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The Freezing Hands, The Tough Shits, Pop Zeus: The District Tavern, Friday, Oct. 12

Tucson's Go Nowhere! Booking has recently brought some great underground rock bands to town, many of them signed to Burger Records, a California-based label that specializes in recordings on cassette. All three bands at this show happen to be working with Burger.

Pop Zeus is the name under which Mikey Hodges, from Brooklyn, N.Y., records his catchy, Replacements-influenced pop-punk. While his recordings feature him playing all of the instruments, his live band consists of Philadelphia's Tough Shits, his tour mates. Hodges led the band through one ragged rave-up after another. Stylistically, Pop Zeus split the difference between '90s Guided by Voices and mid-period Replacements—until there was no difference at all.

All four Tough Shits got back onstage for their set, which continued the celebratory atmosphere that Pop Zeus had begun. The Tough Shits played some visceral proto-punk, in the lineage of the New York Dolls and the MC5. But there was no grand statement being made in their music; they simply performed their songs, unlike their forebears, as fun rock 'n' roll. When their lead singer jumped into the audience, it was so innocent and unthreatening that the band might as well have been the Stooges, if Iggy Pop were a friendly Muppet. The Tough Shits' childlike enthusiasm was infectious, indeed.

Performing his first new music in a few years, ex-Los Federales and Knockout Pills member Travis Spillers debuted his latest project, the Freezing Hands. You could say that a particular song sounds like whomever, or that another song sounds like whatever, but that would be missing the point: Spillers' songs were so jovial and happy that musical-genre identification would be a waste of enjoyment. Each song may have sounded different, but they felt the same, like happy memories from long ago—the AM radio pop hits you heard on summer road trips when you were a child. The Freezing Hands' songs, from their upcoming Burger Records cassette, negated punk rock's nihilism by sounding like a party to which everyone was invited. And that made the Freezing Hands one of a kind.

Welcome back, Travis.

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