NEW LIGHTS: Local singer/drummer The Deacon was slaving away, playing his heart out to a few folks each Tuesday night at Berky's Bar, 5769 E. Speedway. A regular Tuesday night gig in Tucson -- let's face it -- can only get you so far in filling up chairs, no matter who you are. In his words, he was "searching for a way to make the night happen."

So he decided to open up the stage to a variety of local bands under the banner of an "Original Music Night," and found an abundance of willing (and mostly unrecognized) participants. Blown away by their sheer talent, he felt "compelled--no, obligated--to do something about it." The result is the release of a new local compilation called New Lights at Sundown (ARV Records), an amalgam of sounds and styles that, if pressed for an umbrella term, I'd have to call loose-groove.

J. Walker will charm the knickers off fans of the Black Crowes or Spin Doctors with their two contributions, "Saving the Best for Last" (which actually opens the festivities) and the infectious soul-blues of "Bracelet". Following up is the hook-laden, '80s-flavored pop of "Annabelle," by rootsy One O One; a couple of pop-reggae tunes by G.R.A.S.S.; blues goddess Vicki Tama's "Evangeline," which sounds something like the result of a dark alley rendezvous between Janis and Suzi (Quatro, that is); Chris Davis' blend of Beatles-era Britpop and early Kingston ska on "Alley Man"; the gospel-gone-wrong-side-of-purgatory, Tower of Power-style soulful funk of Tucson supergroup Nicklebag O' Neckbones (which includes Sundown co-producer and Bad News Blues Band member Mike Blommer, as well as Wave Lab Studio host Craig Schumacher), who weigh in with "Milton Ain't Easy" (the exclusive lyrics of which are, "Milton ain't easy/But he's for real.").

But wait, there's more: the Phish-like hippie butt-shake of Phobius' "Spiders and Snakes" (trust me, the "Ph"-balance ain't no coincidence), for example; and Pagan Holiday's "You Only See What You Want to See," which provides a nice, relaxing sunset to the day's events (it reminds me of some Beck B-side I can't remember the name of--). The disc also includes contributions from Ted Reyes and The Outpatients. It's a fine addition to the local canon, indeed.

POP START: Do you love guitar pop? I mean, do you really love guitar pop? Do you keep buying all of the Big Star reissues, no matter how incidental they are? Do you find yourself cursing the crime that R.E.M. got Monster huge while the dB's were essentially forced to retire from general indifference? Did the recent import remasters of all the Kinks titles get you sweaty in your Beatle boots? Dig both Cheap Trick and Todd Rundgren? If so, have I got news for you--.

The Hang Ups come from Minneapolis, and are currently touring in anticipation of the September 28 release of their third album, Second Story, on Clean/Restless. In what is perhaps the production coup of the decade, the disc is co-produced by Mitch Easter and Don Dixon, the team responsible for R.E.M.'s first two full-lengths, Murmur and Reckoning (the latter represents the last time these two giants worked together on a project -- and that's going back 15 years).

Check out this estimable power pop quintet on Monday, August 16, as they coast into 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. Call 670-9202 for details.

BRING ON THE NUBILES: Attention all 8 to 15-year-old girls (and the parents, aunts, uncles and family friends who will inevitably be dragged into service): The musical event of your short, sheltered lives is approaching fast! That's right, at 10 a.m. Saturday, August 14, you can start jockeying for tickets for the Backstreet Boys' only announced Arizona appearance this year, which hits Phoenix's America West Arena on Tuesday, October 12.

Better start saving your allowance now: tickets are a McDonald's paycheck-chomping $29.50 and $38.50, not including service charges. But if you simply can't bear entering a new millennium (get it?) before witnessing the quintessential hunky bunch live and in person, cajole some adult who loves you into forking over a credit card and reserve your place in teen history through the Dillard's box office, (602) 379-7800 or (602) 503-5555.

GUNS AND DOLLS: If you're looking for a real show this week, look no further than San Francisco's The Gun & Doll Show, who have pulled onstage stunts like performing alongside a giant pie (we're talking like eight feet in diameter) during the sex anthem "Homemade Pie," from last year's debut album Working on the Bomb (Fortune Recordings). The album showcases the band's skewed take on pop, which combines a love of Louis Armstrong with a southern roots sensibility.

Opening the show is the band's Fortune labelmate, Jim Greer (no, not the former Spin writer/Guided By Voices bassist), whose Rover Songs shows a knack for inspired and winning classic pop arrangements.

This show, which hits 7 Black Cats on Friday, August 13, could prove to be one of the sleepers of the summer. Call 670-9202 for details.

MS. ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD: And finally, in response to Katie Rogers' letter to the editor ("Sounding Off," Tucson Weekly, August 5):

We definitely need to cover more local bands, and we're working on it! For everyone in a band or booking a band, make sure you're faxing, mailing or otherwise informing us of who you are and where you're playing. (I've been here all year, and this is the first I've heard from Ms. Rogers.) My editors eat angry missives for breakfast, but I still take these things a wee bit personally. I spend a lot of time going to shows, and I truly love covering music.

The Weekly's club listings are free, and open to all bands and venues. Details on submitting info are printed at the beginning of the Club Listings section (page 47).

And remember: I'm just one guy who writes about 1,000 words each week on a freelance basis. It's nothing personal. Thanks for reading the column; I'll keep doing what I can to make it interesting for you.

The best way to contact me is by e-mail at Fax is 792-2096; phone 792-3630, ext. 128; mail P.O. Box 2429, 85702; or drop yer info at our front desk, 201 W. Cushing St.