Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Posted By on Tue, Jan 19, 2021 at 3:31 PM

Though not explicitly about Tucson, Doxy Lamine’s new EP features many of the elements that make our town distinct. Doxy Lamine  is a side project of local rock band Infinite Beauties, led by guitarist and singer Adam Lopez. At under 25 minutes, the new EP is clean, energetic and to-the-point — and it certainly has some points to make.

Lopez was writing and rehearsing new material while recording his last album, 2020’s Precarious Time, with Jim Waters at Waterworks here in town. While the band was ready to record the new tracks right away, the pandemic kicked everything to the side.

“It was frustrating in many ways because we couldn't even rehearse, albeit it also gave me time for making demos and preparing the details for the return to the studio — I mean every detail!” Lopez said.

Ultimately, the band was able to record the well-polished tracks from July to October 2020. Though the sessions produced eight songs, only six made the cut. “The original idea was to have an eponymous CD, but we instinctively called it ‘Small, Small Town’ based on the opening tune and the artwork done by my son Sol,” Lopez said. “The song is not so much about Tucson, but more about dating in a small town.”

Themes aside, the EP itself works as a kind of small town, with each song serving a unique role and sound: the title track kicks things off in a bluesy fashion, with Lopez lamenting personal vices over a surprisingly upbeat rhythm and some wonderful violin lines by Mariah McCammond. "You Did It," has more of an alternative rock flair with call-and-response singing between Lopez and Marta DeLeon from the Weekend Lovers, gradually forming into a close harmony; "Crisis Or Opportunity" features a classic borderlands rock sound, based around a dusty guitar line and Lopez's low and smooth vocals.

Though the EP begins with standard rock affair, it grows more political and spiritual through its runtime, with some blunt and even existential lines on the second half like “Make peace with God before you’re dead … If it happened to you, maybe you’ll know how it feels.”

This all concludes with the multi-layered, progressive final track “Spirituality Song,” which begins with a spoken word recital by Joseph Graves. The jaunty closer channels some darker themes, but never loses sight of the driving central melodies. At points, the groove even sounds like another great Tucson band, The Mission Creeps, with its chilly keyboards and vast sound.

It’s a quick, easily digestible collection of tracks that reminds you to try to get your life together, and if you can’t, you might as well dance.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Posted By on Mon, Jan 18, 2021 at 1:24 PM

Tucson-based Zoom Records had released a never-before-issued single by Pete Ronstadt and The Nightbeats, more than 60 years after it was recorded, and all proceeds support Youth On Their Own charity.

Pete Ronstadt (you may have heard of his sister, Linda) and The Nightbeats were a group of seniors at Catalina High School in 1959. They recorded a cover of "Sea of Love" at Audio Recorders of Arizona in Phoenix the same year with Grammy Award winning engineer Jack Miller. Now, that single is pressed in a limited edition of 300 7-inch vinyls by Zoom Records (credited as Tucson’s “first rock label,” also founded by Catalina High students.)

The track certainly has a full ’50s sound, with a pop structure accompanied by saxophone, piano and drums. One side of the 45 features the original song as recorded in 1959, while the opposite side includes the track with additional strings accompaniment.

For more information, and to purchase the vinyl, click here.

Posted By on Mon, Jan 18, 2021 at 11:30 AM

LOS ANGELES – Like music venues around the world, the Paramount ballroom has been forced to endure months of limited work, reduced revenue and a forced transition to the digital world – no easy task for the venerable Boyle Heights venue, which is nearly 100 years old and has a legacy of supporting underdog artists.

Live-streaming is one option, but the expense is prohibitive, said Vicky Cabildo, the ballroom’s booker and production manager. Determining a price for the tickets is another issue faced by venues across the U.S.

“Aside from the location, you still need sound people, you still need to clean,” Cabildo said. “We have to pay the bands; you can’t ask people who aren’t working right now to do stuff for free, it’s just not fair. It’s also like how do we charge for these things? Not everyone is Katy Perry or Pearl Jam.”

Friday, January 15, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo
DJ Jahmar is one of the busiest DJs in town, and it will take more than a pandemic to stop him. When he’s not working with the non-profit Deejays Against Hunger, he’s filling local clubs with authentic, rhythmic reggae. But even during COVID downtime, Jahmar is keeping active with livestreams and recording new music. Jahmar’s latest album, Zona Riddim, features collaborations with a wide range of vocalists and clean club instrumentals.

“I started working on the Zona Riddim album in March 2020 right when COVID hit because all of my DJ residences were banned due to city ordinances,” Jahmar said. “I still wanted the world to hear my music, so I decided I was going to release an album.”

Zona Riddim features a variety of guests across its eight tracks, all of which work off a similar instrumental in the Jamaican tradition. And it’s a tradition familiar to Jahmar, who has worked as a DJ for more than a decade, learning from his father Papa Ranger, a longtime KXCI reggae DJ and owner of the now-shuttered Twelve Tribes Reggae Shop. 

