Eager passengers gathered under dark, threatening clouds at Mercado San Agustin station, early Saturday evening. It was a celebration—a moving one too thanks to Jimmy Carr and The Awkward Moments—to commemorate the third anniversary of Tucson’s modern streetcar (Sun Link). (Since its July, ’14 launch, the streetcar has provided approximately 2.93 million rides to passengers.)
Once everyone that could possibly fit onto the streetcar was loaded, the tram departed. The affable Jimmy Carr addressed the audience with a handheld megaphone, that he also used for singing, before he cued into action The Awkward Moments. (Violinist Samantha Bounkeua, brothers Tony and Dante Rosano on sousaphone and trumpet, Hillary Engle and Javier Garcia on drums and percussion, Erin Henderson on kazoo and vocals, guitarist Johnny O’Halloran, and Carr on accordion and vocals.) Mixing Carr’s gruff blues vocals with the sounds of gypsy jazz, americana, klezmer, classical and elements lifted straight from the high-school marching band of Anytown, USA, the sound landed somewhere between Gogol Bordello and Slavic Soul Party.
Beloved by Tucsonans, renowned for their improvisational dexterity, fans called requests, which Carr tried to accommodate—at least for a few bars—whether his heady combo band knew the song or not. According to Carr, “The band started on the streets of Tucson busking for beer money.” The group began with O'Halloran on saw and Carr (a Fat Possum Records session man) on accordion and vocals.
By the time the crammed, music-filled streetcar hit downtown, Tlaloc, the Aztecian god of rain, shook his rattle. By the time the tram reached UA’s Main Gate Square, where the band disembarked to continue the revelry inside Gentle Ben’s Brewing Company, the rain was pissing down in sheets.
Bounkeua tells Tucson Weekly
of the streetcar experience. “[It’s] one of my favorite gigs. There is an immediate, intimate and very direct relationship with the audience, practically zero separation between us and them, as we find a way to balance in this small, moving, crowded space. It's like surfing and jamming at the same time. It suits the improvisatory nature of our music well; we are, after all, called the ‘Awkward Moments.’ Super fun.” And their performance? Far from awkward. It was pulsating with life.
Jimmy Carr and The Awkward Moments have released five records to date, all available as downloads on bandcamp.