Saturday, Feb. 27

Tucson has more than its share of nights with music under the stars—and Sky Bar has upped our opportunities.

Last Saturday, as clouds covered the night sky and a closing-time downpour loomed, Andrew Collberg held forth at the microphone while real stars from real telescopes twinkled on big screens all around him. It was like a rock show in a planetarium.

The show launched Sky Bar's live-music offerings beyond its regular Thursday-night jazz shows. The bar's large size and open layout make it a potentially great music venue. Only a haute contemporary chandelier, twinkling like a small galaxy over the bar, interrupts the warehouse-high structural aluminum ceiling; sight lines are completely free of interference. Comfy sofas accommodate music fans—and it's no small advantage to be able to have Brooklyn Pizza slices delivered.

If live music is to be a regular draw, though, Sky Bar might want to invest in its sound and lighting. The portable speakers couldn't deliver the sound variations and vocal nuances these bands require, and lights in the ceiling beams created fixed, dark shadows on the stage.

By the time his set began, Collberg already had played drums for two other bands, and his energy seemed a bit low. Still, he performed an ambitious collection of all-new songs with players who had not necessarily mastered the material. Nearly everyone had been switching around instruments and backing each other in different configurations all night. The evening seemed like an endurance test, or an ostentatious exercise of the musicians' youth; some are barely of drinking age.

Will Elliott's set involved the night's entire cast, including Vicki Brown on violin, Gabe Sullivan on drums, Connor Gallaher on guitar and lap steel, and Clay Koweek on bass. Even newcomer Rory O'Rear, who'd performed just prior, sat in for a few harmony vocals. Elliott kept the onstage crowd in the groove with proven material from his 2007 release, Beat This Horse.

Earlier, Bajo Turbato's gypsy music, featuring Chris Black and Vicki Brown on fiddles, inspired the only dancing of the night, as Sullivan's 12-string supplied a dense, rhythmic structure, and Brown's electronic effects linked the trio's traditional sound to the space-age ambience of the venue.

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