Ex-Cowboy, Alli Gato, Little Creatures at Tucson Live Music Space, Saturday, Dec. 29

As I walked into Tucson Live Music Space on Saturday night, I looked up, and in front of all the bands I came to see, I was greeted with a very audible "Hey! It's the press!" by the in-house booker. I pulled him aside and whispered, "You probably don't want to say that in front of the bands I came to review." He smiled and replied, "This is DIY!" Those three words said it all, for TLMS proves the very punk ethos of self-reliance. In this all ages venue, community is everything.

Thirty years ago, mohawked morons The Exploited released a song called "Punks [sic] Not Dead." But they were correct; they just had no idea of the implications of what they had said. It turns out that the original idea of punk rock permeates just about every form of independent music there is. You just have to do it yourself. So, whether it was the Grateful Dead-via-Sonic Youth stylings of Little Creatures, the disquieting confessionals of Alli Gato, or the desolate country affectations of Ex-Cowboy, punk turned out to be all-inclusive, where, again, community is everything.

Tucson's Little Creatures let the jams run free three minutes at a time, condensing hippie boredom into short blasts of trippy trad-rock. All buildups and breakdowns, alternately hazy and abrasive, Little Creatures' brief songs lingered long after they ended. They may have looked like the Allman Brothers circa 1972, but their primitive musicianship and commitment made everything just fine. A great band in the making.

Hailing from Phoenix, singer-songwriter Alli Gato, whose upcoming album on local label Cat Cassettes is currently being recorded, was a force to be reckoned with. Her graphic and explicit character sketches, set to simple and pretty melodies, were very uncomfortable, but absolutely engrossing. Her songs were so honest and brutally personal; it was like she was reading her diary to the audience. Similar in spirit to John Lennon's post-primal scream therapy solo records, only about 80 decibels quieter, you could whisper over her performance, but nobody did.

Finishing out the night were locals Ex-Cowboy, who brought the volume up a few notches and eased the tension in the room. This quartet played dark Appalachian folk songs, heavy on gloomy textures and high and lonesome Spaghetti Western soundtrack guitar, and they were extraordinary and mysterious.

Three vastly different artists, under one roof and equally appreciated. It was a great night. And community is everything.

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