The gentrified streets of downtown Tucson Friday night were packed. Music was everywhere. First, Tom Walbank, armed with a Danelectro electric guitar, a slide, a tiny Marshall amp and a harmonica, entertained an early evening crowd under a small tent in the Hotel Congress plaza. This Englishman (and Tucson resident) is a veritable blues encyclopedia, a devotee of the form. He sang with command everything from Muddy Waters to Hambone Willie Newbern to Tampa Red, and his distinctive blues playing captured the ears of music junkies and passersby as diners ate their repast al fresco.
Over on Toole Avenue, Night of the Living Fest was happening. A behemoth stage, food trucks, a repurposed school bus belonging to Old Paint Records, and a silk screener customizing t-shirts dominated the fenced-off outdoor area. Massive speaker bins bookended the well-lit stage, and the adjacent warehouse boasted an equally well-equipped indoor stage.
Night of the Living Fest, “A celebration of the weird,” took place November 4 through 6, and featured more than 40 bands.
Lenguas Largas took mightily to the stage. Boasting three percussionists—like Cerberus the three-headed dog that guards the entrance to the Underworld—they performed “Ese Culito,” a fever inducing garage/soul/psych jam whose title translates loosely to “That Lil’ Ass” was the highwater mark of their set. As the applause waned a couple of long-haired dudes shouted out, “You old bastards rocked it hard!” Indeed, they did.
The Resonars described as “The Sound of Electricity plus” delivered a rad set of ‘60s folk rock and British-invasion influenced tunes with lush three-part harmonies, Keith Moon-esque drumming and wicked guitar playing. During the pop brilliance of “World Apart,” Matt Rendon reached back and cranked up every remaining knob on his beat-to-shit, yet firebreathing Marshall amp that wasn't already dimed and exploded into feedback-laden string bending bliss. That alone was worth the price of admission.
Fronted by Laena Geronimo, daughter of DEVO drummer
Alan Myers, Feels delivered
an inspired set of garage- and punk-influenced songs from their self-titled debut LP
on Ty Segall's “home-cooked” Castle Face Records imprint. Three chicks rocked their asses off. Moreover,
it was their over-top energy, fuzzy guitars, smart songwriting and swagger that won over the young crowd clamoring at the edge of the indoor stage.
In ‘65, The Sloths released a single “Makin’ Love,” hit fabled Sunset Strip then imploded in ‘66. After a dormancy, they reformed in 2011. Narrative songs like “One Way Out” possessed an epic, “People Who Died” quality; the musicians were solid. But not everyone can be like Jim Carroll was, or dare to try.
Brimming with kinetic energy, a slamming drummer and reverb-drenched guitar tones lifted from the blessed hellride that is The Ventures “Hawaii Five-O,” Guantanamo Baywatch killed with their swampy fusion of surf, garage and rockabilly, and delivered a set of pure trashy fun.
Somewhere ‘round midnight a sizeable congregation stood in devout worship before the stage where The Shivas performed as many revelers began to about-face leaving the personification of the Hindu god—the destroyer of ego and ultimately the universe—behind.
Other notables on the bill: The Canadian American garage rock of Peach Kelli Pop, Newcastle, Australia’s self-proclaimed “shit pop” of Gooch Palms, Hollywood glam combo Hammered Satin and the occult glam of Death Valley Girls.