DAILY RUSHES: It's August and our blue sky is often gray with stingy clouds that don't deliver the promise of cool water on our sun-stewed heads. The triple-digit temperatures rob us of the will to work or play.
For musicians the words "work" and "play" are often synonymous--they don't want to work at playing music. The summertime blues are getting to the 1994 Tucson Area Music Award-winner in the alternative rock category, Joe Rush. The four-state tour he and his band (called, coincidentally, Joe Rush) has been canceled, taking away the opportunity to promote his two-month-old album Play and Play and Play.
The trio featuring Rush, percussionist Todd Hammes and new bassist Aaron Bonsal was scheduled to play Flagstaff, Boulder, Denver and El Paso this week. Instead, they'll bake in the Tucson oven with the rest of us.
Rush says booking tours is a time-consuming drag: Clubs are reluctant to talk to a band without a "legitimate" booking agent, and even when they finally agree to a show date they often renege later.
"Maybe 70 percent of the time, two or three weeks before the booking actually occurs, they'll back out of it," he says. "I think they just have no reason to honor their commitments to unknown bands. We have no recourse."
Rush says a short-term goal for the band is to get an agent to book their gigs. Long-term goals include getting his signature on a recording contract with a major label.
For now, Rush's partner in business and life, Pauline Young, is running a small label, Joven Records, that distributes Play and Play and Play.
"She's my wife, and we don't advertise that she's my wife, because a lot of people won't work with somebody if they know they're married to a member of the band," he says. "So I never tell people that."
Well, almost never.
Rush says his group was offered a deal by a California-based indie called Pressure Sensitive Records, but the arrangement wasn't as lucrative as he and Young would have liked.
"When Pauline figured out the math, she realized we couldn't even make our expenses back on the deal that he (the owner of Pressure Sensitive) was offering us," Rush says. "So she decided to start her own label. Our preference would definitely be, of course, to get on a label that's really in the biz and really has the network to distribute something and promote it."
The album is filled with word play and metaphysical romps. It has a fuller sound and harder pop edge than the three previous Rush releases, although it also contains folksy pop songs such as "The Blackbird and The Bluebird" and "Comfortable Rain."
Perhaps no song typifies the eclectic disc more than "Bein' Aware Can Be A Real Bore." It begins with a couple of lines sung a cappella and then grinds up the "I think, therefore I am" axiom with guitar and wit.
I wanna go back to the days before/ I ever realized there was something more, Rush sings in his urgent, slightly raspy voice. I went to college and I got a degree/ I did my best to fall asleep/ I thought about politics and philosophy/ What has been and what may be/ I read big books to free my mind/ I questioned authority of every kind... I found myself awake thinkin' all night.
Some of the things he's not lying awake thinking about are the comparisons writers scribble about his group.
"It's useless crap," he says to the laughter of Hammes. "It doesn't mean a thing. People always compare us to different things. Oh, some guy says it's like R.E.M., you know, and another person says these people sound like Springsteen. I think people compare you to what they know, not what you sound like.
"I think that what I do is just like Nirvana and just like some classical music that I listen to. To me it's all the same. If I take the exact same melody, lyrics and chord changes and I play them on an acoustic guitar--I'm a folksinger. If I take the exact same melody, lyrics, chord changes and rhythm--nothing changes--and I plug my electric guitar in and I dial the distortion knob up to 10, it sounds like Nirvana. So what's the difference there?"
Hear what Rush plays and plays and plays at Berky's On Fourth, 424 N. Fourth Ave., on Thursday, August 17.
LAST NOTES: Cool country rocker Kevin Salem plays Club Congress, 311 E. Congress, Friday, August 11. Also on the bill is Grover (see Quick Scans for a review of their new album), Paula Jean Brown, Giant Sand and Rainer. It's another indoor-outdoor combo concert at the Congo. Call 'em at 622-8848 for ticket prices.
Those denizens of drudge rock--Dokken--darken the Buena Vista Theater, 251 S. Wilmot Road, on Sunday, August 13. See B.A. Barracus' review of the new Dokken disc in Quick Scans. Call 747-1886 for ticket info.
The Little River Band celebrates their 20th anniversary by touring and playing their ancient hits: "Reminiscing," "Lady," "Lonesome Loser," "Take It Easy On Me" and "It's A Long Way There." They're at The Outback, 296 N. Stone Ave., on Monday, August 14. Call 622-4700 for more information.
Don't forget: Wednesday, August 16 is the 18th anniversary of Elvis' death on the toidy. Celebrate appropriately.
Don't forget (part two): Lollapalooza hits Sphoenixter this Saturday, August 12, at Desert Sky Pavilion. Sonic Youth, Hole, Cypress Hill, Pavement, Beck, Jesus Lizard, Hum and many others are scheduled to perform. Tickets are $31 a pop.
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