Songs for Susan

The music community comes together to remember and raise money for a departed friend

On the night of Wednesday, Aug. 24, nearly 30 local bands and performers will convene to honor and celebrate the life of Susan (Powers) Sykes, a longtime participant in Tucson's music community who passed away at the age of 46 on Aug. 2, after a battle with breast cancer (see "Remembering Susan," Aug. 11).

Songs for Susan, which will take place at seven downtown and Fourth Avenue venues--with all proceeds going towards Susan's outstanding medical bills and breast cancer treatment, screening and education programs--was organized primarily by Maebelle Reed, of Plush, and Jamie Manser, of the Downtown Tucsonan, but many others contributed via a widely circulated e-mail solicitation and word of mouth.

Eventually, so many people wanted to participate in the event that some performers had to be turned away.

Susan's contributions to the local music community began more than 25 years ago. As the 1970s turned into the '80s, Sykes and her sister, Jennifer (Powers) Murphy, were, according to Downtown Saints frontman Chris Holiman, among the first people to promote punk rock shows in Tucson.

"When I was in high school, me and my friends Mike and Jeff discovered punk rock through, I guess, buying a Cramps record," Holiman recounted earlier this week. "So, we were really into that kind of music, and I think the first people to do punk rock shows in town were Jennifer and Susan--the Powers sisters--and they did them down at (longtime defunct downtown club) Pearl's Hurricane. So, we heard about this thing, but we were only 14, so we couldn't get in. But, we were like, 'Oh, we gotta get in; we gotta see punk rock,' and that's how we met them, because they were promoting the shows--and I think they were only 19 or 20 at the time themselves. They would let us sneak in."

Following those heady early days in Tucson, Susan lived with her husband, Jeffrey Sykes (whom she met at a Teardrop Explodes show at the UA Student Union), in Chicago, Los Angeles and eventually Hoboken, N.J., where they settled for a decade, beginning in 1985. Following Jeffrey's unexpected death on New Year's Day 1995, Susan moved back to Tucson. She attended the UA for a couple of years, pursuing a degree in art history, but eventually decided to re-enter the work force. From October 2000 through early 2005, she worked as an account executive at the Weekly, where many of her clients were venues that support live music--several of which are participating in this week's benefit.

Songs for Susan co-organizer Manser says, "When I was over at Dan (Rylander, Susan's boyfriend) and Susan's house one night, I told them, 'So, close to 30 bands and seven venues are doing this,' and she was like, 'What? Why so many?' And Dan said, 'Well, honey, the venues were your clients.' They advertised in the Weekly through her--I think pretty much all of them were her clients."

As for the participating bands, Manser says, "A lot of them were friends with her, but then there was also a ton of people who are just being cool in being a part of it. ... I just think it's an interesting testament to how great the music community is, how supportive they are."

In addition to being a vibrant, talented, hilarious woman who was always a joy to be around, Susan herself was an emblem of that community support. As Holiman recalls, "She was so supportive of musicians--and not just supportive as in going to shows, but one of those people who is a music fan with no ulterior motive. ... Some people that don't even play music take music as seriously as a musician--and I really respect them. Music meant a lot to her."

Here's the schedule of bands and venues taking part in Songs for Susan:

Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. (798-1298): Ozlo (8 p.m.), the Downtown Saints (9:15 p.m.), Tony and the Torpedoes (10:30 p.m.), the Carnivaleros (11:45 p.m.); Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave. (882-0009): Blind Divine (8 p.m.), The Deludes (9:15 p.m.), The Solace Brothers (10:30 p.m.), Great American Tragedy (11:45 p.m.); O'Malley's, 247 N. Fourth Ave. (623-8600): Bombs for the Bored (8 p.m.), George Squier Orchestra (9:15 p.m.), Greyhound Soul (10:30 p.m.), La Cerca (11:45 p.m.); Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. (622-8848): Maggie Golston (8 p.m.), Campo Bravo (9:15 p.m.), Al Perry and the Cattle (10:30 p.m.), Fourkiller Flats (11:45 p.m.); Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. (740-1000): Creosote (8 p.m.), Howe Gelb (9:15 p.m.), Chris Burroughs (10:30 p.m.), Sunday Afternoon (11:45 p.m.); Sharks, 256 E. Congress St. (791-9869): Motel (8:30 p.m.), The Stellas (10 p.m.), Seven to Blue (11:30 p.m.); Heart-Five, 61 E. Congress St. (903-0911): Cathy Rivers (8 p.m.), Midriff Crisis (dance troupe) (9:15 p.m.), Lagoon (10:30 p.m.), LemonMan and Friends (11:45 p.m.).

A $5 wristband entitles entry to all participating venues. Wristbands may be purchased in advance at Biblio, the Rialto box office, Plush and CD City, or at any participating venue on the night of the event.