The Crowd, The Beta Sweat, Golden Boots

Solar Culture Gallery, Saturday, Feb. 3

In the late '80s to early '90s, one all-ages venue in Tucson ruled supreme: The Downtown Performance Center was legendary for hosting bands like Green Day and The Offspring, months before they became MTV staples, and for providing performers with an alternative to 21-and-older clubs. Bad press about unrelated vandalism in the area led to the closure of the DPC in 1995.

In 1999, DPC's operator, Steven Eye, picked up where he left off with the Solar Culture Gallery, booking national indie-rock and world-music acts. In recent months, Eye has also been putting on locals-only events, as he did last Saturday night.

Openers Golden Boots revealed a new maturity to their retro-alt-alt-country sound, as they debuted the hours-old, Dylan-with-The-Band-sounding "Matters of the Heart" and the touching "(The Fitting of) Marie." Co-frontmen Dimitri Manos and Ryan Eggleston, backed by drummer James Grip, enhanced their lo-fi routine with additional musicians on a euphonium, melodica, bass and sax, plus visiting singer-songwriter Jason Anderson on keys. GB just gets better by the week.

By the time The Beta Sweat came on, the audience featured a healthy sampling of local music icons, scenesters, bearded hipsters and random fashionistas, including one femme fatale who braved the cold in little more than short-shorts and cowboy boots. Brrr!

TBS are now opening, rather than closing, their shows with a new tense, rolling instrumental--saying to the audience, "The Beta Sweat are about to clean your clocks," versus their previous Elvis-has-left the-building-styled exit strategy. The coed trio's newest numbers are less dramatic, wailing and bluesy-Zeppelin-inspired and more immediate, straight-ahead, hard-edged rockers. The result is a tighter, more diverse set with all the sweat but less monotony.

Headliners The Crowd threw hooks and harmonies into a boiling stew of classic and modern rock, borrowing licks from late-era Beatles and early Who while bringing the swagger of hip new bands. Singer Orin Shochat pulled the bedlam together with his animated performance and caterwauling vocals, which brought to mind Jeff Buckley's more intense moments.

Saturday's show ended early enough for barflies to hit crowded clubs, teens to make curfew and music fans to enjoy other performances with live locals. Stay tuned for info on the next Solar Culture show, where no ID is required. Giant beards and short-shorts? Use your best judgment.

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