TAKE TWO: What is it about Arizona and musical duos? It seems like every other new band formed in our fair state these days is taking the less-is-more approach, honing down the noise to its barest essentials. Tucson alone is home to Agave, a female cello and acoustic guitar duo fronted by the fabulously gifted Tammy Allen; Hector on Stilts, who've been making a name around town with deceptively simple and beautiful pop songs (plus, these two acoustic guitars and voices happen to hail from two of the nicest guys on the planet); and if Bob Log III ever stops touring to support his solo record, we'll again have the transcendent Delta blues punk of Doo Rag to kick us around.

And we haven't even mentioned the amazingly diverse trio of duos holding court at Club Congress this weekend: Calexico, Twine and The Les Payne Product.

One of the many fun things about a Calexico show is that you never know exactly what you're going to get. It could be Joey Burns and John Convertino doing the quiet back-to-basics thang, or they might feature an expanded lineup (often including bass and percussion courtesy of yet another local twosome, the Amor Belhom Duo), more in keeping with the brilliant sound of their last international release, The Black Light (Quarterstick). Either way, these guys represent the sound of Tucson (not to be confused with any claim to a "Tucson sound") better than anyone in our burg since the heyday of the desert rock scene. Plus, they've just arrived home after yet another extended tour, so they'll be tighter than a magnet's coil.

Second on the night's bill is the play-anything-that-doesn't-play-you approach of Twine, a pair of musicians who've really come into their own of late, adding theramin and (gasp!) vocals to their instrumental desert soundscapes. Don't panic just yet, though -- because Twine doesn't do anything the conventional way, the vocals are treated with a vocoder. And did I mention the occasional trip-hop tune thrown in for good measure?

In addition to having the longest name of any band in recent memory, Phoenix's Lush Budget Presents The Les Payne Product are a complete joy to witness every time they make the trek down south. Sporting matching outfits and a wacky attitude to match, these boys combine the quirky pop of XTC with the soaring choruses of, say, Weezer (that's not a bad thing) with the complexity of a meandering Frank Zappa tune. I've seen them win over an initially indifferent crowd time and time again, and I guarantee this week's outing will be no exception.

So be sure to stop in early on Friday, July 30, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. You won't want to miss a single moment of this bill. Things kick off around 9 p.m., and cover is $5. Call 622-8848 for more info.

HOWE NOW: Howe Gelb's known for many things, but not usually whacked-out avant-jazz instrumentals. But the Giant Sand ringleader has a standing gig every Tuesday night at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. I caught the July 20 show and was treated to an hour or so of his (amazingly underrated) acoustic piano, played alongside a sax and drums. The performance, though apparently mostly improvised, was cohesive, challenging and completely entertaining. The guys played their hearts out to an audience of about 10 people, which was ridiculously sad, even for a Tuesday night in the summer.

The club has the piano for a six-month stint, and hopefully (if people start to show up), Howe will keep this off-night going. To sweeten the deal even further, there's no cover at the door.

Another night worth checking out at 7BC is Monday's Singer/Songwriter Night, which features a different act in the genre each week. You never know who you're going to get when you go there, but event booker Rainbow Sidebottom has promised a stellar roster of acts, and the rumor mill is abuzz about a possible appearance by the fabulous Victoria Williams and her gifted husband, ex-Jayhawk Marc Olsen. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can call the club at 670-9202 with any questions.

And speaking of standing gigs, local Greyhound Soul is now stripped down to a three-piece configuration (still led by charismatic, whisky-voiced belter Joey Peña) taking the floor every Thursday night through the end of summer at Mutt's, 424 N. Fourth Ave. Opening sets change weekly, with the eclectic pop twang of Big Bottom coming your way on July 29.

You might remember Big Bottom as The Band Formerly Known As Shindig -- they were forced to change their name after being threatened by entire-world-owners The Walt Disney Corporation, who apparently also own the rights to the name "Shindig." Big Goofy is watching, kids. Anyway, they have a new album due out any day now, and if the disc's leadoff track "Wisconsin" (just over a minute of exquisite pop bliss) is any indication, it should be a fine release, indeed. Call Mutt's at 628-8664 for show info.

TRAVELING SHOWS: A couple of other noteworthy shows this week: Seattle psychobilly ravers the Spectres pull into town for a fabuloso triple bill that also includes Tucson's Al Foul and the Shakes and The Brakemen, who'll be haulin' their asses down from Tempe. Show time is 9 p.m. on Wednesday, August 4, at the aforementioned 7 Black Cats.

Cheesy '80s rock is enjoying a resurgence of sorts, meaning formerly long-lost bands of all shapes and sizes are crawling out of the woodworks to cut their slice of the pie. Having just released a live album simply titled Live (Bubble/Deadline), Bang Tango is no exception to the rule. The blues-inflected hard rock combo will bring their greatest hits (and if the new disc is any indication, a couple covers along the lines of T. Rex's "20th Century Boy" and the Cars' "Just What I Needed") to the Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St., on Saturday, July 31. The show kicks off at 9 p.m. with local punk rock mainstays Los Federales and southern-fried rawkers Thunderosa. Should be a fun night. Tickets are $9 in advance at the club or at the door on the night of the show. Call 670-9332 for details.

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