“In Jamaica we do reggae albums different, we do Riddim albums,” Jahmar said. “A Riddim is a compilation of artists on the same beat/instrumental but with different songs.”

Jahmar’s warm, energetic beats are a versatile template for the guest singers, working beneath autotuned rap and cleanly sung vocals. The album features both international and local reggae figures, including Josh David Barrett from the Wailers, Safaree from Love & Hip Hop, Denzel White, Los Rakas and Bobby Hustle.

These collaborations add to Jahmar’s goal for the album: to represent Jamaican culture and reggae music on the West Coast, and to keep people moving to his music no matter the circumstance.

Zona Riddim is available on music streaming platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and more. For more information, visit foundation-media.ffm.to/zonariddim

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 11:26 AM

French/Tucson singer Marianne Dissard has released the latest in her cover series, a complete re-working of Ritchie Valens’ “Come On Let's Go!” with a music video to boot.

Dissard and producer Raphael Mann deconstruct the rock ‘n’ roll classic, upping the sensuality in a way only a French singer like her can. What was originally a sweet, energetic tune has been reinvented with deep drums, wild saxophone and pauses to complete silence to stretch out the romantics.

But of course, the star of the show is Dissard’s vocals in her signature chanteuse style, highlighting the blunt message of the song: “wanting to fuck someone.” However, things are bound to get more complex in a pandemic.

"It's not so much reworking any of the songs, but trying to find the core concept or message of a song and working from there," Dissard said about the series. "That's the trick with covers: You have to find something that's already there and take it to where you as the artist can bring something new and fresh."

The track fits well in her series of “drastic re-imaginings” of classic tracks during pandemic times, and also features Tucsonan Naim Amor on guitar. Dissard’s collections of pandemic re-imaginings are slated to be released as an album in summer 2021. Other covers in the series include Phil Ochs, Bobbie Gentry and Carly Simon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Posted By on Wed, Jan 13, 2021 at 11:46 AM

COVID cancellations continue into the new year with the organizers for the annual Tucson Jazz Festival announcing that the 2021 festival is off.

Although this year's event was scheduled to take place outside in Armory Park, and with a smaller lineup and timeframe than previous years, the organizers have decided even the reduced event isn't feasible with Arizona claiming the worst viral spread in the nation.

"While we hoped by March of 2021 we would be able to host the Festival in a safe, enjoyable manner, it is now clear it's just not worth the risk," said festival executive director Khris Dodge. "We all look forward to the time when we can gather and enjoy live music together, but for now our priority must be the safety and well-being of our community."

The event organizers are currently working on plans for the 2022 festival, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 14-23. For more information, visit tucsonjazzfestival.org.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Dec 31, 2020 at 2:55 PM

Tucson Weekly columnist Brian Smith’s article about the late guitarist Doug Hopkins, co-founder of the Tempe rock band Gin Blossoms, is being turned into a feature film. Smith originally wrote the article for the Detroit Metro Times in 2007, before he and his wife Maggie turned it into a screenplay titled "Lost Horizons." The film is now in pre-production and will be produced by Sarah Platt and Mike Tankel. The director and cast have not yet been selected.

"I’ve been wanting to tell this story in a film for many many years, but it finally came to fruition lately with my wife Maggie as writing partner," Smith said. "I knew Doug really well. He was a good friend, the kind who was never not there. I knew the shy, empathic, totally brilliant, cockeyed and writerly side to him. I loved him dearly. As did many people who knew him. He left a long, long shadow. Really, that love for him was the launching point for the script."

Hopkins co-founded Gin Blossoms in 1987. The band rose to fame after the release of their second studio album, 1992’s New Miserable Experience, which eventually went multi-platinum with singles like "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You." Smith’s original Metro Times article detailed Hopkins' songwriting prowess, as well as his alcoholism, interpersonal struggles, and untimely death.

“The alcoholic side of him is there, and it can be brutal, and it is brutal, but there is also the tender, kind, generous, and absolutely witty and brilliant side to the man that needed to be told,” Smith said. “Also, the guy was a genius at whittling down complicated human truths into a three-minute pop song, such sadnesses beneath the surface. So precious few songwriters, before or since, could do that as well as Doug. That’s truth. Yeah, this all makes his story so hard to tell, and also makes it really layered and strangely beautiful.”

Brian and Maggie have collaborated on multiple projects before. Maggie directed a documentary based on Brian’s Tucson Weekly column “Tucson Salvage,” and they have also started a local press, R&R Press.

"Am I excited about the film in pre-production? Absolutely. Maggie and I are really excited because, for one thing, it is really difficult getting a film made," Smith said. "I am also really nervous because Maggie and I really want it to be accurate to Doug’s heart, to capture the essence of the man’s beauty, and tragedy."

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2020 at 12:47 PM

Scott Kerr, a.k.a The Vinyl Wizard - KMKR 99.9
KMKR 99.9
Scott Kerr, a.k.a The Vinyl Wizard

If you hung out anywhere around Fourth Avenue or downtown Tucson in the past decade, you're most certainly familiar with multi-instrumentalist and KMKR DJ Scott Kerr, a.k.a The Vinyl Wizard.

