Having grown up in Phoenix, I avoid it as much as possible. In this millennium, I've only visited the art museum, attended a Dixie Chicks concert and seen a couple of live shows at Modified Arts.
Modified is a lost Tucson-style nightclub, and an important gathering place for alienated Phoenicians. I like to think of it as sort of a Huxley-like island of misfits, a resilient blue smudge on the red heart of Arizona. Where there's art, there's hope. So when Club Congress teamed with Modified for an artist exchange, the idea was at once brilliant and obvious. Two bands from each town played Friday at Club Congress and Saturday at Modified.
The event featured Phoenicians Lonna Kelley and Fatigo, the former a frequent visitor to our town who has built a substantial fan base here. She opened solo, a tactic that highlighted the boudoir longing in her voice, an instrument cracked and delicate as fine china. When her band joined her, she joked, "We're gonna do some rockin' songs tonight!" Instead, the set focused on her slow-core repertoire, but "Which Side Are You On?" demonstrated that she can belt a note or two when the spirit moves.
Fatigo's engaging sound is relatively new to Tucson audiences. It ranges from a Calexico-like border feel (leader Mike Montoya's father is a mariachi), to a Decemberists'-like Weimar Republic cabaret. The curious can catch them at Plush on June 2, and they'll likely return often.
Alas, the Tucson team had to play hurt. John Sweeden stole the show simply by not showing up. Guitarist for headliners the George Squier Orchestra, Sweeden was said to have been AWOL for two weeks. (Am I the only one who thinks someone should call the cops?) But band founder Nathan Hendler led a fine set all the same, apologies for his guitar playing and a couple of false starts notwithstanding.
Golden Boots, too, had been smitten with misfortune: Ryan Eggleston performed with his hand in a cast. "I feel ridiculous," he said, but he soldiered on, helping to make up the lost texture of his guitar by playing, alternately, harmonica, tambourine, kazoo and xylophone. Sean Rogers sat in on keyboard, taking off some of the pressure.
Overall, fun was had, and the prospect of heading to Phoenix for Saturday's round was even tempting. But ... nah.