Spiders Can Fly

Spiders Can Fly, Armitage Wine Lounge and Cafe, Sunday, Jan. 5

So, yeah, I tripped and fell getting off an escalator while looking for Armitage. It was a little embarrassing, but when I got up and brushed myself off, the only laughter I heard was from a chance encounter with my friend/eight-time TAMMIE winner Wes McCanse, of the now defunct and much loved Tucson electronic group video? He kindly pointed me in the right direction.

I walked up to the bar and there was Justin Martinez, performing a solo rendition of Sinead O'Connor's "Black Boys on Mopeds," a song that at age 13 I thought was, like, the deepest thing ever. Things have changed in the past 23 years, but the song still sounded good and Martinez sounded good singing it.

While the show was billed as simply Justin Martinez, the rhythm section of Spiders Can Fly slowly crept up to their instruments, but not before a very impressive solo set by Martinez. Comfortable, but maybe a bit out of his element, his conviction far outweighed the limited volume necessary for this type of setting. One original song, introduced as being written in Portland while feeling homesick for Tucson, was stunning in its expansive and droning extended instrumental breaks. Recalling Jimmy Page at his most imaginative, Martinez's unaccompanied guitar playing evoked a space as big as the desert that inspired it.

Then Tharon Carlson picked up his bass for a cover of Jane's Addiction's "I Would for You," dedicated to Martinez's wife. In the context of the venue, the sight of Martinez doubled over, crooning "I made you my slave" like the Frank Sinatra of La Encantada, was probably the most surreal happy hour moment I've yet witnessed.

Personally, I prefer the loud, electric Spiders Can Fly to the somewhat compromised quiet version, but they admirably made the most of their environment, and the full band sounded great. Drummer Stephen Goudinoff managed to sneak in funky beats that were likely far beyond the legal limit of any upscale wine bar. The group's sole misstep was the snooze-enduction-hour version of Pink Floyd's "Fearless," but the blame lies more with Pink Floyd (for writing the song) and myself (for hating the song).

Spiders Can Fly were uniformly impressive, but I would propose a Kickstarter-like fundraising campaign to pay them to not perform in a venue that constrains them.

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