The Monitors, The Croutons, Sky Bar, Sept. 10

The monsoon unleashed its fury on Tucson last Saturday. Although Fourth Avenue could've been traversed in a kayak, the storm didn't dampen the spirits of those who wanted to wish Mr. Morgan Schlaline a happy birthday at Sky Bar.

Who is this Morgan guy, anyway? He performs with both The Croutons and The Monitors, so he had his work cut out for him while trying to celebrate.

The Croutons—which feature Schlaline and Vic Newman on guitar—opened with their brand of punk/pop rock steeped in comedy. The two were assisted by drum and bass tracks, as well as a laptop, which projected song lyrics and various images. Song themes included the terrors of the giant Palo Verde beetle, the pleasures of pumpkin pie, and the cuteness of kittens. The highlight was the guitar-free song about how to successfully feed a pill to your dog, "Hot Dog Delivery System." It was so well-received that they played it a second time.

During a brief foray into electronica, the track "Dance Nation" attracted a crowd of delightfully nerdy young men dancing with their beers—who went so far as to mimic the Rockettes with high leg kicks.

The Monitors have added another guitar to their lineup. Schlaline moved out from behind the drum kit to shred with fellow ax-wielder Tommy Pritchett. Jeremy Rosenthal, a recent transplant from Southern California, now rounds out the rhythm section on drums, and Vikas Pawa is the driving force behind the whole operation on vocals and bass. With a solid guitar foundation, the sound of the bass resonated as the focal point of each song.

Pawa sounds like Helmet vocalist Page Hamilton fronting The Police. One of the most-prolific bands in Tucson, The Monitors have crafted six albums since December 2007. It had been a while since I'd attended one of their shows, and I was thrilled with the fullness of their punk-tinged rock sound. The birthday boy had fun bringing his guitar out into the audience and jamming in front of his band.

Two patrons were turning 21 that evening, so The Monitors played a version of "Happy Birthday" that was dedicated to them—as well as to Schlaline.

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