Pterodactyl, Algae and Tentacles, Louise Le Hir, The Red Room at Grill, Nov. 20

People were smoking up a storm Sunday night during what was surely one of the last gigs at this much-loved Tucson venue.

Screw it—what are you gonna do? Shut the place down?

The Red Room—which was attached to venerable and now-closed 24-hour restaurant Grill—was a unique local institution and one of the favorite watering holes of Tucson music cognoscenti. Great music, a good drink menu, never a cover, never an age limit, and round-the-clock diner food, for better or worse. It will be missed.

Tucson singer-songwriter Louis Le Hir began the evening with energetic twang-adelic rock and folk. Beefed up by a full electric band—in the past, she often has been accompanied simply by drummer Benjamin Blake—Le Hir's material sounded fuller and punchier than ever, with more-intense deliveries. Especially enjoyable were the seemingly effortless guitar leads of Clay Koweek, who tore it up in distorto-garage, country-rock fashion.

Algae and Tentacles were up next, and the tiny joint was packed for the performance by singer-songwriter John Melillo—who plays guitar, vocals and various electronic toys—and drummer Hannah Ensor. Melillo recently relocated to Tucson from Brooklyn, N.Y., roughly mirroring the transition from his last project, Jodienda, to this one.

Melillo's distinct brand of gothic blues and noise-pop sounded comfortably indistinct, winding its way through the crowd to my ears, not unlike music played on a transistor radio wafting through the hallways of an abandoned building. Can't wait to hear what he's going to create now that he's a Tucsonan.

Finally, Brooklyn-based quartet Pterodactyl took the stage for about 45 minutes of explosive and emotional avant-pop, with rhythms racing and then lumbering; it was all seasoned with fascinating three-part harmonies born of a stoner collision of art-rock and the Beach Boys. These guys piled guitar fuzz, barreling punk energy, woozy cough-syrup melodies and atonal chiming atop tunes that sounded as if they were mined from a secret mother lode of classic, undiscovered folk and pop gems. The result was shambling and melancholic, riveting and transcendent.

And, like the Red Room, the music ended suddenly, before we were ready for it to go.


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