Last week a friend and I were having a conversation about our respective specific tastes in different music. After a few hours of chatting about this—because what else is a music critic gonna be doing on a day off?—it all of a sudden came to me: Much of pop music of the rock 'n' roll era that really gets me going is when the beat—in this case, emanating from both the heart and the drums—of soul, R&B and funk is merged with the projectile avalanche discord of free-jazz. And this doesn't happen in the confines of an elitist or academic niche—you can find it in the earliest work of the Stooges and the Velvet Underground, James Brown and Isaac Hayes, Public Enemy and N.W.A. In certain respects, it's the most ecstatic of gospel music traditions, reverse-engineered. And you can find it in the music of Fullerton, California's Cosmonauts.

The Cosmonauts have released four full-length records and a handful of singles and EPs, mostly through Burger Records since 2010. "Persona Non Grata," from 2013, is the quartet's most fully-realized work thus far, with the simplest of rhythms that at times pound and at others shuffle, a one-bassline-per-song rule in effect, a couple of guitar chords and call-and-response vocals—one intones, the other drones. Far from being monotonous, this approach of extreme repetition is conducive to the onset of a meditative state, where the democracy of the instrumentation keeps the listener from focusing on one element exclusively, and that's when repetition reveals itself to be a bastion of endless variants.

The Cosmonauts perform with like-minded Tucsonans Lenguas Largas and Burning Palms at Club Congress, Sunday, Dec. 21. The doors open at 7 p.m., admission is free and more info is available at


In 1998, beloved former Tucson Weekly music editor Stephen Seigel and some compadres nicked the idea of multiple local bands covering a wide spectrum of musical acts for a benefit event from a similar happening in another city, and the annual Great Cover-Up has been one of Tucson's most thrilling and exciting local festivals ever since.

As a member of the committee organizing the Cover-Up this year, I got an insider's perspective of the hard work and determination exhibited by both the multitude of acts donating their time and music to the event, as well as the invaluable contributions by Seigel, Curtis McCrary, Matt Milner, Kris Kerry, David Slutes, Mel Mason and Matt Milner to make 2014 another memorable chapter for the Cover-Up. (My role was primarily making irrelevant jokes or nodding my head affirmatively, so it remains to be seen whether I'll be asked back next year.)

Benefiting both the Community Food Bank and SAAMHA (the Southern Arizona Artists and Musicians Healthcare Alliance), The Great Cover-Up will take place at Club Congress on Friday, Dec. 19, and at The Rialto Theatre the following night. As Seigel told me via text message, "two nights of maximum rockness."

More than 20 acts will be performing this year, including The Jons, Spacefish, Carlos Arzate & The Kind Souls, Easyco, Early Black, Gat-Rot, Ohioan, Tesoro and The David Clark Band.

Artists being covered include Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, James Brown, Talking Heads, AC/DC, The Temptations, Cheap Trick, Otis Redding, Styx, Erykah Badu, Guns 'n' Roses, Huey Lewis & The News and Pink Floyd.

$8 gets you in for one night, $13 for both, and more info can be found at


Local trio Gamma Like Very Ultra are significantly more reverent to the somewhat-forgotten '70s phenomena of fusion than, say, Throbbing Gristle, the proto-industrial band who once titled a record "20 Jazz-Funk Greats," but that isn't to say you'd mistake them for Chick Corea. Gamma Like Very Ultra's take on the kind of breakbeat-jazz pioneered by Miles Davis in the late '60s is streamlined by its traditional standards, while its ADHD-inspired mid-song surprise-changes lend some accessibility to a non-pop instrumental style. The band has an endearing sense of humor that can be found on its Soundcloud demos and I look forward to hearing more from them.

Gamma Like Very Ultra performs at The Flycatcher on Saturday, Dec. 20. Hibris and Brass Tax open the show, which starts at 8 p.m. Further details are available at

ZACKEY CAN'T RAP presents a loaded Christmas Eve show over at Club Congress featuring Crab Legs, Chris Hall and a DJ set from Jalph (aka Matt Baquet of Prom Body). Dysfunction Xmas, as the event is named, should be extra good, due to appearances by a temporarily reunited Dream Sick (featuring Baquet and singer Jess Matsen, who recently released his magnificent solo album "Tall Told Tale") and former Tucson resident Zackey Force Funk, whose 2013 collaboration with producer Tobacco (of Black Moth Super Rainbow) under the moniker Demon Queen topped my Year's Best Albums list last year.

Dysfunction Xmas will take place at Club Congress at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 24. For more info, see