Discord slammed into melody, then rolled about on dusty floor, before forming a daisy chain of unity, as the gods of rock commanded it. Well, sorta. “Eight Bands, Three Venues, One Night” is how it was billed. This past Sunday, Che’s Lounge, Bar Passè and The Surly Wench graciously rolled out their freshly swept hospitality mats to welcome a handful of Arizona bands and travelers from Texas and as faraway as New Zealand for The 4th Avenue Pack Attack.
Taking care to maintain a delicate summertime balance between ... um ... Tucson Weekly
was there, and, weirdly, sober. Here’s the gist:
Kicking off the evening, this versatile trio, led by Dmitri Manos and Ben Schneider, played musical chairs. As members deftly switched between instruments─guitars, percussion, baritone sax─throughout their set. The Legz delivered their brand of quirky nautically themed rock ‘n’ roll on Che’s patio while those victimized by the day’s 103 degree swelter had little choice but to seek relief in a near endless flow of ice cold beer, the devil’s kindness.
The Freezing Hands
The Rickenbacker bass rumbled. Drum sticks twirled between fingers, crashed cymbals and skins. Electric piano filled melodic pockets. And guitar chords chimed with '70s power-pop grit (hey, Badfinger and The Raspberries!) in the hands of guitarist/songwriter Travis Spillers (formerly of Los Federales and The Knockout Pills) who sang plaintive melodies.
The Tunes? Well, with the infectious ditties like “Comeback Kid (Hits The Skids),” it’s small wonder Burger Records made haste, and delayed not to sign them to their label. The foursome─keyboardist Scott Landrum, bassist Mario Cordova, drummer Matt Rendon and Spillers─played on to twilight.
Tigers of the Sea
Then, the festivities moved over to the outdoor stage at Bar Passè where The Ventures-inspired guitar riffs and rapid-fire surf drumming filled the sultry night air. There these psychobilly/surf punks from Wellington, New Zealand thrashed about to songs off their first EP Cut and Run like “Four Fades” a hellride that clocks in at under two minutes in length. “This is our slow dance song…” Yeah, right.
When asked how a bunch of dudes from New Zealand ended up in Tucson? Frontman Tim Glasgow explained that it was a friendship with Portland surf punk rockers Guantanamo Baywatch and their tales of adventure that piqued his interest and prompted the lads to venture through the American Southwest. Next stop: Vegas, of course.
Auckland, New Zealand’s Dad Jokes rocked a set of lo-fi garage punk to a crowd of head-bobbing hipsters. “Pizza, babes, beer and 420” is there mantra; shunning adulthood and being trammeled by convention and mortgages. Singer/guitarist Ian Brown says of his two-man band, “...someone best described us as Weezer on Coke.”
“Shit. Got blood on the drums,” drummer Matthew Wall was overheard saying after pummeling his way through a high energy set. There you have it. Ahh, youth.
Up next, from Tempe, Arizona, with three electric guitars ablaze Petty Things had a small group of Sunday night revelers dancing, better put, flailing to the sounds of their catchy indie/garage rock.
Lyrics filled with ennui and naivetè, in songs like “Bored,” “Motorcycle Shelly” and “All I Want Is You” from their 2014 album Year of the Dog
tug at the heart strings.
The action then switched over to The Surly Wench. There, Denton Texas’ Bad Sports delivered a tight, brash set of well-written melodic punk rock/power pop. Comprised of Gregory Rutherford behind the drum kit with bassist Daniel Fried and guitarist Orville Neeley trading off vocal duties. Their well-rehearsed tunes─two parts New York punk and one part ‘70’s hard rock raunch─punched and kicked.
From the garage-rock hotbed that is Denton, vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Jeff Burke (formerly of cult garage bands Reds and The Marked Men), backed by Rutherford, Fried and Neeley of Bad Sports, took next to the Surly Wench stage as if splitting atoms and releasing uranium.
Radioactivity was featured in Rolling Stone
’s 10 New Artists You Need to Know (July 2015). With a snarly biting sound full of disillusionment, falling somewhere between The Ramones and Bad Religion, a sweat-drenched Jeff Burke simply labels the band “Catchy punk rock,” at the end of their set. The song “Silent Kill” off of the 2015 album Silent Kill was influenced by Burke’s time living in Japan during the Tōhoku earthquake in 2011, subsequent tsunami and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The album epitomizes what has become known as the punk-kissed “Denton sound.”
Led by the inimitable Isaac Reyes, Tucson stalwarts Lenguas Largas kicked out the killer, difficult-to-nail-down jams, such “Lonely Summertime,” “Not July High,” “No Me Gusta La Pepsi” and crowd pleaser “Ese Culito.” Their punk rock, psych, norteño, indie, soul and pop with lyrics often sung in Spanglish.
Their latest album: The Rest of the Enchilada
Baritone bass filled space between guitars. Reyes’ high-centered vocals rolled atop. Drums bashed sticks and occasional maracas into hi-hats and percussion held the low-end down by savage floor-tom pounds. Syncopated rhythms abounded. LL repeatedly whipped the sizable crowd into a frenzy, before bringing the 4th Avenue Pack Attack to a close. Now, go see them in Japan.