In the realm of Tucson music traditions, the Wooden Ball holds a special place. Originally conceived by Chris Holiman in the late '80s as a way of uniting a then-fractious local music scene, the Ball has since come to represent a sampling of local acts performing their songs in a setting that places attention on just that--the songs. No Marshall stacks, no pedal racks--just mostly acoustic renditions of tunes written and cultivated by local musicians.

The event has changed locations several times over the years. The first one was held at the old Nino's Steakhouse in the late '80s; Holiman decided to revive it in 1994 at Club Congress, where it remained for several years. The last few years saw a change in venue, as Plush took over hosting duties, but this year, the 13th consecutive since its rebirth, sees a return back to Congress. That decision was largely one of convenience, says Holiman. This year, the Wooden Ball expands for the first time into two nights, in order to be more inclusive and present a more rounded representation of Tucson music, and Congress was better suited for a multiple-night event.

Bands and performers tend to pull out all the stops at the Ball, reconfiguring their own songs to best suit the unplugged format, and unveiling previously unheard covers--all in a 20-minute set--which makes the event all the more special. Here, then, is the schedule for the 2006 Wooden Ball, in descending order of appearance: Friday, Jan. 13: Al Perry, Loveland, Camp Courageous, Downtown Saints, Creosote, Ned Sutton, Nowhere Man, Mark Matos and Nick Luca Saturday, Jan. 14: Greyhound Soul, Luca, The Wyatts, Sunday Afternoon, Tom Walbank, Jon Murphy, Little Sisters of the Poor and Chris Holiman.

Music begins at 8 p.m. on both nights. Admission is $6 for one night, or $10 for a two-night pass. Club Congress is located at 311 E. Congress St. For more information, call 622-8848 or log onto


Put those purple lace gloves back into mothballs--for a while, anyway. The Prince tribute show originally scheduled for next Thursday, Jan. 19, at Plush, has been pushed back to a later, as-yet undetermined date. But you'll probably still want to head to the Fourth Avenue club that night, as they've arranged a rather nifty consolation show.

Riverboat Gamblers, who combine the tunefulness of late-'70s British punk with the power of early '80s American hardcore, headline the gig. If you've never seen this group from Denton, Texas, play live, consider this a hearty endorsement. Sharing the bill are two of Tucson's finest punk ensembles, The Knockout Pills and Swing Ding Amigos.

Things get underway at 9:45 p.m., and admission is a measly $6. Need more info? Call 798-1298 or log onto Plush is located at 340 E. Sixth St.


Located in the space that formerly occupied Cafe Quebec (and, later, Cafe Q), A Shot in the Dark Cafe this week hosts a rather unusual art opening with a double musical twist. The opening will feature photography by Skid Severson and Marco Brito, paintings by Tabitha Adams, and paintings and drawings by Patty Siva. (For more information, see City Week.) Siva specializes in celebrity portraits, including takes on Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, but her real focus is eco-friendly singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, who will comprise the bulk of her work on display at the cafe. (We weren't exactly sure how seriously to take curator Jason McHenry, when he threatened/promised us that the cafe's walls would be adorned with "a hundred Jackson Brownes," but it surely piqued our interest.)

The other musical link: Local singer-songwriter Will Elliott will be performing live at the opening. Elliott's self-released CD, The Doorman, is a lovely collection of songs mostly performed with minor chords on an acoustic guitar and Elliott's winsome voice. "Put Down the Gun, Boy" is only enhanced by the melody stolen from Leonard Cohen.

The opening begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13. A Shot in the Dark is located at 121 E. Broadway, and admission is free to all ages. For further details call 882-5544.


You've seen her dance a jig when the jig was up that she was lip-syncing on Saturday Night Live; you've seen her drunkenly climb onto a counter at McDonald's after demanding that a McCustomer kiss her shoe if he was to be deemed worthy of her autograph; now comes the chance to witness the magic firsthand, as Ashlee Simpson returns to Tucson to perform, um, live.

We'll give credit where it's due: The show is a benefit for T.E.A.M. (Teen Empowerment and Advocacy Movement) Tucson, with proceeds being donated to the Street Outreach Programs of Our Family Services, whose beneficiaries include Skrappy's, Street Outreach, Reunion House, Teens in Transition and other homeless youth programs.

Local bands will open the show, which begins at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 15 at the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave. Tickets are $25 for students of participating Tucson area high schools, and $30 for the general public, available in advance at the TCC box office,, or by calling 321-1000. For more info call 791-4101.


Grunge-era also-rans Collective Soul remind us this week that they haven't yet broken up by performing at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Jan. 14. The all-ages show begins at 8 p.m. with Dropsphere, a local band that includes former members of Nevershine. Advance tickets are available for $23 at the venue's box office or by calling 740-1000. They'll be $25 on the day of the show. Call the same number or log onto for further details.

Folk singer-songwriter Greg Brown, along with Jason Wilber, brings his gravelly baritone and passel of lyrically astute songs to the Berger Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd., at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday, Jan. 19. Advance tix for this all-ages show are available for $23 at (800) 594-8499 or They'll be $26 at the door.

And, finally, Howe Gelb apparently had so much fun fronting his Danish bandmates in Giant Sand on New Year's Eve that he's asked Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., to give him one more night to do his thing. The band's performance on Sunday, Jan. 15 will be their last American date this calendar year. Once again, Marie Frank will serve as opener. Things kick off at 8 p.m., and admission is $8. Call 622-8848 for more info.