Kerr, 51, passed away in November.

His friends at KMKR 99.9 FM are celebrating Kerr's beautiful and musical life with a Facebook Live event, featuring DJ sets by DJ Herm Guzman, remembrances from Tucson's creative community and a virtual benefit auction featuring Scott's massive collection of musical gear, instruments, costumes and other mementos. Proceeds will go to the Kerr family and KMKR Radio 99.9 FM.

The event kicks off at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 18.

Click here for more information about the auction and celebration of the Vinyl Wizard's life. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2020 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo
Jessica Tanner wrote and developed the nine songs on her debut album over multiple years – but with their soft melancholy, it’s fitting for them to release during this period of extended isolation. Tanner, who goes as Asphalt Astronaut on her solo folk release Antares, drew inspiration from heartbreak, astronomy and Fourth Avenue.

Originally from Tucson, Tanner moved to Phoenix when she was young, but returned here to attend the University of Arizona. The songs on Antares serve as a kind of timeline for Tanner over the past few years: changing her major, moving through relationships, speculating on perspectives. And with an extended quarantine, she suddenly had the time to put all the pieces together.

Entirely self-written, recorded and produced, Antares is a lonesome album, but it would be a disservice to simply call it depressing. With a soulful voice and simple instrumentation, Tanner does share her personal woes, but jumps between characters and perspectives in the stories she sings. While most of the songs come off as listless, the jumps between acoustic guitar- and piano-driven tracks add color—or perhaps another shade of gray.

Although the album wasn’t released under her own name, Tanner leaves little between herself and the listener.

“I try to be a pretty open person,” Tanner said. “I know a lot of artists will come up with a persona, but that didn’t feel fitting. It’s very autobiographical, so it would have felt disingenuous to introduce myself as someone other than who I am.”

The songs have never been performed live. In fact, Tanner says she only recently felt comfortable singing in front of friends and family. She admits it might come as a surprise to many of her friends that she’s recorded an album at all. But her dark, mellow voice hints at experience—or at the very least comfort—with her singing and storytelling abilities. Antares’ rawness does result in some production hiccups, but more than anything else they manage to add to the album’s style.

“On one hand, I almost didn’t put anything else because I was thinking: ‘How is this different than a million other people who are doing an acoustic recording?’” Tanner said. “But this is what I needed to do.”

Monday, November 30, 2020

Posted By on Mon, Nov 30, 2020 at 10:45 AM

While we didn't have a whole lot of new theatrical movie offerings this weekend (although a new Croods movie opened nationwide), there is a most notable streaming offering now playing via The Loft's streaming series, and other streaming platforms such as Apple TV and Amazon.

Here's a review of the new documentary, Zappa:

Zappa isn’t the first posthumous documentary on one of the 20th century’s greatest composers (and personalities), but it’s most certainly the best one yet.

Crowdfunded and years in the making, it’s bolstered by access to Zappa’s immense vault full of unheard audio and unseen video. Directed by Alex Winter (Bill from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and the man who helmed the great cult flick Freaked), it’s a deeply felt, even heartbreaking look at the man who left us way to soon at the age of 52.

The doc begins with footage of Zappa playing his guitar, for what turned out to be the last time in public, in a celebration of the Soviets withdrawing their troops from Czechoslovakia (Zappa died in ’93). The film then goes back to the very beginning of Frank’s artistic life. Winter spends some good time on the early years, including Zappa’s home movies with his family, his obsession with composer Edgar Varese, and time spent at Studio Z, his first recording studio.

After the movie announces the formation of Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention in ’65, it starts leaning on former band members like saxophonist Bunk Gardner, guitarists Ray White, Steve Vai and Mike Keneally, percussionist Ruth Underwood and bassist Scott Thunes to handle much of the narration. For fans, it’s just a great thing to hear all of the Zappa archival interviews interweaving with current takes from his past bands.

Nice touches include Vai recounting the complexities of “The Black Page,” followed by new footage of Underwood playing it stunningly on the piano accompanied by drummer Joe Travers. Keneally tells the story of illustrator Cal Schenkel’s album covers and, most wonderfully, the original handwritten note from daughter Moon Unit Zappa that birthed the hit single “Valley Girl.”

Early on, Winter often relies upon old monster movie footage to accompany interview audio. At first it’s a bit annoying, but as Frank reveals later in the film, he adored monster movies, so perhaps that was a creative choice Zappa himself would’ve made in telling his story. The same could be said of the often haphazard, zippy editing, which resembles the animated works Zappa directed with Claymation artist, Bruce Bickford, who we get to see making an all-new figure of Frank.

The film’s most heartwarming moment? Home video footage of Baby Moon Unit yawning, followed by Frank yawning while playing with her, all accompanied by the Firebird Suite on the soundtrack. Frank’s wife Gail (who passed away in 2015) gets some good screen time through an archival interview, while his children (Ahmet, Dweezil, Moon Unit and Diva) all appear in older footage.