord of bands in one night--just bang, bang, bang. It's the kind of thing you can only do on a special kind of basis."
Holiman staged the first Wooden Ball at Nino's back in 1987, then took a short break from the concert promotion business until assembling the second one last January.
"It's really weird being in a band and then being a promoter. Promoters have totally different roles that apply to them--musicians hate them."
So, why does he jump across the line of evil?
"It was fun last year, basically. There were a lot of people who didn't play last year because there wasn't enough time, and I thought they should play. People know what it is now and I just had to ask them and they said yes. I think that's what's good about Tucson right now. People are actually going out of their way to do stuff like the TAMMIES (Tucson Area Music Awards) and the TAMMIES compilation album. I think that's how you have a music scene."
The music begins at 6 p.m. at Club Congress with 20 minutes of the folk and pop music of Maggie Golston and continues with Star Crunch, Chris Burroughs, the Drakes, Greyhound Soul, Little Sisters Of The Poor, 35 Summers, Paula Jean Brown and Robert Mache, Friends of Dean Martin, Black Moon Graffiti, Phantom Limbs, Al Perry, and Rainer with Howe Gelb.
One of the more interesting moments will come hearing the danceable fusion of hip hop, jazz, rock and funk that is Black Moon Graffiti turn acoustic for the first time.
Alex Skelton, guitarist and leader of the band, says the new arrangements of songs for acoustic instruments and the bands' enthusiasm in practicing for the Wooden Ball is adding a new dimension to the group. Expect to hear more acoustic instruments incorporated into future recordings and performances by this band.
Another band going through a fairly drastic transformation for this concert is Dog and Pony Show. Their Dinosaur Jr.-crashes-into-Pavement sound will inevitably be toned down. "You get to hear all of my mumbling really loudly," says vocalist and lead guitarist Mike Semple. "I wanted to do all covers but I forgot all my brilliant ideas for covers, so we'll probably do mostly our own songs."
What you probably won't hear is new material from the album they're in the process of recording for Phoenix-based Epiphany Records.
"The problem is I don't have lyrics for any of the stuff," Semple says. "I've been trying to write lyrics but I can't really find the time between sleeping and going out." (Damned rock-and-roll types.)
Admission to the Wooden Ball at Club Congress is $6.
LAST NOTES: Don't forget--singer-songwriter Erica Wheeler is at the Southwest Center for Music on Thursday, January 12.
KXCI Community Radio holds its second annual Gospel Music Festival with Willie Neal Johnson and The New Gospel Keynotes at the Southwest Center the following night.
The Tucson chapter of The Gospel Workshop of America and Ada Redd-Austin with Glenn Coleman and Carl Hawkins open the concert.
Admission is $12; $10 for KXCI members. Call 623-1000 for more information.
Contemporary folk duo Neal and Leandra perform at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Friday, January 13. This concert is opened by Texas singer-songwriter Art Kershaw.
Canned Heat (with several original members, not including late lead singer Bob "Bear" Hite) plays The Rock on Saturday, January 14.
The Southern boogiefied metal of Jackyl shakes the Buena Vista Theater that same evening. Local metalists Numskull kick off the high-octane evening.
If you're in the mood for a mix of country, rock and bluegrass, try the Lazy Eights at the Southwest Center on Saturday night. They feature superb banjoist Ross Nickerson (formerly of Blitz Creek and Titan Valley Warheads).
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