Like writers writing dust jacket blurbs about each other, there are musicians that other musicians talk about. Their names may not be backlit on marquees, but they are behind the nuts and bolts of sound within the city limits. Their peers are well aware, but an audience may not know these names, instead catching the players by sight, by style. Recognizing a familiar face on stage left or a lick heard from the smoking patio on a different night.
One of my first nights in Tucson, I was told to go to the Red Room and check out a guitarist named Jameson Clay Koweek. I walked through The Grill and into the bar, catching the last couple songs of the band Otherly Love, fronted by Ben Schneider, a local musician and promoter whom I already knew from years of touring. Anyway, I was in the crowd and, being new to town, glad to see someone I knew. His band was cooking, everyone in the room seemed comfortable and attuned, and then this guy next to Ben started peeling out on a Telecaster. There were country runs coupled with odd hiccups, ideas erased as they form—style that owed as much to Richard Brautigan as it did to James Burton. Dude could fucking play, and he was having a good time doing it.
That night, I made a mental note to remember the name Jameson Clay Koweek. When next I saw him, walking down Convent Avenue in Barrio Viejo, I flagged him down and made a point to shake his hand. Long before I ever came to Tucson, and in the years since, Koweek has been a fixture of this scene. From weekend DIY parties at the HangArt to Monday bluegrass jams at The Hut, you can find Koweek around. Also known as Donkeyman, he has kept and continues to keep busy, adding a little extra to a bunch of acts, including infamous honky-tonker Hank Topless and French ex-pat Marianne Dissard. He can hold it down up front, singing country classics and pleasing dinner crowds at La Cocina with his old Boot-Gaze Band, and then the next night be the element of chaos and noise guesting on an indie-rock set at Congress. Schneider summed it up to me that night at the Red Room, "Donkeyman is a renaissance man."
This Saturday, Jan. 16, he'll be leading his new Electrified Donkey Band through a set at our radical local vinyl shop, Wooden Tooth Records (415 N. Fourth Ave.). Koweek has also been known to sit in with the Night Collectors, a hometown Japanese psych-tribute-band-turned-multi-sax-and-guitar behemoth that opens the show. The Night Collectors have their own share of known names: Jeff Lownsbury from Katterwaul and Secret Highway Secrets, Connor Gallaher from every band ever—chances are you saw at least one of the Collectors performing on your last night out. If you do end up at Wooden Tooth for the show, which is free and begins at 7 p.m., you can bet you'll see a lot of musicians in the audience, taking notes.